Thompson, Thomas Perronet (DNB00)

 Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 56 Thompson, Thomas Perronet by Henry James Robinson
 1904 Errata appended.

His regiment was ordered home in 1822, and Thompson saw no further active service; but in 1827 he obtained his majority in the 65th regiment, then quartered in Ireland, and in 1829 he became lieutenant-colonel of infantry, unattached. In 1846 he was gazetted colonel, major-general in 1854, and lieutenant-general in 1860, finally becoming general in 1868, the year before his death.

Almost immediately upon his return to England from India in 1822 Perronet Thompson devoted himself to literature and politics. He entered into familiar intercourse with the circle of ‘philosophical radicals’ surrounding Jeremy Bentham, who was then engaged in providing funds to start the ‘Westminster Review’ as the organ of the utilitarian philosophers. In 1824, then being forty years of age, Thompson commenced a literary career by contributing an article on the ‘Instrument of Exchange’ to the first number of the ‘Review.’ Being prompted by his sympathy with the Greeks, then struggling for independence, Thompson published in 1825 two pamphlets in modern Greek and French on ‘Outposts’ and on a system of telegraphing for service in the field. Coming back to economic subjects, in 1826 he published the ‘True Theory of Rent,’ in support of Adam Smith against Ricardo and others, and his views were approved by Jean-Baptiste Say. In 1827 appeared his most celebrated pamphlet, the ‘Catechism on the Corn Laws,’ which was written in a ‘strong, racy, Saxon style,’ abounding in humorous illustration. This ‘Catechism’—which was described by Sir John Bowring [q. v.] as ‘one of the most masterly and pungent exposures of fallacies’ ever published—purported to be written by a member of the university of Cambridge. It at once obtained wide popularity, no fewer than eighteen editions passing through the press by 1834. An immediate effect of the publication of the ‘Catechism’ was the election of Thompson as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1828. In 1829 he struck upon a new line of literary effort by writing ‘Instructions to my Daughter for playing on the Enharmonic Guitar; being an attempt to effect the execution of correct harmony on principles analogous to those of the ancient Enharmonic’ (his enharmonic organ, constructed in accordance with his theory, was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and ‘honourably mentioned’ in the reports of the juries. It is still to be seen in the South Kensington Museum). Slightly varying his literary work, he next published, in 1830, a mathematical treatise, ‘Geometry without Axioms,’ which he described as an endeavour to get rid of axioms, and particularly to establish the theory of parallel lines without recourse to any principle not founded on previous demonstration. The work went through many editions, but having been well translated by M. van Tenac, professor of mathematics at the royal establishment at Rochefort, received more recognition from students in France than at home.

Meanwhile, in 1829 Thompson became the proprietor of the ‘Westminster Review,’ and for the seven years that he owned it he was the most prolific contributor, writing upwards of a hundred articles. One of these, in support of catholic emancipation, was republished under the title of the ‘Catholic State Waggon,’ forty thousand copies passing into circulation. Thompson transferred the ‘Review’ to Sir William Molesworth [q. v.] in 1836. In 1829 Thompson published a political pamphlet on the ‘Adjustment of the House of Lords,’ of so radical a tendency that Cobbett republished it in his ‘Register.’ Thompson also wrote, at the invitation of Jeremy Bentham, the ‘Notes and Subsidiary Observations on the Tenth Chapter’ (on military establishments) of Bentham's ‘Constitutional Code.’

Although not in parliament during the critical years preceding the repeal of the corn laws, Thompson exercised considerable influence in educating the popular mind by means of his pamphlets, articles, and letters to the press. In 1842 a collected edition of all his writings was published in six closely printed volumes, under the title of ‘Exercises, political and others,’ alike interesting and instructive from the variety of the literary, political, military, mathematical, and musical information therein gathered together. In the same year Richard Cobden, then at the head of the Anti-cornlaw League, made a selection and classification of the most telling extracts from Thompson's writings in favour of free trade, and their circulation by means of the league made their author's name familiar through the kingdom.

In 1848 Thompson published his ‘Catechism on the Currency,’ the object of which was to show the advantage of a paper currency, inconvertible but limited. His views were afterwards embodied in a series of twenty-one resolutions which he moved in the House of Commons on 17 June 1852, but they were negatived (see Hansard's Debates, 3rd ser. cxxii. 899). Having dealt with free trade, catholic emancipation, the House of Lords, the theory of rent, and the currency, Thompson in 1855 published his ‘Fallacies against the Ballot,’ which he afterwards (in 1864) republished in his favourite guise of a catechism. Even after his retirement from parliament (at the age of seventy-eight) he continued to write as ‘An old Reformer’ and ‘A Quondam M.P.’ on public matters, particularly concerning himself in defence of the threatened Irish church, which, however, he lived just long enough to see disestablished. The bill received the royal assent on 26 July, and Thompson died at Blackheath on 6 Sept. 1869. He married, in 1811, Anne Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. T. Barker of York.

In person Thompson was somewhat short, but well made and active, and capable of enduring great fatigue. In Herbert's painting (1847) of the meeting of the council of the Anti-cornlaw League, he occupies a conspicuous position.

[A sketch of the Life of T. P. Thompson by his son, General C. W. Thompson, published in No. 116 of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1869; Prentice's History of the Anti-cornlaw League, 1853; Pall Mall Gazette, 8 Sept. 1869; Times, 9 Sept. 1869.]

H. J. R.

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Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.264
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

 Page Col. Line 224 i 24f.e. 21f.e. $\scriptstyle{ \left. \begin{matrix} \ \\ \ \end{matrix} \right\}\, }$ Thompson, Thomas P.: for Brooks read Briggs ii 16f.e. for Rasal read Râs al 11f.e. for at Soor read near Soor 226 ii 1 for J. P. Thompson read T. P. Thompson 2 for Colonel read his son, General