1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Attwood, Thomas (political reformer)

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ATTWOOD, THOMAS (1783–1856), English political reformer, was born at Halesowen, Worcestershire, on the 6th of October 1783. In 1800 he entered his father’s banking business in Birmingham, where he was elected high bailiff in 1811. He took a leading part in the public life of the city, and became very popular with the artisan class. He is now remembered for his share in the movement which led to the carrying of the Reform Act of 1832. He was one of the founders, in January 1830, of the Political Union, branches of which were soon formed throughout England. Under his leadership vast crowds of working-men met periodically in the neighbourhood of Birmingham to demonstrate in favour of reform of the franchise, and Attwood used his power over the multitude to repress any action on their part which might savour of illegality. His successful exertions in favour of reform made him a popular hero all over the country, and he was presented with the freedom of the city of London. After the passing of the Reform Act in 1832 he was elected one of the members for the new borough of Birmingham, for which he sat till 1839. He failed in the House of Commons to maintain the reputation which he had made outside it, for in addition to an eager partisanship in favour of every ultra-democratic movement, he was wearisomely persistent in advocating his peculiar monetary theory. This theory, which became with him a monomania, was that the existing currency should be rectified in favour of state-regulated and inconvertible paper-money, and the adoption of a system for altering the standard of value as prices fluctuated. His waning influence with his constituents led him to retire from parliament in 1837, and, though invited to re-enter political life in 1843, he had by that time become a thoroughly spent force. He died at Great Malvern on the 6th of March 1856.

His grandson, C. M. Wakefield, wrote his life “for private circulation” (there is a copy in the British Museum), and his economic theories are set forth in a little book, Gemini, by T. B. Wright and J. Harlow, published in 1844.