Cornwallis, Thomas (1663-1731) (DNB00)

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CORNWALLIS, THOMAS (1663–1731), commissioner of lotteries, fourth son of Charles, second lord Cornwallis, by his wife Margaret Playsted, was born in Suffolk on 31 July 1663. In April 1676 he, together with his elder brother William, was admitted a fellow-commoner of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, under the tutorship of Mr. Lane. To the latter's inspiration are possibly due some creditable Latin elegiacs signed by Cornwallis, which appeared in the ‘Epithalamium … ab Academia Cantabrigiensi decantatum,’ on the occasion of the marriage of the Prince of Orange with the Princess Mary (Camb. 1677). On leaving Cambridge, where he apparently took no degree, Cornwallis obtained a commission in the guards, and some years later succeeded his brother Frederick in the command of the independent company in Jersey. In 1709 the system of parliamentary lotteries was introduced, and Cornwallis is credited with having been the original projector. The scheme was briefly as follows: 150,000 tickets were to be sold at 10l. apiece, making 1,500,000l., the principal of which was to be sunk and 9 per cent. allowed on it during thirty-two years: 3,750 of the tickets were prizes varying in value from 1,000l. to 5l. per annum; the remainder were blanks, of which there were therefore thirty-nine to one prize, but each blank was entitled to 14s. per annum for thirty-two years. This scheme proved a great popular success, and was the foundation of all the subsequent state lotteries, which continued to be set on foot in every session of parliament till 1824. Cornwallis was annually appointed a commissioner of lotteries up to the year of his death, which occurred in St. James's Street on 29 Dec. 1731 (Gent. Mag. 1731, p. 540).

Cornwallis was twice married; first, to Jane, widow of Colonel Vernam, and secondly, to Anne, daughter of Sir Hugh Owen and widow of John Barlow of Laurenny, Pembrokeshire.

[Masters's Hist. of Corp. Chr. Coll. Camb. p. 271; Walcott's Westminster, App. p. 39; Encyclop. Met. sub voc. ‘Lotteries.’]

A. V.