Law, Thomas (DNB00)
LAW, THOMAS (1759–1834), of Washington, born 23 Oct. 1759, was the seventh son of Edmund Law [q.v.], bishop of Carlisle, by Mary, daughter of John Christian of Unerigg, Cumberland, and brother of Edward Law, first baron Ellenborough [q.v.]. Having obtained an appointment in the service of the East India Company, he proceeded in 1773 to India. In January 1788, when collector of Bahar, he submitted to the board of revenue at Fort William his plan for a mocurrery or fixed settlement of the landed revenues of Bengal. By a fixation of land tax and an abolition of all internal impositions, he hoped to insure security of property in Bengal, Bahar, and Benares. The system was embodied in the Cornwallis settlement in 1789. Law was appointed a member of the board of revenue at Fort William. Ill-health obliged him to resign and to return to England in 1791. During a brief stay in London he became a member of the Association for Preserving Liberty and Property, and was placed on the committee. He came, however, to disapprove of their procedure, and gave his reasons in a long letter addressed to Mr. Reeves, the chairman, which was printed in the 'Morning Chronicle' of 24 Jan. 1793, and separately. Shortly afterwards he went to the United States, out of admiration for American institutions and reverence for Washington, with whom he soon became acquainted. He married as a second wife Anne Custis, granddaughter of the Mrs. Martha Custis who married Washington as her second husband in 1759. Law and his wife were among the chief mourners at Washington's funeral at Mount Vernon on 18 Dec. 1799. He invested most of his savings in lots and houses in Washington city, and made only two or three short visits afterwards to England. In America he distinguished himself by his efforts to establish a national currency, and in 1824 he was one of a committee who presented a memorial on the subject to congress. In 1826 two addresses delivered by him to the Columbian Institute on the same subject were ordered to be printed. In 1828 he published in pamphlet form a third address to the Columbian Institute on currency, and had it widely circulated.
Owing to the failure of his investments Law became in his latter years comparatively poor. He died at Washington in October 1834, aged 78. By his second wife he had a daughter, Elizabeth Parke Law, who received a legacy under Washington's will, and subsequently married a Mr. Rogers of Maryland (Jared Sparks, Writings of Washington, i. 579). He had by a former marriage three sons, who were born in India, but all died before him. For some time he was a member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
Law wrote, besides the works mentioned:
- 'Letters to the Board [of Revenue, Fort William], submitting by their requisition a Revenue Plan for Perpetuity,' 4to, Calcutta, 1789, to which was appended 'Public Correspondence elucidating the Plan, in answer to questions thereon.'
- 'A Sketch of some late Arrangements and a View of the rising Resources in Bengal,' 8vo, London, 1792, an enlarged edition of his 'Letters,' published to promote the exportation of sugars from India. It was severely criticised by a former colleague named Nield, in 'Summary Remarks on the Resources of the East Indies … By a Civil Servant,' 8vo, London [1798 or 1799].
- 'An Answer to Mr. Princeps's [sic] Observations on the Mocurrery System,' 8vo, London, 1794. John Prinsep had attacked the system in a series of letters contributed in 1792 to the 'Morning Chronicle,' under the signature of 'Gurreeb Doss,' which were republished separately in 1794.
- 'An Address to the Columbian Institute on the question "What ought to be the Circulating Medium of a Nation?"' 8vo, Washington, 1830.
[Gent. Mag. new ser. ii. 437, 661; Law's Works; G. W. Parke Custis's Recollections; Correspondence of Charles, first Marquis Cornwallis, ed. C. Ross, i. 460, 466.]