Thomas Walpole: Correspondence
Scope and Contents
Five volumes comprising: papers relating to Thomas Walpole joining the firm of George Clifford and Sons in Amsterdam; marriage contract with Elizabeth Vanneck, 1749; correspondence on political matters including the Duke of Newcastle's administration, the breakdown of relations between Britian and America, the Falkland Islands, the American Declaration of Independence, trade and affairs in the West Indies and the situation in France prior to the Revolution; family correspondence with his brothers, Horatio and Robert, with his son, Thomas including on the subject of estates in the West Indies and with his daughters, Elizabeth and Catherine. The correspondence is arranged broadly chronologically.
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Biographical / Historical
Thomas Walpole (1727-1803), MP and merchant, second son of Horatio Walpole, 1st Lord Walpole of Wolterton (1678-1757), and brother of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford and Prime Minister. Thomas married firstly Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Joshua Vanneck; and secondly Jeanne Marguerite Bataille de Montval, Comtesse de Villegagnon. His brothers were Horatio, 2nd Lord Walpole (1723-1809), Richard (1728-1798) and Robert (1736-1810). He was M.P. for Sudbury, 1754-1761; Ashburton, 1761-1768; and King's Lynn, 1768-1784. Walpole spent most of the 1780s in France, following the failure of the financial firm of William Alexander of Edinburgh in 1774, and of his own business.
Walpole speculated in property in the mid-18th century in the so-called 'Ceded and Neutral Islands' [i.e. Grenada, Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, the first of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Britain) and elsewhere in the American colonies, including active involvement in the Grand Ohio Company in the 1770s to seek a grant from the Crown for land in Ohio. The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery lists Thomas Walpole MP as the owner of Bacolet estate in Tobago between c. 1773 and 1789, and as a mortgage holder of St George estate, Grenada, from c. 1771, both of which estates were worked by enslaved peoples (see: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146645271). This same source lists Walpole's son, Thomas Walpole junior (1755-1840), as a party to the Grenada Chancery case of De Lardenoy vs Walpole and others over the disputed mortgage of the St George estate in 1808. The correspondence in this collection directly refers to West Indian property in relation to legal action against Edinburgh merchants, William Alexander and Sons (see MS Add.8710/38-52, 54, 58-92 and MS Add.8711/8).
Walpole's first wife was Elizabeth Vanneck (d. 1760), daughter of Sir Joshua Vanneck (of the Vannecks of Heveningham Hall). Joshua Vanneck and his brother, Gerard, traded in Virginian tobacco, which was produced by enslaved labour. As Vanneck's son-in-law and business partner, Walpole later held the contract for supplying the French tobacco monopoly. Descendants of the Vanneck family married into the Arcedeckne family, known enslavers whose wealth derived largely from their property in Jamaica.
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- 5th April 2022: This catalogue was revised by Sally Kent as part of the 'Democratising Description' pilot project to review the use of historic language in catalogue descriptions. The fonds-level description was updated to include further detail about the contents of the collection, and to make explicit reference to Thomas Walpole's slavery connections. A previous version of the catalogue is available on request.
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