Hannah More to Marianne Thornton, December 13th 1825
Seal: Red wax
The letter is dated from the reference to the 27th being in a fortnight, and to the banking crisis which occurred in 1825.
In 1825 Henry Sykes Thornton had become a partner in his father’s old firm, which became at this point Pole, Thornton, Free, Down and Scott, or Pole, Thornton and Co. The business was flourishing, and the new partner had impressed during a period of apprenticeship. Within the year, however, the bank was on the verge of collapsing, due to mismanagement by two of the senior partners. As the crisis unfolded, Henry turned to his sister, who, through her experience as a child doing her father’s accounts, proved an important source of support. Marianne, for her part, turned to More, and it is these letters, published by E. M. Forster in his biography of Marianne, that offer the most detail about what occurred during this period. On 7 December 1825 Marianne wrote to More of Free’s tendency to rely on credit: ‘There is just now a great pressure in the mercantile world, in consequence of the breaking of so many of these scheming Stock Company Bubbles, and Free had been inexcusably imprudent in not keeping more cash in the House, but relying on that credit in them which never had been shaken, and which would enable them to borrow whenever they pleased; he had really run things so near, that Henry had often remonstrated, especially as Pole’s property is much of it in land, and cannot be turned into money the minute it is wanted. He was not however particularly uneasy till last Thursday and Friday, when there seemed to be something like a run upon them, and a difficulty in borrowing money which they had never felt before.’ (Forster, Marianne Thornton, pp. 111-2). Marianne then recounted how a withdrawal of £30,000 emptied the bank, leaving it in a very precarious position. Henry’s activity, and his insistence upon acting honourably and openly, helped to secure for the bank a float of £400,000 from the Bank of England, and it looked at this point as if all would be well. On 12 December Marianne wrote to More of the complete reversal of this favourable position, and the expectation that the bank would fold. In an attempt to reassure More, Marianne informed her that ‘Henry we think must be safe, while any of Sir P[ole]’s remains. We are quite safe, I mean we Girls, you will be pleased to hear, and many other little things which might have plagued him are nicely settled. The Bible Society and Missionary Society money which was kept there was all drawn out, and indeed owing to the immense assistance of the Bank they have scarcely a London creditor to whom they owe £1,000 [...] We find it quite impossible however to be very unhappy whilst [Henry] is amongst us - he says ‘if I had behaved like a rogue and ruined myself besides, you could but be so miserable; now I do think my character is rather the higher, and I believe the money is safe, so where is the use in being unhappy?’ (Forster, Marianne Thornton, pp. 119-21). For a full account of this episode, see Forster, ‘The Birchin Lane Bank’ in Marianne Thornton, pp. 109-29.
It has not yet been possible to identify this individual.