HOPKINS, Thomas (aft.1641-1720), of the Middle Temple
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Family and Education
b. aft. 1641, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Richard Hopkins† of Palace Yard, Earl Street, Coventry, Warws. and the Inner Temple; bro. of Richard Hopkins*. educ. I. Temple 1669; M. Temple 1679, called 1687. unm.1
Steward, Coventry 1687.
Under-sec. of state 1694–Apr. 1695, 1697–May 1702, Dec. 1706–10; commr. for transports May 1695–May 1702; comptroller of the salt duties June 1702–May 1706, commr. May 1706–8; searcher, packer and gauger, ports of Dublin, Skerries, Malahide and Wicklow [I] 1714–d.2
Despite not having been ‘brought up in the office’, Hopkins was appointed in 1694 as one of the under-secretaries to Sir John Trenchard*, a preferment presumably in some part due to his brother Richard’s influence. When Trenchard died his successor, the Duke of Shrewsbury, brought in one of the commissioners for transports as under-secretary, who swapped places with Hopkins. This arrangement did not satisfy Hopkins, and in 1697 he was reportedly touting his claim to a vacancy in the excise ‘for having been less than a year in the secretary’s office’. Instead he returned as under-secretary to James Vernon I*, though he was allowed to retain the transports commissionership as well. He had evidently come to the attention of Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*), who ‘in some expectation of coming in’ himself at about this time as secretary of state, an expectation never to be realized, made a preliminary approach to recruit him for his own staff in case the appointment came off. In the 1698 election Hopkins stood with his brother at Coventry. Their joint ‘labour’ in the constituency secured Richard’s return but not Thomas’. He was, however, chosen in January 1701, when Richard stepped down. In this his only Parliament he twice acted as a teller: on 19 May 1701, on the Whig side, in favour of adjourning consideration of the report on the Lichfield election; and on 7 June, against an amendment to the land tax bill, to exempt resident beneficed clergy with stipends of less than £40 a year. He played an important part in the exposure of the ‘Poussineers’, Charles Davenant*, Anthony Hammond* and John Tredenham*, discovered in September 1701 supping with the French chargé d’affaires at the Blue Posts tavern. It was Hopkins who was first told in the secretary’s office by the returning messenger, de Bas, of the presence of an MP with Poussin. Hopkins immediately set off for the Blue Posts, saying ‘he would endeavour to find out who was with Poussin’. Meeting on the way Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) and two other prominent Whigs, he accompanied them to the tavern, where the identity of Davenant and his companions was revealed, and testimony collected from witnesses was subsequently used in a pre-election smear campaign against the Tories. Hopkins was not one who benefited from this personally, since he declined to put up for re-election at Coventry, being replaced by his nephew Edward Hopkins*.3
Removed from both posts as under-secretary and commissioner for transports in 1702, Hopkins was compensated only with the comptrollership of the salt duties, worth £250 a year, but in May 1706 was promoted to be a commissioner, at double the salary, and later in the year the appointment of Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) meant a return for him to the secretary’s office, where he was Sunderland’s ‘most trusted assistant’. With Arthur Maynwaring* he was active in trying to keep the peace between his master and the ‘duumvirs’, Marlborough (John Churchill†) and Godolphin (Sidney†). ‘Aiming at the House of Commons’, he gave up his salt duties commissionership in April 1708. His efforts to ‘push his interest’ at Arundel proved unsuccessful, and he is not known to have put up again. He left office with Sunderland in 1710. On the Hanoverian succession his past services and his Whiggery were recognized in the grant of a sinecure in Ireland, where Sunderland had been named viceroy and Hopkins’ old administrative colleague Joseph Addison* chief secretary.4
Hopkins died on 17 Jan. 1720. Caufield’s account of him in the Memoirs of the . . . Kit-Kat Club, as ‘an eminent money-scrivener who rendered himself extremely useful to the nobility and gentry of his time by supplying them with loans’, and who left over £200,000, is probably unfounded and the result of a confusion with John Hopkins*. He was not in fact one of the original members of the club, though his portrait was included in Kneller’s series.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 377; Cal. I.Temple Recs. iii. 60; M.T. Adm. i. 199.
- 2. Add. 28940, f. 212; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 238; xx. 650; xxiv. 281; Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae ed. Lascelles, pt. 2, p. 158.
- 3. HMC Portland, viii. 188; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 468; CSP Dom. 1695, p. 331; 1698, p. 387; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 376, 439; Add. 28883, ff. 11, 72, 82; Hopkins mss (Hist. of Parliament trans.), ‘Travels and Mems. Edward Hopkins’; S. B. Baxter, Wm. III, 392–3; Add. 40775, ff. 109–12; Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 297; EHR, xxxiv. 496.
- 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 168; xx. 650; xxii. 213; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1111; Addison Letters, 112; HMC Portland, iv. 306; Luttrell, vi. 595.
- 5. Hist. Reg. Chron. 1720, p. 6; J. Caufield, Kit-Kat Club, 225–6; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 453.