Boyd, Walter (DNB00)


BOYD, WALTER (1754?–1837), financier, was born about 1754. Before the outbreak of the French revolution he was engaged as a banker in Paris, but the progress of events soon caused him to flee for his life, whilst the property of the firm of Boyd, Ker, & Co., of which he was the chief member, was confiscated in October 1793. On March 1793 the firm of Boyd, Benfield, & Co. was established in London. Boyd, as the principal partner, contributed 60,000l. to the common stock, and his 'name, connections, and exertions' soon carried it to a great 'pitch of celebrity.' He was 'zealously attached to Mr. Pitt, and enjoyed his confidence for many years' (advertisement to 2nd edition of Letter to Pitt). He was employed in contracting to the amount of over thirty millions for large government loans, and for some time was very prosperous. He was also M.P. for Shaftesbury (1796-1802), which at the period of his election was a pocket borough of his partner Paul Benfield [q. v.], who was returned along with him (Hutchins, History of County of Dorset, iii. 19, 20, Westminster, 1868). After a few years the firm got into difficulties. It had at one time seemed likely that the property seized at Paris would be restored, but the revolution of 4 Sept. 1797 caused the overthrow of the government which had taken the preliminary steps towards this restitution, and the final confiscation of the property followed. In expectation of a different issue, Boyd, Benfield, & Co. had entered into various arrangements which soon resulted in disaster. They obtained private help, and even assistance from government, but in 1799 the affairs of the company were put into liquidation, and Boyd found himself ruined. He visited France in the brief interval of peace (March 1802-May 1803), was one of the detained, and was not released till the fall of Napoleon in 1814. On his return to England he was able to recover something of his former prosperity, and sat as M.P. for the borough of Lymington from April 1823 to 1830. Scott met him in April 1828, and gives an account, apparently not quite accurate, of his remarkable self-sacrifice on behalf of his creditors (Lockhart's Life of Scott, ch. lxxvi.) He died at Plaistow Lodge, Kent, on 16 Sept. 1837. Boyd wrote several pamphlets on financial subjects, which were not without weight in themselves, and to which the author's position gave additional force. They were:

  1. 'Letter to the Right Honourable William Pitt on the Influence of the Stoppage of Issues in Specie at the Bank of England on the Prices of Provisions and other Commodities' (London, 1801, 2nd ed. 1811). This was called forth by a pamphlet on the effects of the suspension of cash payments in 1797, and was intended to prove 'that the increase of banknotes is the principal cause of the great rise in the price of commodities and every species of exchangeable value' (p. 7). These conclusions were attacked by Sir Francis Baring in his 'Observations' (1801) and a number of other writers (a list of some of these is given in general index to Monthly Review, London, 1818, i. 610).
  2. 'Reflections on the Financial System of Great Britain, and particularly on the Sinking Fund' (1815, 2nd ed. 1828). This was written in captivity in France in 1812. It enlarges on the benefits of a sinking fund as a means of clearing off national debt, and explains various schemes for its application.
  3. 'Observations on Lord Grenville's Essay on the Sinking Fund' (London, 1828), pursues the same line of argument, and is a reply to the treatise of that nobleman published the same year.

[Gent. Mag. for 1837, p. 548; Letter to the creditors of the house of Boyd, Benfield, & Co., by Walter Boyd, 1800; List of Members of Parliament; Commons Return, part ii. 1 March 1878.]

F. W.