Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Culpeper, Thomas

CULPEPER, Sir THOMAS, the elder (1578–1662), writer on usury, was only son of Francis Culpeper, or Colepeper, who purchased the manors of Greenway Court and Elnothington, near Hollingbourn, Kent, of Sir Warham St. Leger, in Elizabeth's reign, and resided on the former. The father was the second son of William Culpeper, or Colepeper, of Losenham, and married Joan, daughter of John Pordage of Rodmersham, Kent; died in 1591 at the age of fifty-three, and was buried at Hollingbourn. Thomas, born in 1578, became a commoner of Hart Hall, Oxford, in 1591; left the university without a degree; entered himself as a student at one of the Inns of Court; purchased Leeds Castle, Kent, and lived either there or at Greenway Court for the rest of his life. James I knighted him 23 Sept. 1619 (Nichols, Progresses of James I, iii. 568). In 1620 he began writing his ‘Tract against the high rate of Usurie,’ and published it after having presented it to parliament in 1621. Culpeper argues that ten per cent., which was the legalised rate of interest at the time, was too high for commerce or morality, and argued for its reduction to six per cent. The subject came before parliament in 1623 and 1624. Ultimately the rate of interest was reduced to eight per cent. (21 Jac. I, c. 17). Bacon, whose essay on usury was first published in 1625, demanded a reduction to five per cent. Culpeper's tract was reprinted in 1641, and twice in 1668—first by Sir Josiah Child [q. v.] as an appendix to his ‘Discourse of Trade,’ and secondly by Culpeper's son. It was translated into French with Sir Josiah Child's book in 1754. Culpeper died in January 1661–1662, and was buried in Hollingbourn church 25 Jan. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Cheney of Guestling, Sussex, by whom he had three sons and eight daughters. The eldest son, Cheney, inherited Leeds Castle, which was entailed, but with the consent of his surviving brother he cut off the entail and sold the estate to his cousin John, lord Colepeper [q. v.] The second son, Francis, died young.

The third son, Sir Thomas Culpeper the younger (1626–1697), inherited Greenway Court. He entered as a commoner of University College, Oxford, in 1640; proceeded B.A. in 1643; travelled abroad, and was subsequently elected probationer-fellow of All Souls College. He was knighted soon after the Restoration; retired to his estate on his father's death in 1661, and died there in 1697. His will, dated March 1695, was proved 7 Dec. 1697. He was married, and left three sons (Thomas, William, and Francis) and three daughters. Besides editing and writing a preface for his father's tract on usury (1668), he published many pamphlets on the same subject, repeating his father's arguments. In 1668 appeared his ‘Discourse shewing the many Advantages which will accrue to the Kingdom by the Abatement of Usury, together with the absolute necessity of reducing interest of money to the lowest rate it bears in other countries,’ and later in the same year he issued a short appendix to this treatise. Thomas Manley controverted Culpeper's view in ‘Usury at Six per Cent. examined,’ 1669, and an anonymous writer argued against him in ‘Interest of Money mistaken,’ 1669. Culpeper replied to Manley in detail in ‘The Necessity of abating Usury reasserted,’ 1670. Culpeper also issued ‘Brief Survey of the Growth of Usury in England with the Mischiefs attending it,’ 1671; ‘Humble Proposal for the Relief of Debtors, and speedy Payment of their Creditors,’ 1671; ‘Several Objections against the Reducement of Usury … with the Answer,’ 1671. Culpeper was likewise the author of a collection of commonplace reflections entitled ‘Essayes or Moral Discourses on several Subjects. Written by a person of honour,’ 1655 and 1671, and a tract ‘Considerations touching Marriage,’ is also attributed to him.

[Hasted's Kent, ii. 466; McCulloch's Lit. Polit. Econ. 1845, p. 249; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 533, iv. 447; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

S. L. L.