Thomas Attwood

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In the Spirit of Thomas Attwood and Bromsgrove

Liberating Ourselves from the Death Grip of Banks

Thomas Attwood (1783 – 1856) was not only the first MP for Birmingham but also a banker. He thus combined the kind of insights and analysis that today are hardly available to anybody: an understanding of politics and of economics. The remarkable parallels with today are his passion for currency reform as the underlying cause for the ills of both the working and the middle classes which are regularly addressed by the Forum for Stable Currencies.  Attwood’s idea of Paper Money was the right relationship between money and productive power rather than the backing by gold. However, Attwood then and monetary reformers today, find it difficult to get fundamental ideas about money and currencies across. 

In 1829, Attwood co-founded the Political Union for the Protection of Public Rights with its objects of Parliamentary Reform and Tax Reductions through Peace, Order, Unity and Legality. This union allowed him to campaign for currency as well as parliamentary reform. And his commitment to the cause led him to command demonstrations of up to 200,000 people without violence. He was made a “Freeman of the City of London” which hardly represents what the workers honoured him for: the Reform Bill 1832 and Liberty, best expressed in the song that greeted reformers from Bromsgrove when they came to unite in a demonstration in 1832:

God is our guide,
no sword we draw;
we kindle not war’s fatal fires;
by union, justice, reason, law,
we claim the birthright of our sires.
And thus we raise, from sea to sea,
our sacred watchword: Liberty.

BMI Insight, the Journal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute and Library, published an article on Attwood’s life as “Hales Owen’s Forgotten Genius” in 2001.  In 2002, Barbara Panvel organised two Memorial Lectures by Sir Adrian Cadbury and James Robertson which were published in the same Journal in 2003. 

On October 30th 2003 Barbara upheld the spirit of Attwood by organising an Attwood Award ceremony. She honoured Pauline Hodgetts for her work with the City Council in the struggle of reopening local swimming baths and other public facilities. It was presented by George Morran, Chairman of the National Campaign for the English Regions. The second award was presented by John Johansen-Berg to me “in recognition of her achievement in setting up the Forum for Stable Currencies, with monthly lectures and debates in the House of Lords.”

Thomas Attwood stood for

participative decentralised democracy,
the strengthening of local economies
and economic and monetary reform,

while the Forum for Stable Currencies has been advocating Economic Democracy through the Freedom from Debt since 1999.

The Bank Charter Act 1844 did not include Thomas Attwood’s ideas on Paper Money and unaccountable banks determined the money supply then as much as today while accountable politicians have handed more and more governmental powers over to banks and companies.

Identifying national and other debts as a key problem while promoting solutions on local, national and global levels, has been the topic of Forum meetings which have attracted a network of nearly 400 people who have attended on a regular or irregular basis.  

Forum meetings began with the first event that I organised at the House of Commons on behalf of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice (CCMJ) in 1997, under the sponsorship of Austin Mitchell MP. James Gibb Stuart, author of The Money Bomb, published in 1983 was the speaker who had come down from Scotland.

In the autumn of 1997, Barbara Panvel convened a meeting of monetary reformers at Barnes Close, off Money Lane in Bromsgrove and James Gibb Stuart continued to ensure its continuation by founding the Bromsgrove Group while our London contingent focussed on a Campaign for Interest-Free Money with meetings @ the Global Café. This ‘Global Table’ was continued by Canon Peter Challen who became Chairman of CCMJ and also has been taking notes of all House of Lords meetings.  I had known Peter from Economic Forum days that he organised at his church before retirement.

And I had discovered CCMJ thanks to Canadian John Turmel who came to Britain to put LETS (Local Exchange Trading Systems), on the political agenda. At that time came I was working at the Global Café, a prestigious Internet Café near Piccadilly Circus where I offered training and had set up weekly meetings to discuss LETS and other related issues.

One day, Lord Sudeley, thanks to his membership in the Christian Council for Monetary Justice, came and I heard the story of his great-grandfather’s bankruptcy 100 years ago. Lord Sudeley had gathered a number of potential speakers for a conference in Gregynog Hall, his ancestors’ former family home, now a conference centre of the University of Wales. 

Booking rooms at the House of Lords and taking these speakers one by one was thus my way of responding to Lord Sudeley’s cry for reactive justice to an institution that acts today exactly in the same way as 100 years ago: Lloyd’s plc.  In fact, one of the speakers was Jeff Lampert, whose Heritage plc case shows parallels on 10 levels to the Sudeley bankruptcy.  ‘Bank victims’ turned ‘star fighters’ came through a self-help group called SAFE, Struggle Against Financial Exploitation. Most heart-breaking stories were told by business men who were made bankrupt by banks, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue. For Barclay’s and all other banks create victims through their monopoly of creating money as debt whose repayment is enforceable by law.

During one of our early meetings, I was told about Donald Martin as a person who is hated by the banks. After meeting him, I invited him to become our Chairman for I thought that as a woman and a foreigner I did not stand much of a chance to have an impact on the House of Lords. Hardly did I know what excellent chairing skills Donald were to display in all those meetings that have happened since... Donald has not only been supportive by chairing but also editing, planning, strategising, and finally printing. He has been familiar with the issues since the fifties and said I’d have to give it eight years...

In various meetings we learnt that the law is always on the side of those who have the money to pay them. We learnt that the Financial Services Authority needed to be set up to build confidence in the financial system and one wonders why that seemed to have been necessary...

We learnt about a group that boycotts bonds from the World Bank, and I attended meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England at the House of Lords.

We made written submissions about our understanding to that committee and to the one that became known as the Economic Affairs Committee. I got Lord Sudeley as well as Austin Mitchell MP to ask a number of Questions with Written Answers, but nothing seemed to make the slightest difference.  Some MPs attended, some Peers attended occasionally, but one could not achieve anything.  And only recently Austin Mitchell MP said: “The trouble with monetary reform is that it’s all about education, education, education... It’s so hard to achieve anything.”

After the House of Lords Reform, a devout Muslim became our sponsor: Lord Ahmed of Rotherham. Islamic Banking had become our centre of attention, since it considers lending money at interest a sin.

As a mathematician it is obvious to me that the compounding of interest on interest is unsustainable. An exponential curve is as exponential for positive profits as for negative debts. But economists somehow manage to ignore that fact and invent inflation, unemployment and GDP as ‘economic measures’.

Through the gradual process of mutual education by speakers and participants alike, the Forum grew to a hub of exchanges for ideas and information which resulted in Titus Alexander drafting the first text for an Early Day Motion (EDM). This was tabled by Austin Mitchell MP as EDM 1515 in 2002, entitled Using the Public Credit. It reached 24 signatures.

A historic precedent was set by Captain Henry Kerby MP who tabled a motion in 1964 on the Emission of all the Means of Exchange. And thus it is interesting how history repeats itself from a Birmingham banker to the 4th Lord Sudeley, a Captain MP, the 7th Lord Sudeley and MPs from Grimsby and Bury, North.

In the following Parliamentary Session Richard Murphy took the lead at rewriting the rather awkward wording of EDM 1515. Based on his success with the People’s Pensions Report, he wrote a 4-page and a 12-page Briefing explaining the creation of money from the perspective of an accountant. This EDM was tabled by David Chaytor MP and became EDM 854 with the title Publicly Created Money and Monetary Reform. David Chaytor had also been close to CCMJ and tried to reword the first EDM.

EDM 854 is now still up for signing and has so far attracted 28 signatures.

For the next Parliamentary Session, Austin Mitchell MP is working on another EDM, for at least we now have a list of 35 MPs who have signed either 1515 or 854 or both EDMs. This list may be good enough to start an All-Party Group and we can continue our gradual education of MPs and the media.

Meanwhile, the Bromsgrove Group has met for the seventh time, the Global Table over 300 times and the count of Forum meetings is well over 50.

Prosperity UK, advocating Freedom from Debt Slavery, is the monthly newsletter that goes out to over 800 subscribers and thus it is hoped that ‘patience rather than violence’ will prevail once again – in the spirit of Thomas Attwood, the moderate political reformer who understood the roots of economics: money that is used to control people and to get the worst out of them rather than the best, whether for fighting in wars or for surviving in factories.  But the net and the web are making a huge difference and thus I seriously hope that our generation stands much more of a chance than Thomas Attwood ever had.

Peter Challen organises a Book Day on Monetary Reform, Usury and Debt on the day the CCMJ holds its AGM.

Our next meeting at the House of Lords presents possibly the worst effects of Western Economics: Modern Jihad – Tracing the Dollars behind Terror Networks. Italian economist Loretta Napoleoni has followed the money from banks to militants and gives us yet another reason why banks should come to their senses.

Money is not god-given. It is a man-made invention and thus its rules can be changed.  Maybe it takes women, supported by the right men, to make change happen such that future generations of men, women and children can prosper?

Sabine Kurjo McNeill
Organiser, Forum for Stable Currencies

[I have a German accent and my father's name is Slavic; but my mum who was born in Silesia (then German, now Polish) rescued me from burning Dresden in February 1945. I was born four months earlier. Maybe that's when I vowed to do as best as I can to leave this planet in a better state than I found it in. I came to London in 1963 as an au pair girl in a Jewish family to improve my English. I came to Birmingham in 1970 to video computer training. In 1981 I came to London with a vision of a "Peace Network" of people and computers protecting our planet and to help "Peace Child" in the Royal Albert Hall. I stayed, got married and divorced and love to participate in the emerging 'planetary culture' here.

Since 1997 I know we can't create peace with National Debts that were started to fight wars: in Sweden in 1666 to fight Denmark and in England in 1695 to fight France. ]

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