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Thomas Attwood was born on 6 October 1783 at Halesowen, Worcestershire and entered his father's banking firm in Birmingham in 1800. In 1806 the government implemented the Orders in Council in retaliation against Napoleon's Berlin Degrees which activated the Continental System. The Orders in Council had an adverse effect on the British economy and Attwood led the campaign for the removal of them. His efforts came to fruition in 1812. In 1811, after his election, as high bailiff of Birmingham, he showed increasing concern with currency questions and sought more equitable representation for middle- and lower-income groups in the House of Commons. He opposed the return to the gold standard in 1821, believing that the economic ills of the country were caused by hard money and that the cure lay in an abundant supply of paper currency.
Attwood saw himself as the representative of the Birmingham 'industrious' classes: businessmen, masters and skilled workers in the small-scale industries of the midlands. In January 1830 he founded the Birmingham Political Union, regarded as the political organisation most effective in exerting pressure on the government for passage of the Reform Bill of 1832. The BPU was firmly based on the Catholic Association formed by Daniel O'Connell in 1829, which had campaigned successfully for a major change in the constitution of Britain in the shape of Catholic Emancipation. Attwood formed the BPU because of widespread economic distress, particularly after 1826. Through its action, working-class protest was strengthened by middle-class agitation for parliamentary reform to secure currency reform. The union's structure and methods were applied in many parts of the country. After passage of the Reform Bill, Attwood was elected a Member of Parliament for Birmingham in 1832, sitting until 1839. Attwood died on 6 March 1856 at Great Malvern, Worcestershire.
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