Mullett, Thomas

Thomas Mullett (1745-1814) was initially a prosperous paper-maker and stationer in Bristol at 18 Bristol-back. He married Mary Evans (1743?-1800), the daughter of Hugh Evans (and Sarah Browne) and sister to Caleb Evans, ministers at the church in Broadmead. At some point in the late 1780s or early 1790s, Mullett removed to London, where he began operating as an American agent in partnership with his wife’s nephew and his son-in-law, Joseph Jeffries (J. J.) Evans (1768-1812). At the time of Mullett’s death in 1814, he was residing in Clapham; he was buried at Bunhill Fields, with John Evans, General Baptist minister at Worship Street, London, delivering his funeral sermon. During his time in London, Mullett and J. J. Evans became close friends with the diarist Henry Crabb Robinson. Mullett and Evans appear frequently in the early volumes of Robinson’s diary. 

    Mullet became a member at Broadmead on 9 May 1769. He soon joined with a select group of men in Bristol and the West Country in founding the Bristol Education Society on 7 June 1770; he served as the Society’s secretary from 1770 to 1778. The Broadmead Subscription Book for 1772-1813 notes that Thomas Mullett paid his pew rents regularly until 1788. Mullett, like Caleb Evans, Robert Hall, and many other members at Broadmead in the 1780s and ’90s, was an ardent advocate of political reform in England and the revolution in America, where he visited on three occasions and met numerous individuals of  “high respectability,” including a meeting with General Washington at Mount Vernon in 1783. As his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazinenotes (an excerpt taken from John Evans’s Address, on the Resurrection of Christ, Delivered in Bunhill-fields, Wednesday, November 23, 1814 at the Interment of Thomas Mullett), during Mullett’s years in Bristol he was heavily involved in the Whig political reform movement. “Few understood better than did Mr Mullett the rights of the subject; none advocated with more manly firmness the principles of civil and religious liberty, which he knew included in all their ramifications the prosperity of mankind. His intellectual powers were of a superior cast . . . Having taken a comprehensive view of what was offered to his consideration, his mind was not harassed by any puerile vacillations; but, conscious of the firmness of the ground on which he stood, he prosecuted his object till it was accomplished. Hence it was that he was looked up to by a number of respectable characters, and not unfrequently, occupied in matters of arbitration between his fellow-citizens in the commercial world.” 

         During the late 1760s, Mullett became friends with General Horatio Gates, famed military commander for the American forces during the Revolutionary War, when Gates resided in Bristol, 1766-1770. Four letters from Mullett to Gates, written between 1791 and 1794 and now in the possession of the New York Historical Society, reveal Mullett’s passion for parliamentary reform in England and his sympathy with the French Revolution. Mullett (who apparently served as Gates’s business liaison in England) writes to Gates, at that time living in America, on 17 September 1791, “You’ll be happy to hear that the French Revolution is Compleat, by the Kings having adopted the Revisd Constitution and declaring that he will maintain and defend it against all domesticor foreign foes—That Paris shall be his Residence as he is at length Convinced it is the wish of the Nation that the reform should be as universal as the National Assembly have made it. A decision this, that is full of mortification to the Aristocrats, and death to all hopes they had so long Cherishd of a Counter Revolution. In addition I suppose all the Kings in Europe are in Secret Mourning!”  He then adds, “We have had a revival of the old Cry of Church & King, and down with the Dissenters—and this fury has been Cherishd by the Clergy in many furious pulpit harangues and pamphlets—the disorder broke out at Birmingham, but has been very much check’d by the hangmen at Warwick and Worcester, who were immediately applied to on this Occasion, and who administered with their usual alacrity.” Mullett writes again to Gates on 24 November 1791, informing Gates about the latest meeting of the London Revolution Society, a meeting Mullett attended. After relating details of some business with a Mr. Jones and Charles Harford, two former friends of Gates who were now, according to Mullett, “infected with the . . . Contagion” of Toryism,” Mullett provides a fascinating account of the current political scene from the eyes of an optimistic, reform-minded Baptist dissenter. France, he says, “is progressing to the perfect establishment of a System that has dethrond despotism, and which has conveyd a Shock to the heart of every tyrant in this quarter of the Globe. Our Courtlooks with a proportion of Astonishment, and coldlyexpresses their acquiescence in the French Kings Acceptance of the New Constitution. They also tremble at the idea of reform—they know it is necessary, but fear to begin, uncertain of the Event. In the present reign it maybe force—in the Next it may be more gradually accomplishd. There is an encreasing Spirit of approbation of the French—and a visible decay of Old prejudices. You would have felt an elevation at the Revolution Society at the London Tavern on the 4thNovember. 300 set down in the great Room to dinner; amongst them some of the ablest, and most distinguished of the lastNational Assembly, particularlyM.rPethion, who is just elected successor to M.Bailly Mayor of Paris. He made a short speech of Congratulation to Englishmen on the examples they had often given the World of a hatred of Tyrants; he spoke with all the plainness, and firmness of a Republican, and with all the dignity of a Man. Common Sense Painewas invited—his health was drank, with thanks to him for his able defence of the Rights of Man; on which he thankd the Society, & proposd as a toast—the Revolution of the World! The Republic of North America, and its first Citizen, was amongst the most applauded toasts; and Connected with one expressive of a Wish, that “Revolutions may never Cease—while the Cause of them exists!”  I attended on an invitation of an Old Acquaintance, and Member of the Society, and have never witnessd a popular Assembly of more decorum, or with so much of the “feast of reason, and the flow of Soul.” A Variety of letters, and addresses, from Societies, in France, were read, and Conveying such general information, and expressing such sentiments, as prove in my Opinion, that a people so well informd on the principles of freedom, and who have so gloriously asserted them, Cannot again degenerate into Slaves! I intended you half a [Sheet] as this, but you will be tird with a whole one. The subject must be my Apology—You, my dear Sir, have felt the inspiration of it. May you live to enjoy much of that felicity in the Western World, which your efforts contributed to obtain, as well as to hear of, and to applaud that spirit which is extending the freedom & happiness of Europe.”  See Timothy Whelan, “From Thomas Mullett to Charles Dickens, Jr.: Creating, Sustaining and Expanding a West Country-London Baptist Circle,” Baptist Quarterly48.2 (2017), 78-100; “Memoirs of Mr. Thomas Mullett, by the Rev. John Evans,” Gentleman’s Magazine85 (1815, Part 1): 83-85; Sketchley’s Bristol Directory, 1775(Bristol: James Sketchley, 1775) 68; “Alphabetical List of Members in 1802,” f. 31; Broadmead Subscription Book, no. 3; Account of the Bristol Education Society, 24; Moon, Education for Ministry,7,137; Horatio Gates Papers, New York Historical Society, microfilm edition, 1979.