West India merchant
Irving also engaged in a wide spread of commercial activities including, with Ouvrard (French financier) the importing of $10m worth of Mexican silver into England, 1812; as an army contractor (including securing a contract from the Russian army).
R. G. Thorne (ed.), The House of Commons, 1790-1820 (5 vols., London, Secker & Warburg for the History of Parliament Trust, 1986), vol. 3 Names: G-P, pp. 285-6.
According to Thorne, a partnership formed between John Rae, John Irving [person id: 30168] and Thomas Reid c. 1790. (The firm subscribed £6,000 to the loyalty loan of 1797.) Irving was associated with the firm until his death in 1845.
The partnership between John Rae, Thomas Reid and John Irving of City of London merchants under the firm of Rae, Reid and Irving dissolved 1/1/1793, with retirement of John Rae; business continued by Reid, Irving and Co., at Angel Court, Throgmorton Street
John Irving and John Rae Reid appear to have formed a partnership in cotton in Manchester, the Ancoats Cotton Twist company, with Benjamin Gray: it was dissolved 1/1/1824 and carried on by Gray alone
Reid Irving failed in 1847, when Sir John Rae Reid disqualified as director of the Bank of England. Of total assets of £1.12 million, the firm had £466,000 tied up in advances to sundry debtors and a further £91,000 in estates there and shares in the Mauritius Bank; it also had £195,000 in estates and £68,000 of partially secured advances in the West Indies.
Dissolution of partnership at Liverpool under the firm of Reid, Irving and Co., between John Rae Reid, G. Reid, John Irving, James Milligan, J. Comrie and J.S. Currie so far only as regards James Comrie 6/8/1847; dissolution of partnership between the 4 London partners and J.I.[sic] Currie and W.R. Lempriere May 1848
On the Reid, Irving failure see Thomas Carlyle:
'...the terribly embarrassed state all manner of trade is in,—nothing but failure on the back of failure; a short crop of cotton in America, and all the Manchester region in great embarrassment. Properly it is the down-tumble of the railway mania which raged at its height about two years ago: you never saw the like then and since; some 3 or 4 hundred millions, they say, are laid out in railways all over Britain;—which of course has absorbed all the ready capital of the country, and left neither money nor saleable money's-worth to carry on any “trade” with! The wretched children of Mammon are right well served: but for the poor people that depend on them, it is a sad enough case. You will read in the Newspapers the account of one great failure, very interesting in this quarter, that of the great “Irvings,” Reid, Irving & Co,—the Irvings of Burnfoot. They are gone, “for a million and a half”: thus do riches make themselves wings and fly away! it is understood that all their properties will come to the hammer'.
The firm's affairs in Mauritius, where they owned 5 estates and had other interests, were discussed by James Blyth in evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting, 1848.
R. G. Thorne (ed.), The House of Commons, 1790-1820 (5 vols., London, Secker & Warburg for the History of Parliament Trust, 1986), vol. 3, Names G-P, John Irving
London Gazette 13554 3/8/1793 p. 664
London Gazette 18123 2/4/1825 p. 572
The Times 11 October 1847 p. 6 'General statement of the affairs of Reid Irving & Co., 17th September 1847'; Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation. Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009) p. 266
London Gazette 20763 10/8/1847 p. 2932; 20853 5/5/1848 p. 1773.
The passage from Carlyle is from a letter to his brother, Alexander, 2 October 1847: Collected Letters, vol. 22: see the Carlyle Letters Online
Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting, 1st Report, PP1847-48 (123) XXIII Pt. I, pp. 259-61.