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Alexander Baring, 1st Lord Ashburton

Alexander Baring, 1st Lord Ashburton, (1773-1848) was the second son of Sir Francis Baring and succeeded his father as head of the firm in 1804.

In 1795 he went to the United States on behalf of Barings and Hope & Co of Amsterdam to negotiate the purchase of land in Maine from Senator William Bingham. Following the transaction he remained in North America to become Barings’ first resident agent there. In 1798 he married the Senator’s daughter Anne Bingham. They had five sons and five daughters.

Alexander did not return to London for several years and during this time he provided his father with a steady stream of intelligence about American merchants with the result that Barings gained an increasing number of American clients. In 1803 he was responsible for negotiating the financial arrangements for the USA's acquisition of the Territory of Louisiana.

When Sir Francis retired from the firm in 1804 he was succeed by his three eldest sons – Thomas, Alexander and Henry, although Alexander was very much the leading partner at first. Between 1817 and 1819 - when generally recognised as the most powerful financier in Europe - he negotiated bond issues on behalf of the French government in order to fund French reparation payments. The Duke of Wellington observed, “[Alexander] Baring having the French finances in his hands, and French loans being in fashion in England, has to a certain degree the command of the money market of the world."

After 1815 Alexander Baring travelled widely in Europe and was often absent from the firm for long periods. However, in c1817 he purchased the Grange estate in Hampshire. By the mid 1820s he was no longer active in the business, although he did not retire from the partnership until 1830, having ensured that there were talented individuals such as Joshua Bates in place to continue the firm’s work.

Alexander Baring was also involved in politics. From 1806 he sat as Member of Parliament for Taunton, initially as a Whig but later as a Tory. In 1832 Wellington offered him the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he declined. In 1834 he was appointed by Sir Robert Peel as President of the Board of Trade. He was also involved in the negotiation of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842. The treaty settled the north-eastern border of the United States and Canada. He was created Lord Ashburton in 1835 on account of his contribution to British political life.

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