MILLS, William (1750-1820), of Bisterne, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Nov. 1750, 1st s. of Rev. John Mills, rector of Barford and Oxhill, Warws., and bro. of Charles Mills*. educ. Felsted. m. 7 Apr. 1786, Elizabeth, da. of Hon. Wriothesley Digby of Coleshill and Meriden Hall, Warws., 6s. 3da. suc. fa.’s e. bro. William to Warden’s Hall, High Ongar, Essex 1782; fa. 1791.
Dir. E.I. Co. 1778-85.
Sheriff, Hants 1803-4.
Capt. Christchurch vols. 1794; col. New Forest vol. cav. 1806.
Mills entered his uncle and namesake’s London business, through him secured his entree to the East India Company directorate and inherited his property. On his marriage he retired from business and, after residing at Meriden Hall, Warwickshire, for a few years, purchased the Bisterne estate (1792).1 Meanwhile he had been returned to Parliament, probably by purchase, as the guest of William Praed* at St. Ives. He was an unobtrusive Member in the Parliament of 1790. He was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question in 1791. His only known votes were for Wilberforce’s amendment to Grey’s motion in favour of peace, 26 Jan. 1795, and in favour of the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. He was left without a seat in 1796, though on an anticipated vacancy at Aylesbury in December of that year the Marquess of Buckingham mentioned him to Pitt as a friend of government whose candidature Praed was anxious to promote. The marquess was prepared to let Mills ‘have the refusal’, if he felt he could extend his interest to both seats at Aylesbury.2 Nothing came of it.
Mills became Member for Coventry, where he had property, after a contest for a vacant seat in 1805. He was sponsored by his cousin William Wilberforce Bird* and made much of his local origins. This commended him to the Blue (independent) party who thus returned both Members. He voted with the majority in favour of criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805, and was in July listed ‘doubtful Sidmouth’, with his brother Charles. Like him, he voted for the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, after appearing in the minority on the affairs of India on 21 Apr. He was absent on leave for two weeks from 25 Mar. 1807 and the Whig calculator Fremantle ventured to list him ‘doubtful’ after the general election that year, in which he faced a contest. The Marquess of Buckingham corrected this: Mills ought to be counted ‘with us’, and he probably voted with them on Lyttelton’s motion of 15 Apr.3 His votes with opposition on 26 June and 6 July 1807 confirmed this and, before leaves of absence, he again sided with the minority on the droits of Admiralty, 11 Feb. 1808, and Catholic relief, 25 May. He was opposed to the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809, and in two minorities critical of the Duke of York’s conduct, 17 Mar. He opposed ministers, 23 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, on the address and Scheldt expedition and was listed one of their ‘thick and thin’ followers by the Whigs at that time. Either he or his brother was proposed by Bankes for the finance committee, 31 Jan. 1810. He voted for sinecure reform, 17 May, but against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. He was once more in the minority on the droits of Admiralty, 30 May 1810. He joined opposition on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811.
In October 1811 a critic of the current representation of Coventry had this to say:
the independent interest are equally disgusted with Mr Mills ... an inefficient character having never rendered a single service to the town—or any individual who has applied to him—and never spoke in the House of Commons but once since his return to Parliament and then at the suggestion of a violent Pitt faction in the corporation for the purpose of flattering Mr Perceval and reflecting on the proceedings of one of the most numerous and respectable meetings ever witnessed in Coventry, exclusive of which Mr Mills paralyses everything which our other representative P[eter] Moore Esq., might be inclined to attempt in favour of the independent interest ...