ST. JOHN MILDMAY, Sir Henry Paulet, 3rd Bt. (1764-1808), of Dogmersfield Park, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1796 - 1802
1802 - 1807
1807 - 11 Nov. 1808

Family and Education

b. 30 Sept. 1764, o.s. of Sir Henry Paulet St. John, 2nd Bt., of Dogmersfield by Dorothea Maria, da. and coh. of Abraham Tucker of Betchworth Castle, Surr. educ. ?Winchester; St. John’s Camb. 1781. m. 22 June 1786, Jane, da. and coh. of Carew Mildmay of Shawford House, Hants, 11s. 3da. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 8 Aug. 1784. suc. wife’s gt.-uncle Carew Hervey Mildmay to Marks Hall, Essex and Hazelgrove, Som. and took additional name of Mildmay 14 Dec. 1790; wife’s aunt Anne, wid. of Sir William Mildmay, 1st Bt., to Moulsham Hall, Essex 1796.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Hants 1787-8; mayor, Winchester 1798; lt-col. Hants vol. cav. 1797; capt. commdt. Winchester vols. 1798; capt. commdt. Dogmersfield vols. 1803.

Biography

St. John Mildmay’s first electoral venture, in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, was to aspire to Hampshire in 1796. A preliminary canvass deterred him. George Rose*, writing to Pitt of his ‘silly opposition’, added that even his neighbours and nearest relations would not support him. Instead he became Lord Abingdon’s paying guest for Westbury.1 He had joined Brooks’s Club, sponsored by Fox, 6 May 1789, and the Whig Club on 5 June 1792. His chief associate in Hampshire was Lord John Russell I* and he began by voting for Fox’s censure motion, 14 Dec. 1796. He did not persist in this line. He opposed the petition for the dismissal of ministers at the Surrey meeting, 11 Apr. 1797—he could not secure a hearing at the Hampshire one on 19 Apr.—and was a seceder from the Whig Club. It is true that he supported Buxton’s clause in amendment of the land tax redemption bill, 18 May 1798, but he was teller for the bill on 31 May. On 20 Nov. 1798, seconding the address, he approved Pitt’s war policy. On 12 Mar. 1799 he attempted to penalize partridge shooting in standing cornfields. He was named to conferences with the Lords in February 1799 and May 1800. On 22 May 1800 he introduced an ambitious motion inspired, it was alleged, by a wish to gain favour with Newbolt, Sturges and Poulter, leading churchmen at Winchester, for a committee to review the status of Roman Catholics in England, with particular reference to prosyletizing by émigré monastic institutions (one of the 40 then existing was in a house sold by him to them at Winchester).2 He secured a committee and on 11 June leave for a regulatory bill, which he defended at length on 25 June: it passed on 4 July. On 10 Mar. 1801 he proposed a bill to allow the clergy to let their tithes for a limited period and on 19 June he was a critic of the clergy residence bill, which he thought should apply only to wilful absentees from their livings. He supported the disqualification of the former ordinand John Horne Tooke from sitting in the House, 4 May 1801. He also had a plan for tithe composition reform, under which the rate was to be assessed by a lay jury to the advantage of landowners. He showed it to Pitt when he was about to leave office and apparently left the subject in Pitt’s hands. On 8 Feb. 1802 he proposed a measure of relief for debtors and was not satisfied with the relief bill debated on 21 May of that year. He proposed doubling the reward for Dr Jenner the inoculator, 2 June 1801. He failed to carry a bill to preserve black game in the New Forest, 17 June 1802. That year he visited the metropolitan gaols with James Neild.3

Mildmay was among those of Pitt’s friends who could not reconcile themselves to his quitting office. Having become friendly with Canning and as one of ‘the Winchester faction who were, and are, very closely attached to Mr Pitt’, he ‘could not give a silent vote’ on 7 May 1802, when Lord Belgrave’s official amendment to the vote of thanks to the King for the dismissal of Pitt did not, in his view, go far enough. His own amendment, ‘That the Rt. Hon. William Pitt, late chancellor of the Exchequer, has rendered great and important services to his country, and is especially deserving the gratitude of this House’ was however ruled out of order by the Speaker. This débâcle was due to the fact that Mildmay had informed George Rose of his intention, Rose told Pitt and Pitt warned the ministry, who saw to it that the Speaker called on Belgrave first. Mildmay had to make a separate motion, which was carried by 211 votes to 52. Meanwhile, he became a steward for Pitt’s birthday dinner and offered him the nomination to the vacant seat for Winchester on the interest he had purchased from the former Member Henry Penton and where he had cultivated the support of the corporation.4 The dissolution supervened and he returned himself for the seat.

At the commencement of the Parliament of 1802 Mildmay ‘at the head of Canning’s country gentlemen’ commanded ‘on the heights at the back of the master of the rolls’. On 23 Nov. he said ‘half a dozen words’ in deprecation of Addington’s lack of readiness to counter French aggression. On 18 Apr. 1803 he gave a dinner to the Canningites; Pitt did not dine with them as Mildmay ‘persuaded the newspapers to believe that he did’. On 25 Apr., at Canning’s instigation, he gave notice of a motion, ‘for plague’s sake’, about the delay in the report of the commission of naval inquiry. He moved that it be produced ‘forthwith’ on 4 May, but withdrew the motion after an explanation. He continued to attend Canningite dinners leading up to Patten’s censure motion, but on 26 May Canning complained:

We have lost the votes of opposition—and I do believe in a great measure by the blundering perverseness and vanity of our old enemy Mildmay—whom nothing would serve, but he must get up at the end of Tuesday night’s debate, amidst a cry for question, and coughing, and groaning, to state his disapprobation of Fox’s speech—which was a wicked speech enough, to be sure, but what in the devil’s name had he to do with it? I doubt whether ten persons in the House, except those whom he directly offended, knew what he said—and they are offended mortally. Could you conceive such folly? And his excuse is that he thought it right some country gentleman should notice such a speech. Nonsense!

By 31 May Canning complained that Mildmay was ‘sounding and hinting something about going out of town—first to me and then to [Granville] Leveson [Gower]*. I gave him no answer—and Leveson such a one as he could not mistake. We shall see what he does.’ When Patten’s censure motion came on, 3 June, Canning recalled:

Mildmay had a sneaking wish to vote with P[itt] first and with me afterwards—I consented—and having consented in one instance, I thought it best to provide him a companion, and therefore persuaded Sturges to do so too. This is the only thing I now repent of in that day. I think it would perhaps have been better not to hear of Mildmay’s proposal.

The only consolation was that Mildmay asked Canning’s leave to appear in both minorities: ‘I will not trust him again but I have no right to give him up, as he really gave me a negative upon his suggestion’.5 On 13 July 1803 Mildmay approved the property tax bill, but complained that it fell hard on those with large families: his own was the largest in the House.

Mildmay was in the minorities on the Irish insurrection, 7 Mar., Pitt’s naval motion, 15 Mar., and the two defence motions of 23 and 25 Apr. 1804 that brought down Addington. On 11 May George Rose reported him as eagerly approving the line that Pitt was pursuing in the formation of his second ministry. The only proposal of Pitt’s that irked him was the legacy duty bill which he opposed, 22 Mar. 1805, once more on behalf of landowners with large families. He was thwarted by 164 votes to 72. He was in the government minority against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, was chosen for the select committee on the tenth naval report and on 2 May sought to exonerate the owner of the Oracle newspaper from a charge of libelling the House on that question. He disliked Pitt’s alliance with Addington and welcomed its failure. He was an applicant for a peerage at that time, but Canning wrote, 11 July 1805: ‘No truth in Mildmay’s peerage, nor any other’. His advice to Pitt to dissolve Parliament that summer was thought imprudent.6

Mildmay was absent on the first critical division under the Grenville ministry, 3 Mar. 1806, but by 27 Mar. he was giving a ‘grand dinner’ to Canning and other Pittites.7 He voted against the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. On 7 and 19 May he made his familiar plea for the exemption of fathers of large families from the property tax. He voted against the American intercourse bill, 17 June. He led the opposition to the training bill, 3 July, his amendment being lost by 139 votes to 53. On 11 July he followed this up by proposing a vote of thanks to the volunteers, whom he regarded as spurned in Windham’s military proposals. It was thwarted by 75 votes to 41. At the ensuing election for Hampshire he was the second-string candidate hostile to government, subscribing £2,500 himself. He was a late starter and unsuccessful, but had taken the precaution of securing his return for Winchester. On 13 Feb. 1807 he seconded the motion for the committal of the Hampshire petition complaining of ministerial interference in the election, outlining the written evidence for it. When Canning tentatively negotiated a junction with the ministry at that time, he was understood to wish for a peerage for Mildmay, though he was surprised to be assured by Lord Temple that Mildmay had already been offered one as a bait for bringing about such a junction, regarding his allegation of it as ‘a vapouring misrepresentation’ on his part.8 Listed ‘adverse’ to the abolition of the slave trade, he voted for its postponement, 6 Mar. 1807. He was teller for the Portland ministry on 15 Apr. and at the ensuing election stepped into the county seat, returning his eldest son for Winchester.

Mildmay, a member of the finance committee appointed on 10 Feb. 1807, was dropped from it in June at his own request after the adverse publicity given a private bargain he had made in 1804 with the barracks board for the lease of a house and land of his near Chelmsford. He protested at the use made by opposition of this disclosure from the report of the commissioners of military inquiry, 26 June 1807, and three days later revealed the facts. In his view he had been inadequately compensated. He obtained leave to document his case and on 8 July was backed up by Canning. It was a storm in a teacup. Equally galling to Mildmay was his failure to secure any of the county honours on Lord Bolton’s death that year. ‘He has been loud in his complaints on it to Canning and proposed to him, Canning, to take the Isle of Wight—with the view of securing to himself the lieutenancy with a peerage’, reported Viscount FitzHarris, whose family was preferred and now had ‘a bitter, but impotent, enemy’ in Mildmay. He was still a candidate for a peerage.9 He was a government teller on three divisions in 1808, but his last political act was critical of government for the preference given to the sugar planters over the agricultural interest in the matter of distillation, 13 Apr., 19, 23 May. He died of a liver disease, 11 Nov. 1808. His income was then estimated at £25,000. ‘A capricious, vain, ill-tempered man, with some minor talents and insufferable pretensions’, according to Samuel Egerton Brydges*, he presented a sharp contrast to his father, ‘a country squire and a toper ... inoffensive and dull’: but he modelled himself on his maternal grandfather the philosopher Abraham Tucker.10

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne

Notes

  • 1. PRO 30/8/173, f. 290; 30/29/8/2, f. 169.
  • 2. Add. 37890, f. 235; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 79.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/158, f. 131; Colchester, i. 269; Melville, Cobbett, i. 160; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 380.
  • 4. G. Festing, J. H. Frere and his Friends, 79; Hants Repository (1798), i. 117; The Times, 21 Apr., 12 May 1802.
  • 5. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 4 Dec. 1802; Add. 38326, f. 232; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 25 Apr., 20, 21, 26, 31 May, 4, 6 June 1803.
  • 6. Rose Diaries, ii. 132; Colchester, i. 553; PRO 30/8/199, f. 40; Leveson Gower, ii. 64; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 11 July 1805; Egerton 2137, f. 193.
  • 7. HMC Lonsdale, 172; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 27 Mar. 1806.
  • 8. Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lowther, 16 Nov. 1806; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 208; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 10 Feb. 1807.
  • 9. Romilly, Mems. ii. 211; Leveson Gower, ii. 279; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 6 Aug. 1807; Portland mss, PwV114.