MITCHELL, John (?1781-1859), of Richmond, Surr. and Wimpole Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

b. ?1781, 1st s. of David Mitchell of Jamaica, later of Carshalton House, Surr. and w. Anne Hewitt Smith. educ. Westminster; Christ Church, Oxf. 5 Feb. 1800, aged 18; L. Inn 1803, called 1808. m. 11 Sept. 1824, Eliza, da. of John Elliott, porter brewer, of Pimlico Lodge, Mdx., 2s. 2da.1 suc. fa. 1804; uncle William Mitchell† 1823. d. 29 Aug. 1859.

Offices Held

Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1803-16.

Biography

Mitchell, a former barrister who had allegedly been sent to Hull by the Liverpool ministry in 1818, offered again at the 1820 general election. He was greeted on his arrival by ‘a party of people who treated him with great cruelty and unmerited indignity’, and a mob ‘broke his carriage and burnt it and all his clothes’. Undeterred, in his address he declared that such action merely illustrated the axiom ‘violence ever defeats its purpose’, since he had received many promises given in sympathy and indignation.2 After a rowdy nomination, in which he was refused a hearing, he was returned unopposed, but violence prevented his chairing. The local press found this hostility inexplicable, as he had been ‘a great favourite’ in 1818, but the Rev. Richard Sykes, brother of his Whig colleague, was in no doubt as to the reason for his unpopularity:

One grand cause of this, is an improvement in the minds of the people. Severity is an able schoolmistress. The duke of York’s pension, the immense prodigality of ministers, the increase of the army, the refusal of all inquiry into the Manchester affair, and the five bills passed last session, have been brought home to the ... lower classes by the pressure of the times. Mr. Mitchell amiable, pleasing and respectable, was assailed by bitter cries of abuse for having supported these obnoxious measures.3

A lax attender, when present Mitchell took an independent line, but is not known to have participated in debate, although a contemporary recalled that he was ‘a good speaker, fluent, eloquent and expressive, rather rapid in his manner of delivery, but never at a loss for words. He was polite and gentlemanly in his demeanour, tall, and moderately stout’.4 He presented a Hull petition against any alteration of the timber import duties, 13 June 1820. He voted with ministers on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 25 Apr. 1825. He voted against Hume’s motion for economy and retrenchment, 21 June 1821, and the calls for more extensive tax cuts, 11, 21 Feb., but was in the opposition majority for admiralty reductions, 1 Mar. 1822. He divided against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. He was in the minority for Stuart Wortley’s amendment concerning events in Spain, 30 Apr., and voted for inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June 1823. He divided for repeal of the usury laws, 8 Apr., and paired against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting slave riots in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He presented a Hull petition from the manufacturers of tobacco and snuff praying for a reduction of duties, 24 Feb. 1826.

At the 1826 dissolution Mitchell, who was said to be ‘strongly aware of his own unpopularity’ and afraid of worse treatment in Hull, stepped down.5 He had inherited his uncle’s Jamaican estates and sugar plantations in 1823 and apparently made no other attempt to enter the house. He died at Torquay in August 1859, ‘aged 77’.6

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Martin Casey

Notes