MULLINS, Frederick William (1804-1854), of Beaufort House, co. Kerry

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

Constituency

Dates

1831 - 1837

Family and Education

b. 29 June 1804, 1st s. of Hon. and Rev. Frederick Ferriter Mullins of Beaufort House, rect. of Killiney, co. Kerry, and Elizabeth, da. and h. of William Croker of Johnstown, co. Cork. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1822; King’s Inns 1827. m. 30 Sept. 1826,1 Lucia, da. of Capt. William Robert Broughton, RN, col. of marines, s.p. suc. fa. 1832; took name of De Moleyns (as descendant of 1st Bar. Ventry [I]) by royal lic. 16 Feb. 1841. d. 17 Mar. 1854.

Offices Held

Biography

It was another Frederick William Mullins (d. 1712), an English colonel, who established this branch of the family in Kerry, settling at Burnham House, near Dingle, in about 1666 and serving as Member for Dingle, 1692-3, and Tralee, 1695-6. His great-grandson Thomas (1736-1824), who was awarded a baronetcy in 1797, was created Baron Ventry in the Irish peerage, 31 July 1800, as a reward for his eldest son’s support for the Union in the Dublin Parliament, in which he sat briefly for Dingle that year. Ventry, one of the three major electoral patrons in Kerry, shied away from bringing forward his son Thomas, an army officer, in 1801, and thereafter usually backed the ministerialist James Crosbie*, partly in the hope of extracting a step in the peerage from Lord Liverpool’s administration.2 However, the 2nd baron supported the successful interloper William Hare against Crosbie at the general election of 1826, when his brother Major Edward Mullins was one of the magistrates responsible for the massacre that occurred on troops being ordered to fire into the crowd.3 The 3rd Baron Ventry, who succeeded his uncle to the title in 1827, was said to have come off badly from the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders in 1829, when Edward Mullins was mentioned as a possible future candidate.4

This Member, whose father was the sixth son of the 1st baron, was described by Daniel O’Connell* in 1823 as ‘a fine young man of 19’, who was then apparently intent on making a disadvantageous marriage with a daughter of ‘black Arthur’s’ (possibly one of the several Blennerhassetts of that name).5 A trainee barrister, he spoke strongly against the proposed increases in the Irish stamp and spirit duties at the Kerry meeting in May 1830, when it was rumoured he would stand for the county.6 His or his uncle Edward’s pretensions were swept aside by the entry of Lord Kenmare’s brother William Browne, whose candidacy he seconded in purposeful style at the general election that summer.7 He signed the requisition for, but may not have attended, the county meeting in favour of the recent revolution in France in October 1830.8 On the retirement of Browne, he defied expectations to come in unopposed under the wing of O’Connell, who forced the withdrawal of the other sitting Member, at the general election of 1831. Speaking for parliamentary reform and against colonial slavery, he alluded to O’Connell, who considered him a dependant, as his future parliamentary guide.9

Mullins made what one local paper considered a paltry maiden speech, unsuccessfully moving for a return of the number of Protestants in each Irish parish, 30 June 1831; although he obtained a return of the amount of vestry assessments, 25 July, his promised bill to rectify abuses in vestry taxation did not materialize that session.10 He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reintroduced English reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjourning proceedings on it, 12 July, and regularly for its details, except when dividing against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug. He sided with opposition against the grants for civil list services, 18 July, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 25 July. He briefly urged inquiry into the Castlepollard affair, 3 Aug., and voted for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug. He was in the minority for postponing the Dublin writ, 8 Aug., but divided with ministers in both divisions on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted against the second reading of the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug., was a minority teller for an amendment to the Scottish turnpike roads bill, 26 Aug., and divided against the committal of the truck bill, 12 Sept. Having failed to adjourn the discussion on account of the absence of many Irish Members, he voted for Sadler’s motion to make legal provision for the Irish poor, but in his first major speech, during which he declared himself ‘the friend of innovation’ in all beneficial cases, he expressed his delight at the grant for national education in Ireland, 9 Sept. He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831. Later that month he signed the requisition for the Kerry reform meeting.11

By a pre-session address to ‘the people of Kerry’, 4 Dec. 1831, he called for petitions to be forthcoming against the inadequate Irish reform bill, specifically for an extension of the franchise to leaseholders, more Irish seats and a different system of registration; he raised these same points in the House on the Irish measure being presented by Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, 19 Jan. 1832.12 He had apparently missed the division on the second reading of the revised English bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but he voted for going into committee on it, 20 Jan., again generally for its details, and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided against the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. (although he was with government on this, 12, 16, 20 July), for inquiry into the glove trade, 31 Jan., and for the production of information on military punishments, 16 Feb.; he did, however, vote with ministers on Portugal, 9 Feb. As he intervened to oppose adjourning the discussion just before the division on Irish tithes, 27 Mar., he was probably in the radical Irish minority for Ruthven’s amendment for the appropriation of the revenues of the Irish church. The following day, stating his regret at having to differ from the deserving ministers, he urged Smith Stanley to proceed with the promised legislative abolition of Irish taxes, and on the 30th he divided for Lambert’s amendment against the payment of arrears. He voted against the second reading of the Irish tithes arrears bill, 6 Apr., but for the government amendment to it, 9 Apr. 1832.

He divided for Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May 1832. He voted for Buxton’s anti-slavery motion, 24 May, against excluding insolvent debtors from Parliament, 30 May, to make permanent provision for the Irish poor by a tax on absentees, 19 June, and for coroners’ inquests to be held in public, 20 June. He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, but on 18 June, when he was in the minority for his colleague’s motion to enfranchise Irish £5 freeholders, he introduced his own amendment to give the vote to £30 Irish leaseholders of at least 19 years’ standing. Passionately insisting that his aim was to give Ireland as extensive, effective and advantageous a reform as England would receive, he argued in detail for this change as the proportional equivalent of the English £10 freeholder and £50 tenant-at-will franchise. He was assisted by O’Connell, but the debate degenerated into a squabble involving the latter, and the motion, for which he was a teller, was defeated by 161-9. He divided for Sheil’s amendment against the liability of electors to pay their municipal taxes before being allowed to vote, 29 June, and vainly attempted to secure two other technical alterations to the franchise, 18 July. He objected to Smith Stanley resuming the debate on tithes when so many Irishmen were absent, but was defeated in his attempt to postpone it, 10 July. Advocating a justly distributed general land tax as the best means of securing the state’s revenues, he condemned the second report of Smith Stanley’s tithes select committee as an inadequate representation of the evidence brought before it, 13 July. Utterly opposed to the commutation of tithes, he voiced the Irish view that the intended alterations would not be sufficient to solve the problem and voted in the minority to postpone the issue to the reformed Parliament. He presented petitions for the total abolition of Irish tithes, 18, 28 July 1832.

With the endorsement of O’Connell, who wrote that ‘he has done his duty by the country and the country ought not to desert him’, Mullins, whose father died that month, was re-elected as a Liberal and a Repealer at the general election in December 1832.13 Two years later O’Connell stood by him for tactical reasons, although one of his correspondents observed that ‘his conduct in private life exceeds in turpitude his political recreancy, and in Killarney he is regarded as the most perfect exemplification of everything that is dishonourable and mean’. By 1837 his parliamentary absenteeism and wayward behaviour had become unforgivable and he was defeated in that year’s general election.14 His prosecution over a bill of exchange in the bail court in June 1839 may indicate a certain financial precariousness in his subsequent life.15

On 8 Mar. 1854 De Moleyns, as he had become at the instigation of the 3rd Baron Ventry in 1841, appeared in the police court in London charged with having forged a signature to a power of attorney with a view to defrauding the Bank of England of £1,500. He indignantly pleaded his innocence, the lord mayor having made several disparaging remarks about a man of his position falling so low, but had insufficient funds to mount bail and was ordered to Newgate. He died there, suddenly, of natural causes, just over a week later.16 His will, dated 22 Nov. 1843, was not proved until 29 June 1891, when his personalty only amounted to £750. His designated heir, a nephew named Frederick Henry Phillips, refused to accept his inheritance, since he would have had to change his name to De Moleyns and to have resided at least one in every four years in Kerry, so it passed to University College, London with the intention of establishing a professorship in electrical science. The estate was evidently insufficient for this purpose, but a trust known as the ‘De Moleyns Fund’ (which still exists) was formed to provide grants for the purchase of electrical equipment.