ST. JOHN MILDMAY, Paulet (1791-1845), of Hazlegrove, Som. and Farley Chamberlayne, Hants.
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Family and Educationb. 8 Apr. 1791, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Henry Paulet St. John Mildmay†, 3rd bt. (d. 1808), of Dogmersfield Park, Hants and Jane, da. and coh. of Carew Mildmay of Shawford House, Hants. educ. Winchester 1803-5. m. 12 Mar. 1813, Anna Maria Wyndham, da. of Hon. Bartholomew Bouverie*, 4s. 3da. suc. fa. to Hazlegrove 1808. d. 19 May 1845.
Ensign 2 Ft. Gds. 1807, lt. and capt. 1811-12; lt. Dogmersfield yeoman cav. 1813.
St. John Mildmay was one of 15 children, who, according to an account of 1804, were ‘all very handsome, and bear a strong resemblance to each other’.1 At the 1818 general election he had replaced his dandified elder brother Henry St. John Carew St. John Mildmay as Member for Winchester on the interest controlled by their mother. Much of the family property had remained in her hands after the death of her husband in 1808, though St. John Mildmay was heir by settlement to Hazlegrove in Somerset, an estate of nearly 4,000 acres, which had originally descended from his maternal great-great-uncle Carew Hervey Mildmay, Member for Harwich, 1714-15. A token cash bequest was the only direct benefit he derived from his father’s personalty, which was sworn under £60,000.2 Curiously, a radical publication of 1831 identified him as a merchant, an assertion repeated in early editions of Dod’s Parliamentary Companion. But from the lack of corroborative evidence, this seems likely to have been a case of confusion with his younger brother Humphrey St. John Mildmay (1794-1853), Member for Southampton, 1842-7, and a partner in the merchant banking house of the Baring brothers from 1823.3
At the 1820 general election St. John Mildmay was returned again for Winchester unopposed. His hustings speech contained no political professions, though he dissented by implication from his Grenvillite colleague’s support for the Six Acts.4 A very lax and mostly silent attender, inaccurately ‘supposed to vote with government’ by a radical commentary of 1825, when present he gave general support to the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most major issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.5 He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. On 5 Mar. 1821 he was a steward at a Winchester ball in honour of the duke of Wellington.6 No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for 1822 or 1823, though he was present at the election of the mayor of Winchester in September 1823.7 He contributed briefly to a debate on the game laws, 1 Apr., and welcomed Stuart Wortley’s attempt to reform them, 31 May 1824.8 On 20 Dec. 1824 his gun burst while shooting on the duke of Buckingham’s property near Winchester, causing an injury to his left hand in which he ‘lost the whole of the thumb, and the fingers are much torn’. That Christmas he distributed wool jackets to the poor of Winchester, having furnished them with gifts of money and coal on earlier occasions.9 He presented a Winchester petition for repeal of the assessed taxes, 14 Feb. 1825.10 He divided to allow the Catholic Association a hearing at the bar of the House, 18 Feb. 1825. He voted against the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar 1826. As a teller, he helped to defeat the Berkshire and Hampshire canal bill at its report stage by 48-38, 6 Apr. He voted for a revision of the corn laws, 18 Apr. He obtained returns of the number of persons imprisoned under the game laws and admitted to hospitals following injury from spring guns, 21 Mar., and was a majority teller against the third reading of a bill to outlaw their use, 27 Apr. 1826.11
At the 1826 general election he offered again for Winchester and at his unopposed return declared his unequivocal support for Catholic relief, observing that ‘it was very easy to raise the cry of "No Popery", but they might just as well say "No Chinese"’. Responding to comments about the paucity of his contributions to debate, he urged the electors not to forget ‘the not unimportant body of listeners’ and insisted that he gave ‘many hours of anxious attention’ to the arguments deployed.12 Perhaps stirred by this criticism, he spoke against the reintroduced bill to ban spring guns, 23 Mar., and offered a few words in defence of the siting of St. James’s Palace, 11 May 1827.13 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. No other recorded activity has been found until 1829, when he railed against the ‘base and infamous’ use of the king’s name by petitioners against Catholic claims, in support of which he claimed a shift of opinion had taken place among his constituents, 27 Feb. He presented two petitions for the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation, 6 Mar., and voted accordingly that day, when he clashed with Buckingham’s son Lord Chandos over the timing of the division, and 30 Mar. He defended Sir Thomas Lethbridge from a charge that he had failed to represent the anti-Catholic sentiments of his Somerset constituents, 9 Mar. On 22 Oct. 1829 he attended a Winchester charity dinner.14 He was among the opposition Members who voted against the amendment to the address, 4 Feb. 1830, when he warned ministers against complacency, but hoped that the ‘holders of liberal opinions’ who had hitherto supported them would not abandon this line for ‘a mere quibble about words’. He voted against Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb., but was in the opposition minorities for military economies, 19 Feb., 22 Mar., and a reduction in the grant for public buildings, 3 May. He spoke at a Hampshire county meeting on agricultural distress, 10 Mar., when in an apparent response to further criticism of his silence in the House, he invited his audience to ‘look to votes, and not to speeches’.15 He could not discern ‘a rag or a remnant of an argument’ in the speeches against Jewish emancipation, for which he was a minority teller, 17 May. He presented Winchester petitions against the sale of beer bill, 27 Apr., 4 May, and against its provisions permitting on-consumption, 21 June 1830.
At the 1830 general election he was again returned unopposed. On the hustings he predicted that in the new Parliament ‘there would be less occasion than ever to oppose the measures of government’.16 Yet he was reckoned one of the ‘bad doubtfuls’ by ministers and was absent from the division on the civil list that brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. By his own account in the House (21 July 1831), he was not personally affected by the ‘Swing’ disturbances then occurring across much of southern England, though according to a press report he was expected to command a corps of volunteer infantry in Winchester.17 He pleaded ignorance to explain his absence from a meeting of the aldermen and inhabitants in favour of parliamentary reform, 17 Feb., and presented and endorsed their petition, 28 Feb. 1831, when he applauded Winchester corporation’s willingness to surrender its exclusive privileges but cautioned against any ‘visionary schemes, which are calculated to overthrow the constitution’.18 He was granted ten days’ leave on account of ill health, 14 Mar., and excused himself on the same grounds from a Hampshire county meeting three days later, when his message of support for the ministerial reform proposals was greeted with cheers.19 He had recovered sufficiently to present further constituency petitions in favour of the measure, 21 Mar., and to vote for its second reading next day and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.
The contest in Winchester at the ensuing general election was not aimed at St. John Mildmay, and his profession of support for the reform bill in its entirety was warmly received. But he embroiled himself in controversy by giving a plumper to the anti-reform candidate, the son of his former colleague East. His effigy was burnt in the street and he was called to account for himself at a meeting, 4 May, when he confessed that his conduct had been dictated by a long standing electoral agreement. For this he was publicly censured, following which he ‘left the city within an hour of the meeting, evidently in very dejected spirits’, though his subsequent address of thanks ascribed his hurried departure to an anxiety to assist the cause of reform in Somerset, where he had privately promised Edward Sanford* ‘to secure for you every vote I can influence’.20 In the House, 21 July, 22 Sept. 1831, he sprang to the defence of William Bingham Baring*, the reform candidate at Winchester whose chances he had effectively blighted, who with his cousin Francis Thornhill Baring* had been charged with assault in the discharge of his magisterial duties during the ‘Swing’ disturbances. He presented a Winchester petition in their support and, with the object of demonstrating the falsity of the allegations, was in the minority for a select committee to investigate the incident, 27 Sept. He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and gave generally steady support to its details, though he was in the opposition minority against giving urban freeholders the right to vote in counties, 17 Aug., and spoke and divided for the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., as a balance to the increased influence given to commercial and manufacturing interests. He was in the minority for the complete disfranchisement of Saltash, on which ministers failed to offer a clear lead, 26 July. He was appointed to the select committee to investigate ways to make the Commons ‘more commodious, and less unwholesome’, 8 Aug. On 23 Aug. he was in the ministerial majorities on the Dublin election controversy. He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s motion of confidence in ministers, 10 Oct. In an apparent mark of forgiveness, he received a vote of thanks from Winchester’s reformers, 27 Sept., but his attempt to address the Hampshire county reform meeting, 27 Oct. 1831, was drowned out by cries of ‘a rat’.21
St. John Mildmay voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again gave general support to its details, and divided for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was listed as absent ‘in country’ for the division on the motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, around which time he was reported to be canvassing Winchester in anticipation of a dissolution.22 He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He voted for Alexander Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from Parliament, 27 June 1832. That month he was mentioned as a candidate for Hampshire on the appointment of Sir James Macdonald to an overseas posting.23 No more was heard of this, and he came in again for Winchester at the general election later that year, topping the poll in a three-way contest. He was described as a ‘moderate reformer’, and was one of the readily discernible figures in Hayter’s depiction of the new House.24 In 1835 he was squeezed out by his former Conservative colleague, but he bounced back in 1837, according to a jaundiced report by unscrupulous use of ‘different language to different parties’. He retired at the 1841 dissolution.25
St. John Mildmay died in May 1845 at his mother’s seat at Dogmersfield. The cause was tetanus, which set in after his leg was broken in an altercation with an angry mare, with whose foal his pony had tangled while he was riding in the park. An obituarist praised his ‘urbane, charitable and kind’ character and cited the length of the tenancies on his Somerset estate as evidence of his generosity.26 By his single-sentence will, composed six days before his death and presumably just after his accident, he left all his disposable property and personal estate to his wife.27 Hazlegrove House passed to his three elder sons in turn, while his minor Hampshire estate at King’s Somborne was partially sold off. His property at Farley Chamberlayne, near Winchester, had been disposed of in 1830.28