MITCHELL, Andrew (1708-71), of Thainston, Aberdeen.
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Family and Education
b. 15 Apr. 1708, o.s. of Rev. William Mitchell, minister of St. Giles’ and King’s chaplain, by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of Sir Hugh Cunningham, lord provost of Edinburgh, wid. of James Steuart, town clerk of Edinburgh. educ. Edinburgh Univ.; Leyden 1730-1; Paris 1731-2; Italy 1732-5; M. Temple 1734, called 1738, adv. 1736. m. 22 July 1722, his 2nd cos. Barbara, da. and h. of Thomas Mitchell of Thainston, 1da. (d. 1729). suc. fa. 8 Sept. 1727; served h. to Thainston in right of his da. 1741. cr. K.B. 13 Dec. 1765.
Under-sec. for Scotland 1742-6; commissary in Brussels for negotiating a commercial agreement with Austria and the Netherlands 1752-5; envoy to Prussia 1756-June 1765, Dec. 1765- d.
During his first term in Parliament Mitchell attached himself to Henry Pelham and the Duke of Newcastle, and thus gave offence to the Duke of Argyll, the ‘viceroy’ for Scotland. During Mitchell’s absence as a trade commissioner in Brussels, Argyll’s hostility made his re-election so precarious that Pelham in September 1753 offered to bring him in elsewhere. Newcastle, however, insisted that he ‘must and should stand’ for Aberdeenshire,1 but after Pelham’s death was less anxious to challenge Argyll. Mitchell’s application for the office of Lord Lyon2 was as unsuccessful as his requests for a safe seat; and when proposals for Dumfries, Inverness and Elgin Burghs all proved abortive,3Newcastle persuaded him to withdraw his opposition to the Argyll candidate in Aberdeenshire. Mitchell protested:4
After the signal instances of your Grace’s attention to my affairs, if I am not brought into Parliament for that county or some other place ... I must consider myself undone and given up to my enemies, for it will be construed as a public mark of his Majesty’s displeasure or of your Grace’s disapprobation of my conduct.
All that Mitchell could obtain was the promise of the first Scottish vacancy. When Elgin Burghs became available, Newcastle prevailed upon Argyll to withdraw his candidate in favour of Mitchell, who was returned unopposed.
In Parliament he remained Newcastle’s firm friend; resumed his duties in Brussels in May, but in view of the ministry’s difficulties offered to resign, and returned in October to support Newcastle in the new session. In spring 1756 he was appointed envoy to Prussia where he arrived shortly before the outbreak of the seven years’ war, and soon won the close friendship of Frederick the Great, whom he accompanied on most of his campaigns. Dismayed by British party divisions 1756-7, and mortified by the convention of Klosterseven, he vehemently supported his ‘hero’s’ demand for assistance from a British fleet in the Baltic and British troops in Germany. ‘England has done nothing, the strength of the nation was melted away in faction.’ His partisan attitude infuriated Pitt, who wrote to Newcastle, 28 Jan. 1758:
Andrew Mitchell is not a fool and therefore he must be something not fit to be the instrument of the present system of administration ... I do not intend for one that Andrew Mitchell shall carry me where I have resolved not to go.
Mitchell was recalled, and Joseph Yorke sent out to replace him and induce Frederick to sign the new subsidy convention. Frederick forestalled Yorke’s mission by accepting the treaty before his arrival in April, and insisted on retaining Mitchell who was reinstated in June without leaving Prussia.5
During the dispute, while Mitchell’s ‘old friends in the ministry unkindly gave him up’,6 Barrington remained faithful,7 and on Mitchell’s restoration actively intervened with Newcastle to secure his re-election, and some mark of favour. In 1759 Mitchell was promoted plenipotentiary, but in the new reign failed in his applications to Pitt and Newcastle to obtain either a knighthood or a lucrative place; and was equally unsuccessful when his ‘very, very old friend’ Bute became secretary of state.8
In 1762, angered and distressed at the Government’s withdrawal of the Prussian subsidy, he none the less loyally obeyed his instructions, at the expense of his friendship with Frederick. Despondent and in ill-health, Mitchell repeatedly applied for recall or leave of absence, which was not granted until August 1764, when he went to Spa, returning to England early in 1765.9 He attended the House10 but is not known to have spoken; was reunited with his friends in the Rockingham Administration who, when his commission ended in June, urged him to accept reappointment to Berlin. Mitchell, with great reluctance, eventually agreed in December on receiving his long-coveted K.B., a pension of £500 p.a. for life, and a promise of a lucrative office on retirement.11 He wrote to a friend, 13 Dec. 1765:12 ‘I shall think myself very lucky if I do not lose by this second mission the small credit I have acquired by the first.’
After voting with Administration on the repeal of the Stamp Act in February Mitchell, still in poor health, left for Berlin in March. A friend commented:13
He flatters himself he will return, but I do not imagine he ever will, he had better look out for a proper spot to rest his bones there. I think he would have preferred home and ... inter nos the Monarch [Frederick] would have rather wished he would have stayed there, his love and hate alternate like a ... diurnal fever.
At the 1768 election Lord John Murray sounded William Mure on the possibility of replacing Mitchell in his burghs. Mure consulted James Stuart Mackenzie, who replied, 1 Mar. 1768:14
By all I can learn ... Sir Andrew has no sort of desire to be out of Parliament, and as that is the case, you may be certain that Government would never force him out who is actually employed in very interesting matters for his Majesty’s service, and that at the desire of the ministry, not in consequence of his own solicitations, for he was by no means fond of returning to the court of Berlin. Let me add that there is no period fixed for his return home, so that he may be here at any time.
After Mitchell’s unopposed re-election, in absentia, Lord John, during the Wilkes controversy in 1769, made another attempt. He proposed to Grafton that Mitchell should vacate the burghs in his favour, thus providing the ministry with an additional vote, on the understanding that Murray would surrender the seat whenever Mitchell returned home. Grafton enclosed Murray’s memorial in his letter to Mitchell of 27 Nov. 1769, with the comment:15 ‘If you have no private objection it would be a very desirable thing in your absence.’ Mitchell however declined, and the proposition was dropped.
Mitchell in his last years was saddened and disillusioned by the conduct of his former ‘hero’, Frederick the Great, whose affection he never regained. He died in Berlin 28 Jan. 1771.16
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. Add. 32735, f. 36.
- 2. Add. 32734, f. 224.
- 3. Election lists, 21 Mar. 1754, Newcastle (Clumber) mss; Add. 32734, f. 295.
- 4. Add. 32735, f. 36.
- 5. Add. 32854, f. 370; 32856, f. 5; 6832, ff. 59, 186; 32877, f. 258; Yorke, Hardwicke, iii. 127-46, 197-208; Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, iii. 111; Bisset, Mems. of Sir Andrew Mitchell, i. chaps. ix and x.
- 6. R. Symmer to Mitchell, 31 Oct. 1758, Add. 6839, f. 110.
- 7. Add. 6834, ff. 13-19.
- 8. Add. 32918, f. 160; 6857, f. 78; 6834, ff. 27, 29.
- 9. Add. 6834, ff. 59, 65, 69; Sandwich to Mitchell, 12 July 1764, Sandwich mss; HMC 10th Rep. I, 378.
- 10. Walpole to Hertford, 7 Apr. 1765.
- 11. Add. 32967, f. 177; Bisset, ii. 359.
- 12. HMC 10th Rep. I, 378.
- 13. Sir James Porter to Weston, 11 Mar. 1766, ibid.
- 14. Caldwell Pprs. ii (2), pp. 137-8.
- 15. Add. 6857, ff. 53-55.
- 16. His pprs. are Add. 6804-6872.