MILLS, George Galway (1765-1828), of Twickenham, Mdx. and Thoby Priory, Essex.
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Family and Education
b. 22 Oct. 17651 at St. Kitts, 1st s. of Peter Matthew Mills of St. Kitts, and Twickenham, Mdx. by Catherine, da. of Dr William Hamilton. educ. ?Westminster 1776; L. Inn 1786, called 1799. m. 1 Oct. 1791, Amelia Norton, ‘a lady of considerable fortune’,2 4s. and other issue. suc. fa. 1792.
2nd lt. Glos. yeomanry 1797.
Member of council, St. Kitts 1800; registrar, supreme ct. N.S.W. Dec. 1823-d.
Mills represented the fourth generation of his family settled on St. Kitts, where they intermarried with the leading planter families.3 His kinsmen in Parliament included Sir John William de la Pole, William Colhoun and Sir Ralph Payne. He inherited his father’s plantations, but spent much of his life in England. Called to the bar, he does not seem to have practised.
In the 1790s, Mills aspired to a seat in Parliament: in an undated letter endorsed 12 Feb. 1793, he wrote of his ‘intentions’ with regard to Windsor, which he claimed were known to the minister: ‘I shall now begin my canvass’, he stated and added that it would be his pride as well as his happiness to give every support in his power to Pitt’s administration. Nothing came of this and on 3 Dec. 1799 Lady Nelson informed her husband: ‘Mr George Mills, his wife and one child leave England very soon for the West Indies, it seems he had outrun everything he had’.4
Mills was back by 1804, when he was probably put to considerable expense to secure his return for the venal borough of Wallingford. He voted against Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804 and was listed in September first ‘Fox and Grenville’, then among ‘persons in opposition not quite certain’. In July 1805, however, he was listed ‘Pitt’. Writing in January 1806 to Warren Hastings, godfather to one of his sons, from Jewin House, Welwyn, where he had resided since his return, he reported ‘I continue still a great invalid, though an Hercules in comparison to what I was two months ago’. He was despondent about the country’s war prospects and added, ‘we poor colonists are trembling again for the fate of our transatlantic property’. His only utterance in the House would appear to have been to ask for information on the security of the West Indies, 1 Feb 1806. He voted for the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. On 19 July he applied to Lord Grenville for a baronetcy, recalling a ‘long promise’ to his ‘ancestor’, but to no avail.5
The decline in West India trade had adversely affected Mills, who was in debt. To redeem his situation, he secured from Fox a promise that he should accompany Lord Douglas on his mission to Russia, where his proficiency in languages would be serviceable. On this account he ‘refused one of the appointments in the West India commission’. On Fox’s death, Lords Howick and Grenville felt unable to fulfil Fox’s promise, as they could not compensate the existing secretary to the embassy at St. Petersburg, although Mills had ‘made all his arrangements at Wallingford, and actually sent a part of his baggage, with that of Lord Douglas, to Petersburg’. Left without a seat in Parliament, Mills applied to Grenville, his ‘sole patron and director’,4 Nov. 1806, for the first government place to fall vacant in the West Indies. Grenville gratified him and he was offered the place of fifth commissioner to the West Indies in January 1807. But it was too late: he had been confined in King’s Bench for debts of over £43,000. On 3 Mar. an acquaintance wrote of him to William Wickham:
I fancy he has been endeavouring to obtain a seat in Parliament to enable him to remove from his present situation previous to his going to the West Indies and I should imagine the delay in not getting his patent passed, has been in consequence of this expected arrangement, as his seat (if he had one) would, of course, be immediately vacated by his appointment to our commission.
On 16 Mar. Mills himself wrote to Wickham from 13 Temple Place, Blackfriars Road, asking him to get Lord Grenville to suspend the nomination of another commissioner, as he hoped to be free of his difficulties within a month. But Wickham informed him, in reply, that it was too late; Grenville had felt obliged to appoint another commissioner.6
Mills procured himself a seat for Mitchell as a guest of Sir Christopher Hawkins at the general election two months later. On 6 July 1807, petitions from his creditors were presented to the House by Cochrane Johnstone and Peter Moore, the former alleging that Mills intended to defraud them by absconding to the West Indies as soon as he had obtained his discharge from King’s Bench by parliamentary privilege. Next day the Speaker read a letter from Mills applying for his discharge and secured the appointment of a committee of privileges, to whom the creditors’ petitions would be referred, on the precedent of the case of Henry Speed* in 1795. On 8 July the committee reported in Mills’s favour without even examining the petitions, to the indignation of some Members, and on 18 July Mills took his seat, which he ‘immediately resigned ... and went abroad—to Berlin (perhaps as an American) where government gave him £1,000 employing him as a spy’.7
It seems that Mills at first hankered after the West Indian appointment that had eluded him, for on hearing that one of the commissioners had declined to proceed to the West Indies he offered his services again, but they were not accepted. He was ordered by the King of Prussia to investigate the murder of a British envoy, Benjamin Bathurst, near Hamburg in December 1809 and remained as English agent in Prussia until March 1812 when he fled the French to Brno. From there he departed for Switzerland in July 1813. The Archduke Ferdinand had offered to employ him as British commissary if awarded a military command by the allies, and Mills claimed that his fitness to be British minister resident in Switzerland was widely acknowledged. In 1814 he went to Paris whence he wrote to the Regent’s secretary, 27 Jan. 1815, in quest of further remuneration—he had received £600 and £800 p.a. at different periods during his employment, but other government informers had done better. He then had four sons in the King’s service. He offered to go to Naples and spy on the Princess of Wales (he had been a patron of the Tugendbund in Berlin).8
‘George Mills’, as he now styled himself, remained in Paris until he was once more returned to Parliament in 1818, when Lord Darlington brought him in for Winchelsea, somewhat to the indignation of respectable Whigs. ‘But principle is nothing to Mr Mills—his object is ease and security—poor fellow!’, remarked Edward John Littleton.9 He accordingly followed his patron’s line, signing the requisition to Tierney to lead the opposition in the House. He voted for the Bank committee and for adding Brougham to it, 2 and 8 Feb., and against the Windsor establishment, 22 Feb. 1819. He secured leaves of absence on 3 and 8 Mar. and, after voting for reduction of the Admiralty board on 18 Mar., a further month’s compassionate leave on 23 Mar. He opposed the Irish window tax, 5 May, voted for burgh reform, 6 May, and supported Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. In June he opposed the navy estimates, ministerial fiscal proposals and the foreign enlistment bill. He was in the minorities against the address and for Althorp’s motion, 24 and 30 Nov. 1819, but, most probably in accordance with his patron’s wishes, appeared in no further minorities that session. His wife died 21 Jan. 1820 and he was not re-elected that year. It was doubtless time for him to pack his bags again. He obtained a place worth £800 p.a. in Australia, where he committed suicide by means of a pistol, 14 Feb. 1828. He had received distressing news from home and was deeply in debt, being ‘a man of profligate character and dissolute habits’.10
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Register of St. George and St. Peter, Basseterre, St. Kitts.
- 2. J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 396.
- 3. V. L. Oliver, Antigua, iii. 259.
- 4. PRO 30/8/158, f. 180; Letters from Nelson to his wife (Navy Recs. Soc. c), 541.
- 5. Add. 29181, f. 1; The Times, 3 Feb.; Fortescue mss, Mills to Grenville, 19 July, reply 23 July 1806.
- 6. Wilson, 396; HMC Fortescue, viii. 373; Grey mss, Douglas to Howick, 11 Oct., reply 15 Oct.; Fortescue mss, Mills to Grenville, 4 Nov. 1806, 20 Jan.; Wickham mss 5/64, Halkett to Wickham, Wed. [3 Mar.], Mills to same, 16 Mar., reply 17 Mar. 1807.
- 7. CJ, lxii. 635, 644; Parl. Deb. ix. 733, 743, 744*, 843; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 28 Jan. 1819.
- 8. Perceval (Holland) mss 21, f. 6; Geo. IV Letters, i. 523.
- 9. Add. 51662, Bedford to Holland, 29 July ; Hatherton diary, 28 Jan. 1819.
- 10. Hist. Recs. Australia (ser. 1), xi. 192; xiii. 782, 784; (ser. 4), sec. A. vol. i. 526, 529.