Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Mildmay Papers, 1748-1756

Finding aid created by
Caitlin Marineau, March 2011

Summary Information
Title: William Mildmay papers
Creator: Mildmay, William, Sir, 1705-1771
Inclusive dates: 1748-1756
Extent: 7 volumes
The William Mildmay papers contain letters and documents related to Mildmay's appointment as British commissioner to France after the War of Austrian Succession. As commissioner, Mildmay was involved in settling disputed sections of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
Language: The material is in English and French
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1934. M-231.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

William Mildmay Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


William Mildmay (1705-1771) was born in Surat, India, to Sarah Wilcox and William Mildmay, a civil servant in the East India Company. Orphaned by his sixth birthday, Mildmay and his sister Mary were raised by guardians Edmund and Elizabeth Waterson. At the age of eighteen, Mildmay entered school to become a lawyer. After entering the bar, Mildmay worked in a minor capacity for British government officials, which eventually earned him a place with William Shirley (1694-1771) on the Anglo-French Commission in Paris from 1750-1755. The purpose of the commission was to settle the final disputed sections of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, signed in 1748, to end the War of Austrian Succession. Issues at hand included the boundaries of Nova Scotia; the right to the islands of St. Lucia, Tobago, St. Vincent, and Dominica; and the accounts of prizes taken at sea after the signing of the preliminary articles of peace. Mildmay was separately commissioned to effect the exchange of prisoners. In May 1752, Ruvigny de Cosne (1715-1775), secretary of the British embassy in Paris, succeeded Shirley. Negotiations dragged on for several years, and the failure of the commission to conclude a lasting treaty with France influenced the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in 1756.

After the commission finished its mission in 1755, Mildmay returned to England, where he wrote an official report on the commission. Mildmay wrote several books on French society based on his time living in France. During the Seven Years' War, Mildmay served as a captain in the militia, and later as sheriff of Essex. After the death of several relatives, Mildmay inherited the estates of Moulsham and Chelmsford. He married his cousin Anne, heiress of the estate of Shawford, Hampshire. He was created a baronet in 1765, and died childless in 1771.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Mildmay papers (7 volumes) contain letters and documents related to Mildmay's appointment as British commissioner to France after the War of Austrian Succession, and prior to the Seven Years' War. The collection consists of seven bound volumes of letters, essays, documents, and personal discussions related to the Anglo-French Commission. Many of the items are retained copies created for Mildmay's personal use. The collection contains material in both English and French, and many items are dually labeled with both Julian and Gregorian dates.

Volume 1 contains various letters and documents, including:

  • A copy of the articles of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle
  • Instructions from the French government to the French commissioner of negotiations.
  • "A collection of divers Opinions relating the British Seas, Channel, & Northern Seas," containing opinions regarding the boundaries of the British seas, including those of Sir Charles Hedges, Judge of the Admiralty; the Fraternity of Trinity House; and Sir Nathaniel Lloyd
  • Instructions given to English commissioners for meeting in Paris regarding the disputed aspects of the treaty, as well as a French reaction, and a reply from Britain
  • Letters regarding the concern by British West Indian governors over the "daily Incroachments of the French" in the region, referencing settlements on the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent, and Tobago, and orders from the British government to the governors
  • Various letters related to the treaty

Volume 2 contains Mildmay's private accounts of conferences and negotiations held with the French commissioners from 1750 to 1754.

Volume 3 contains letters from Mildmay to Benjamin Mildmay, the Earl Fitzwalter, during his time in Paris. The letters serve as an ongoing description of Mildmay's time in France, and they document issues surrounding the negotiations, politics, foreign relations, social events, and the activities of the French court. Included is an account of the governmental crisis that arose from a dispute between the French Parliament and clergy. Mildmay also recorded details related to his personal life and social events, including a description of a party with dramatic fireworks at the Duke of Orleans's palace, in honor of the Dauphin's recovery from smallpox (September 27, 1752). The letters reveal that Mildmay was growing increasingly frustrated by the treaty negotiations; in a letter from January 24, 1753, Mildmay wrote, "I am now in full business with the French Commissaries, & heartily sick of their chicanery; but it is to be hoped His Majesty will put an end to all wrangling & disputes by a happier method of accommodation, or more persuasive arguments than what are delivered in written Memorials." In addition, he mentioned that if they are to enter into a war with France, it would be against the will of the people in the country, but if they are to maintain peace, France would only use it to prepare for a later war (March 26, 1755). Mildmay discussed specific issues with the negotiations, such as the British refusing to agree to an article that stated if France and Britain went to war, neither would commission privateers to disrupt commerce (March 6, 1754).

Volume 4 contains various letters and documents, including:

  • Copies of letters and documents related to Mildmay's private commission to negotiate the exchange of prisoners captured during the War of Austrian Succession, as well as French soldiers captured in Scotland during the Jacobite uprising
  • Copied letters concerning accounts documenting the ransoms and costs related to the upkeep of prisoners
  • Detailed line-item descriptions of the demands made for the release of prisoners.
  • Blank forms for recording the accounts for the total spent for subsistence, hospital charges, burial certificate, and receipt for prisoners delivered
  • Printed copy from 1743 of "Traité et Conventions Pour les Malades, Blessés & Prisonniers de Guerre des Troupes de Sa Majesté Très-Chrêtienne, Auxiliares, & celles des Alliés," regarding the treatment and exchange of the wounded and prisoners of war

Volume 5 contains various letters and documents, including:

  • Descriptions of letters from previous commissioners Allix and Hinde, concerning the settlement of accounts between Britain and France regarding prizes taken at sea after hostilities ended
  • Description of instructions given to Mildmay and William Shirley
  • Copies of letters written by William Mildmay, William Shirley, and Ruvigny de Cosne documenting the progress of the commission. Recipients include secretaries of state the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Newcastle, the Earl of Holderness, and Sir Thomas Robinson

Volume 6 contains various letters and documents, including:

  • Essays primarily focused on commerce in France and abroad
  • "Sur le Commerce" ("On Commerce")
  • "Memoire sur le commerce" ("Memorandum on commerce")
  • "Situation du Commerce Exterieur du Royaume" ("Situation of Commerce Outside of the Kingdom")
  • "Extrait d'un Memoire sur un Projet de Commerce de Negres a Guinée" ("Extract of a Memorandum on a Project of Commerce of Negros at Guinea")

Volume 7 contains various letters and documents, including:

  • Essays and letters primarily about commerce in France and her colonies, as well as relations between France and Britain
  • "Memoire sur le commerce de France, et sur l'état present de ses Colonies en general et en particulier" ("Memorandum on the commerce of France, and on the present state of her Colonies in general and in particular")
  • "Letre à Monsieur Mildmay sur le commerce de St. Domingue, et sur l'état present de cette colonie" ("Letter to Monsieur Mildmay on the commerce of St. Domingo, and on the present state of this colony")
  • Memorandum related to the reasons for the prohibition of foreign commerce between the French colonies and New England in 1727
  • "Lettre à Monsieur Mildmay Commissaire de [S.M.B.] à Paris sur les moyens de conciliation entre les deux courones de France et d'Angleterre, au sujet des contestations presents en Amerique" ("Letter to Monsieur Mildmay, Commissioner at Paris, on the means of conciliation between the two Crowns of France and England, about the present disputes in America")
Subject Terms

    • Austrian Succession, War of, 1740-1748.
    • Diplomacy--History.
    • France--Colonies--America.
    • France--Commerce.
    • France--Court and courtiers.
    • France--History--Louis XV, 1715-1774.
    • France--Social life and customs--18th century.
    • Great Britain--Colonies--America.
    • Great Britain--Foreign relations--France.
    • Nova Scotia--History--1713-1763.
    • Prisoners of war.
    • Slavery--History.
    • Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)
    • West Indies, British.
    • West Indies, French.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Essays.
    • Letter books.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Journals (accounts)
    • Treaties.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    William Mildmay papers [series]
    Volume   1  
     April 30, 1748-June 23,1750
    Volume   2  
     August 31, 1750-October 4, 1754
    Volume   3  
     May 8, 1750-April 30, 1755
    Volume   4  
     September 8, 1749-January 5, 1756
    Volume   5  
     1749-June 13, 1755
    Volume   6  
    Volume   7  
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Related collections within the Clements Library include:


    Mildmay, William. The Laws And Policy of England, Relating to Trade: Examined by the Maxims And Principles of Trade In General; And by the Laws And Policy of Other Trading Nations. London: Printed and sold by T. Harrison, in Warwick-Lane; and by J. Robson, in New Bond-Street, 1765.

    Robbie, Enid. The Forgotten Commissioner: Sir William Mildmay And the Anglo-French Commission of 1750-1755. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2003.