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This article was written by William Prideaux Courtney and was published in 1899
Thomas Hyde Villiers, politician, was born on 27 January 1801. He was the second son of George Villiers (1759-1827), who married, on 17 April 1798, Theresa, only daughter of John Parker, first baron Boringdon. The father died at Kent House, Knightsbridge, on 21 March 1827; the mother survived until 1855. George William Frederick Villiers, fourth earl of Clarendon, was their eldest son, Charles Pelham Villiers their third son, and Henry Montagu Villiers their fifth son.
Thomas was educated at home and very imperfectly. He was then sent with his eldest brother to St. John's College, Cambridge, and, with a keen consciousness of his own defects, set speedily to work to repair the loss of time. At Cambridge he mixed with Charles Austin, Edward Strutt, John Romilly, T. B. Macaulay, and other young men of ability and advanced opinions, most of whom had adopted the views of Jeremy Bentham. In 1822 he graduated B.A., and in 1825 he proceeded M.A. On taking his degree in 1822 he entered the colonial office, where Sir Henry Taylor became early in 1824 his subordinate and then his intimate friend.
The brothers lived during the earlier years of their lives with their parents in a moiety of Kent House at Knightsbridge, but from 1825 Thomas Hyde Villiers and Taylor shared a house in Suffolk Street. Villiers joined in 1825 a debating club called ‘The Academics,’ where several of his college friends and John Stuart Mill discussed political and economical topics. His chief speech, an hour long, on colonisation ‘made some noise, procured him a compliment and an invitation from the chancellor of the exchequer’. Not long afterwards Villiers abandoned the government service to embark on politics. His chief source of income from that date until his acceptance of office arose from the agencies for Berbice and Newfoundland.
At the general election in June 1826 Villiers was returned to parliament for the borough of Hedon in Yorkshire, and sat for it until the dissolution in 1830. In 1830 and 1831 he sat respectively for Wootton Bassett (a family borough) and Bletchingley, and voted for the Reform Bill in all its stages.
Villiers travelled in Ireland in 1828 with the object of informing himself on Irish affairs, and set out his views in long letters to Taylor. A letter written by him in February 1829 was shown to Sheil, who thereupon brought about the suppression of the catholic association. He suggested in 1831 the formation of the commission that laid the foundation of the new poor law, and assisted in its preliminary inquiries. On 18 May 1831 he became secretary to the board of control under Charles Grant (afterwards Lord Glenelg). Later in the year (2 November 1831) Villiers and Taylor entered as students at Lincoln's Inn. On 22 August 1831 he made a long speech in the House of Commons on the Methuen treaty with Portugal. The committees on Indian affairs, ‘whose labours formed the basis of subsequent legislation,’ were organised by Villiers, with the assistance of Lord Althorp. The question of the renewal of the charter to the East India Company, which came up for consideration at this time, demanded all his faculties, and official work weighed heavily upon him.
At the time of his death Villiers was a candidate for the conjoint constituency of Penryn and Falmouth in Cornwall. After three months' suffering from an abscess in the head, he died on 3 December 1832 at Carclew, the seat of Sir Charles Lemon, near Penryn, where he was staying. A monument was placed to his memory in Mylor church. Villiers possessed ‘indefatigable industry and a clear understanding, set off by pleasing address and considerable powers of speaking.’ It was a scheme of his to give ‘parliamentary seats, without votes, to persons holding certain offices’.
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