Thomas Hamilton Miller

Thomas was the youngest son of a great man: the Glasgow banker and inventor Patrick Miller could claim a considerable responsibility for the Dundas despotism, the carronade, and paddle steamers. His tax assessment in 1811 suggests he was able to live in style. His political views are unclear during his father's lifetime: after his death, however, perhaps in anger at his Tory MP brother inheriting all the wealth, he appears to have supported the whigs. He was rewarded by Earl Grey with the Sheriffship of Selkirkshire after Walter Scott's death, but he appears to have died insolvent.

9 April 1777 (9) - 3 October 1843
Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, 1731-1815. Born relatively poor but able to attend Glasgow university. He became a banker and merchant, partner of William Ramsay of Barnton. They helped turn the British Linen Company into a bank in 1765. In 1767 he was elected to the court of the Bank of Scotland to reform its management, thanks to which it weathered the crisis of 1772. Miller was supported by Henry Dundas, and in return backed Dundas in gaining political control of Scotland. He facilitated, some say reluctantly, the move which overturned Laurence Dundas as governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland and replaced him with the Duke of Buccleuch. He was interested in ordinance, and as banker to the Carron company persuaded them to fit out his privateer Spitfire with their carronade gun, which he claimed to have invented. When the ship was captured by the French it caused great alarm and orders for the gun flooded in. He bought Dalswinton in 1785 and improved the land through drainage, fodder crops, fertilizer, and woodland. In 1788 he built a new classical house, and he was a patron of Burns. He experimented with the mechanical propulsion of boats, and in 1787 a collaboration with the steam inventor Symington resulted in a paper suggesting the possibility of paddle steamers in print for the first time: in 1788 they got one going at 5 miles an hour on Dalswinton Loch although he didn't follow it through to commercial use. His eldest son Patrick Miller was MP for Dumfries, supporting Dundas. Dalswinton was entailed to Patrick, but the other children contested it and the estate was eventually sold to meet the legal costs. (5)
Jean Lindsay (d.1798), apparently, 'beautiful, accomplished, a writer of easy and graceful verses, with a natural dignity of manners which became her station' (8)
From 1807 he lived at 77 Princes Street, moving in 1811 to 15 Northumberland Street (where he was a neighbour of other Whig lawyers William MacKenzie and James Grahame, and 41 Heriot Row in 1819.
Political views
His lack of legal appointments until he was made Sheriff Depute of Selkirk by Grey in 1832 suggests he was Whig, rebelling like Henry Cockburn against his family's support for Dundas. His quarrel with his brother after his father's death suggests the same.
Religious views
In 1814 he was member to the General Assembly for Dumfries. (3)
Advocate 1802. In the debate over Scottish Court reform in 1807, Millar and Thomas Tod were the only two advocates in this group to vote for the Solicitor General's proposal to establish a Court of Review: all the rest voted for Francis Jeffrey's motion opposing it (3). In 1832 Earl Grey's administration appointed him Sheriff Depute of Selkirk in place of Walter Scott. (6) His appointment to the General Assembly in 1814 suggests the ecclesiastical powers thought their interests were safe with him; although the fact that he appears only to have held the post for one year, the year before his father died, perhaps implies otherwise.
Wealth at death
died in debt
Assessed taxes 1811
His house had 24 windows and a rental value of £85. He had one male house servant and a clerk. He had a four-wheeled carriage, two horses and three dogs, and paid armorial bearings and hair powder duty. (7)
Chapel connection
1810 (baptism)
Married on
4 April 1809
Mary Anne Ram
Thomas Digby (1810)


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Caledonian Mercury, 12 March 1807, 16 May 1814
  4. Inventory of Thomas Hamilton Miller, 1850 (National Archives of Scotland)
  5. Michael S. Moss, 'Patrick Miller' in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  6. Lancashire Gazette, 13 October 1832
  7. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, National Archives of Scotland E327/51
  8. Allan Cunningham, Works of Robert Burns (Hilliard, Grey and Company, Boston 1834) p.156
  9. Old Parish Registers, Scottish Family History Centre

Back to index