The Townshend papers contain approximately 2,600 items, including letters, documents, accounts, and printed matter relating to the public life and activities of Charles Townshend, gathered largely during the last period of his career. The collection is an extremely valuable resource for study of British commercial and mercantile policy in the 1760s, administrative perspectives on the mounting crisis in the North American colonies, and the inner workings of British political life. The papers reflect Townshend's serious research efforts in his role as policymaker; much of the collection consists of documents that he gathered for his own information on legal cases, British politics, financial and treasury matters, and affairs in North America, the West Indies, and Africa. Also present is a small amount of incoming and outgoing correspondence and an assortment of memoranda and speech drafts by Townshend. The collection spans 1660-1804, but the bulk centers around the 1750s and 1760s, when Townshend held an appointment on the Board of Trade and Plantations (1748-1754) and served as Lord of the Admiralty (1754), Secretary-at-War (1762-1763), President of the Board of Trade (1763-1765), Paymaster General (1765-1766) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1766-1767). The collection was originally arranged by Charles Townshend into numerous bundles marked with wrappers. This original order has largely been maintained and hence, document types and topics are scattered across the collection.
See "Additional Descriptive Data" for a partial subject index of the papers as well as a list of printed matter in the collection.
A moderate amount of Townshend's incoming and outgoing correspondence is located throughout the collection. This includes contemporary copies of his letters to and from William Barrington and Thomas Gage relating to the War Office during his time as Secretary-at-War (Box 8/ Bundle 2), numerous incoming letters concerning patronage and requesting favors (8/3/A), and correspondence between Townshend and John Morton concerning politics and happenings in the House of Commons in 1764-1766 (8/37). Also present are a series of letters written from the Mediterranean by Commodore Augustus Keppel, describing British peace negotiations with Tunis and Tripoli and the signing of a treaty on October 21, 1751, (Box 297/1/2) and incoming correspondence on a variety of topics from William Dowdeswell, George Sackville-Germain, George Younge, William Shirley, Edmund Burke, Wellbore Ellis, George Macaulay, Edward Walpole, Henry Pelham-Clinton (3rd Duke of Newcastle), and John Stuart, (3rd Earl Bute).
The collection also contains scattered documents relating to legal issues and court cases in the late-18th century. The box marked 8/5 contains accounts of the court cases of the following parties, heard before the House of Lords and the Commissioners of Appeals in 1760: Francis Watkins; Francis Dalby; the Proprietors of Sulbrave, Northamptonshire; the Pennsylvania Land Company; a group of London fishmongers; and John Potter, Archbishop of Canterbury. Also represented are several cases concerning prizes captured by Dutchmen (8/5). Other legal papers include those relating to Townshend's wife, Caroline, 1st Baroness Greenwich, which span 1754 to 1789 and are located in Box 298, and documents concerning Samuel Waldo and his service in the Siege of Louisburg (8/24/a).
The Charles Townshend papers contain numerous documents gathered by Townshend for his own information or created by him during the process of policymaking. These include many items relating to North America, including reports on trade, military matters, the characteristics and features of various regions, and debates on British policies. Among the military-related topics addressed are recruitment for the British army in North America in the years 1753-1763 (8/22), expenses of maintaining a force in North America for 1765-1766 (8/28), the cost of maintaining various British forts (8/31), and the debate over foreign officers' commissions in America in 1756 (8/4). Other items concern trade between North America and Great Britain; this includes a 1761 memorandum on the prevalence of smuggling in Boston (297), information on Newfoundland fisheries (8/4 and 299), and notes on the importation of iron bar from America (299). A group of undated documents relate to the settlement of East and West Florida (8/34) and the expenses related to the settlement of East Florida by Greeks (297/4/5). Box 8/31 contains Townshend's own notes on his proposal to impose new duties on salt, wine, oil, fruit, glass, tea, sugar, molasses, china, and paper. A draft of the Townshend Duties is also included in the papers.
Other documents in the collection concern a variety of British political matters, such as contested 1754 English parliamentary elections (8/32), estimates of the strength of several parties in the House of Commons (8/42), and proceedings against John Wilkes in the House of Commons (296). The collection also includes Townshend notes for his speeches opposing the Marriage Act (298), and documents concerning his election to Parliament for Great Yarmouth in 1754 and 1756 (8/52).
Additional scattered papers relate to world trade and matters of the British Treasury. A substantial amount of material concerns the East India Company, including debates on the taxation of tea, memoranda concerning precedents for government intervention in East India Company matters, and Townshend's 1766 notes on a bill concerning East India, all of which are located in the Bowhill Box. Box 298 contains many lists and statistics on British imports and exports abroad, particularly to the North American colonies. Other documents pertain to the British manufacture of earthenware and china, the coal trade (8/40), and trade with Africa, including the activities of the Committee on African trade in 1752-1754 (297/5/3).