British politician Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney (1733--1800) (hereafter Sydney) was born to Thomas Townshend (1701-1780) and Albinia Selwyn. Sydney's family had been politically well connected since the tenure of his grandfather, Charles Townshend (1764-1738), as secretary of state under Robert Walpole. Sydney entered politics as a Whig Member of Parliament, representing Whitchurch, Hampshire, in 1754; he retained the seat until 1783, when he was elevated to the peerage. Initially aligned with his great uncle, the Duke of Newcastle, Townshend joined Pitt in opposition to Grenville. During the first Rockingham ministry, Sydney served as a lord of the treasury and continued in that office in the Chatham administration until December 1767, when he became a member of the Privy Council and joint paymaster general. Though he opposed the 1765 Stamp Act, he supported the American revenue program initiated by his cousin, Charles Townshend, during the Chatham-Grafton ministry. In June 1768, he was forced out of office during negotiations between Grafton and Bedford in June, 1768, and replaced by Richard Rigby.
Townshend remained an active opponent of the North ministry in the House of Commons, and frequently spoke out against the war with America. He briefly took office as secretary of war in the second Rockingham ministry, between March and July 1782, and when Shelburne became prime minister in July 1782, Townshend succeeded him as secretary of state for the Home Office. He next became leader of the House of Commons (1782-1783) and tirelessly threw his support in favor of ending the war with America. The Fox-North coalition forced Sydney into opposition, but he quickly returned to office with Pitt, serving as home secretary from 1783 to 1789. He advanced in the peerage from baron to 1st Viscount Sydney of St. Leonards in 1789, and resigned from office that same year because of a disagreement with Pitt over an India bill and a slave regulation bill.
Sydney married Elizabeth Powys (1736--1826) of Suffolk in 1760; they had twelve children. Sydney died in 1800 at his estate in Frognal.