Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Dowdeswell Papers, 1765-1774

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, March 2010

Summary Information
Title: William Dowdeswell papers
Creator: Dowdeswell, William, 1721-1775
Inclusive dates: 1765-1774
Extent: 53 items
Abstract:
The William Dowdeswell papers contain political correspondence of William Dowdeswell, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham and Member of Parliament. In these letters Dowdeswell analyzes and critiques some of the most important issues of the day, such as domestic and colonial taxation, relations with America and Ireland, support for the East India Company, and the opposition's role in the Middlesex election controversy.
Language: The material is in English
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: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1936, 2014. M-305, M-5052.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

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

Alternate Format:

A portion of the collection has been Microfilmed.

Preferred Citation:

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


Arrangement

This collection is organized chronologically with undated items in the end.


Biography

British politician, William Dowdeswell (1721-1785), was the son of William Dowdeswell (1682--1728), landowner and politician, and Amy Hammond (d. 1728). He attended Westminster School, Oxford University, and the University of Leiden. In 1747, he married Bridget Codrington; they had 13 children. Between 1747 and 1754, Dowdeswell was the MP for Tewkesbury. For the next 6 years, Dowdeswell acted as a strategist and advisor for the Rockingham Whigs. He re-entered Parliament for Worcestershire in 1761 and held that seat, uncontested, until his death.

Throughout his political career, financial issues deeply interested Dowdeswell. He was a vocal advocate for the reduction of the army and navy, and gained prominence as an outspoken opponent of the Cider Tax in 1763. Dowdeswell warned of the inherent danger in the Townshend Duties, predicting American resistance to any duty for revenue purposes, yet believed Great Britain would lose sovereignty over the colonies if it did not maintain its right of taxation. When Lord Rockingham became prime minister in 1765, Dowdeswell was appointed chancellor of the exchequer. He remained loyal to Rockingham when William Pitt, 1st earl of Chatham, took over as prime minister in 1766, and he helped formulate policies that unified the Rockinghams during their years in opposition. Dowdeswell became Rockingham's principal spokesman in the House of Commons, and was his close friend and adviser.

Dowdeswell's health faltered in 1774 and, at his doctor's recommendation, he traveled to Nice, France, to recover. He died there in February 1775.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Dowdeswell papers contain important correspondence concerning Dowdeswell, Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham, Edmund Burke, and other prominent Rockingham supporters. The collection consists of 40 signed drafts or retained copies of letters written by Dowdeswell, and 13 letters other politicians. Dowdeswell analyzed and critiqued some of the most important issues of the day, such as domestic and colonial taxation, relations with America and Ireland, support for the East India Company, and the opposition's role in the Middlesex election controversy.

The papers are made up of letters Dowdeswell's tenure as Rockingham's Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1765, and as his trusted political counselor. Included are letters the new First Lord of the Treasury, Augustus Henry Grafton, Duke of Fitzroy; Secretary of State Henry Seymour Conway; Speaker of the House of Commons Charles Wolfran Cornwall; Councilor and member of the Upper House, Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond; and Lord of the Admiralty, Charles Townshend (see the box and folder listing for an itemized list of the collection).

The bulk of the letters are Dowdeswell to Burke and Rockingham, advising them on parliamentary politics and policies, particularly concerning government business and financial affairs. Of note is his 16-page appraisal of affairs with America, in which he commented on the outbreaks of violence in Boston and New York and suggested a repeal of the Townshend duties. He called the duties a "folly" but asserts that Parliament must retain the right to raise taxes in the colonies. "It must either be admitted[,] which is timidity[,] weakness[,] irresolution[,] and inconsistency; or it must be resisted, and arms of this Country must be exerted against her Colonies" (August 12, 1868).

Dowdeswell's letters the summer and fall of 1769 demonstrate his role in the Middlesex election controversy, in which he and Rockingham defended the embattled John Wilkes. On September 5, 1769, Dowdeswell discussed his pamphlet entitled Sentiments of an English Freeholder, which argued for checks and balances in Parliament. Also of note is the July 18, 1773, letter, in which Dowdeswell discussed the government's treatment of the East India Company. After 1774, Dowdeswell often discussed how his ill-health was keeping him engaging in politics.

A late-18th or early-19th century letterbook contains 29 copied letters from Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, to William Dowdeswell, dating between 1767 and 1773, and letters by Edmund Burke (January 1771 and October 27, 1772), Holles Newcastle (September 17, 1768), and Charles Townshend (May 25, 1765, and Undated). See the box and folder list for a complete list of letters represented in this letterbook.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Burke, Edmund, 1729-1797.
    • Dowdeswell, Bridget, 1729-1818.
    • East India Company.
    • Elections--Great Britain--Middlesex--Early works to 1800.
    • England. Parliament. House of Commons.
    • England. Parliament. House of Lords.
    • Great Britain. Parliament.
    • Great Britain. Treasury.
    • Great Britain--Foreign relations--United States.
    • Great Britain--Politics and government--1760-1789.
    • Ireland--Politics and government--1760-1820.
    • Pitt, William, Earl of Chatham, 1708-1778.
    • Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquis of, 1730-1782.
    • Sydney, Thomas Townshend, Viscount, 1733-1800.
    • Taxation--Great Britain--Colonies--America.
    • Taxation--Great Britain--Early works to 1800.
    • Tory Party (Great Britain)
    • United States--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Causes.
    • Whig Party (Great Britain)
    • Wilkes, John, 1725-1797.
    Contributors:
    • Conway, Henry Seymour, 1721-1795.
    • Cornwall, Charles Wolfran, 1735-1789.
    • Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Duke of, 1735-1811.
    • Richmond and Lennox, Charles Lennox, Duke of, 1735-1806.
    • Townshend, Charles, 1725-1767.
    • Winnington, Edward, 1728-1791.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters books.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
     
    William Dowdeswell Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     [June] 27, 1765: [?] to Dowdeswell
     
     September 15, 1765: Sir Edward Winnington to Dowdeswell
    Box   1 Folder   2
     September 17, 1765: Dowdeswell to Sir Edward Winnington
     
     September 27, 1765: Sir Edward Winnington to Dowdeswell
    Box   1 Folder   3
     January 4, 1766: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     May 19, 1766: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   4
     May 29, 1766: Charles Townshend to Dowdeswell
     
     May 30, 1766: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   5
     July 26, 1766: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     July 26, 1766: Dowdeswell to Henry Seymour Conway
    Box   1 Folder   6
     July 26, 1766: Dowdeswell to Henry Seymour Conway
     
      July 26, 1766: Augustus Henry Grafton to Dowdeswell
    Box   1 Folder   7
     July 28, 1766: Henry Seymour Conway to Dowdeswell
     
     July 29, 1766: Charles Townshend to Dowdeswell
    Box   1 Folder   8
     July 30, 1766: Dowdeswell to Bridget Dowdeswell
     
     July 31, 1766: Dowdeswell to William Pitt
    Box   1 Folder   9
     August 3, 1766: Dowdeswell to Augustus Henry Grafton
     
     October 25, 1766: Charles Townshend to Dowdeswell
    Box   1 Folder   10
     November 4, 1766: Dowdeswell to Thomas Townshend Sydney
     
     November 11 and 13, 1766: Dowdeswell to Thomas Townshend
    Box   1 Folder   11
     January 10, 1767: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     March 20, 1768: Dowdeswell to Mary Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   12
     August 12, 1868: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     January 4, 1769: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
    Box   1 Folder   13
     August 5, 1769: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     August 10, 1769: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
    Box   1 Folder   14
     September 5, 1769: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     September 5, 1769: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   15
     September 20, 1769: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     October 11, 1769: Dowdeswell to [Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham]
    Box   1 Folder   16
     December 16, 1769: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     January 13, 1770: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   17
     April 29, 1770: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     July 8, 1770: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
    Box   1 Folder   18
     February 2, 1771: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     February 16, 1771: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   19
     March 28, 1771: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     May 20, 1771: Charles Duke of Richmond to Dowdeswell
    Box   1 Folder   20
     May 5, 1772: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     May 30, 1772: Charles Wolfran Cornwall to Dowdeswell
    Box   1 Folder   21
     October 18, 1772: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     October 18, 1772: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   22
     November 3, 1772: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     November 8, 1772: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   23
     November 8, 1772: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     November 19, 1772: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   24
     December 5, 1772: Dowdeswell to Edmund Burke
     
     July 18, 1773: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   25
     November 26, 1773: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     May 21, 1774: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   26
     June 8, 1774: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
     
     June 12, 1774: Dowdeswell to Charles Watson-Wentworth Rockingham
    Box   1 Folder   27
     Undated: (Draft) Dowdeswell to [?]
    Volume   1  
    William Dowdeswell Letterbook [series]
     
     1767 July 8. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William Dowdeswell]; Grosvenor Square. (1 page)
     
     1767 September 14. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Wentworth. (2 pages)
     
     1767 November 9. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William Dowdeswell]; Wentworth. (6 pages)
     
     1767 November 24. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Grosvenor Square. (2 pages)
     
     1767 January 8. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Grosvenor Square. (1 page)
     
     1767 January 8. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Grosvenor Square. (4 pages)
     
     1769 May 26. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Grosvenor Square. (2 pages)
     
     1768 August 11. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Wentworth. (5 pages)
     
     1769 September 3. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William Dowdeswell]; Wentworth. (2 pages)
     
     1769 September 19. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Wentworth. (3 pages)
     
     1770 September 28. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Doncaster. (2 pages)
     
     1769 October 11. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Huntingdon. (2 pages)
     
     1769 October 20. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Wentworth. (2 pages)
     
     1769 December 23. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Wentworth. (2 pages)
     
     1767 September 9. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Wentworth. (8 pages)
     
     1771 January 12. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Bask. (3 pages)
     
     1771 January 20. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Bask. (2 pages)
     
     1771 January 13. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham; Bask. (2 pages)
     
     1771 February 9. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham] to [William] Dowdeswell; Bask. (5 pages)
     
     1771 February 14. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Bask. (3 pages)
     
     1771 March 28. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Grosvenor Square. (1 page)
     
     1771 March 29. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Grosvenor Square. (1 page)
     
     1771 December 19. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Wentworth. (5 pages)
     
     1772 October 30. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Wentworth. (4 pages)
     
     1772 November 17. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Wentworth. (3 pages)
     
     1773 October 28. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Grosvenor Square. (2 pages)
     
     1773 November 23. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Grosvenor Square. (3 pages)
     
     1773 November 30. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Grosvenor Square. (1 page)
     
     1773 December 3. [Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of] Rockingham to [William] Dowdeswell; Grosvenor Square. (1 page)
     
     1771 January. Ed[mund] Burke; s.l. (1 page)
     
     1772 October 27. Ed[mund] Burke to [William] Dowdeswell; Beaconsfield. (5 pages)
     
     Undated. Fragment; s.l. (1 page)
     
     1768 September 17. Hol[l]es Newcastle; s.l. (2 pages)
     
     1765 May 25. C[harles] Townshend; s.l. (2 pages)
     
     Undated. C[harles] Townshend; s.l. (1 page)
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Charles Townshend papers contain letters concerning Dowdeswell.

    The Thomas Townshend Sydney papers contain a memorial inscription for Dowdeswell, written at the request of his widow for a monument, erected in 1777.

    Bibliography

    Dowdeswell, William. An address to such of the electors of Great-Britain, as are not makers of cyder and sherry: By the representative of a cyder-county. The second edition. London: printed for W. Nicoll, 1763.

    Dowdeswell, William. A report the committee appointed to consider how His Majesty's Navy may be better supplied: with timber. Together with an appendix thereunto. [London: Reprinted by order of the House of Commons], 1803.

    Woodland, Patrick. "Dowdeswell, William (1721--1775)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.