Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
George Sackville Germain Papers, 1683-1785

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, February 2011

Summary Information
Title: George Sackville Germain papers
Creator: Sackville, George Germain, Viscount, 1716-1785
Inclusive dates: 1683-1785
Extent: 6 linear feet
Abstract:
The Lord George Sackville Germain papers contain the political and military correspondence of Germain, British military officer and secretary of state for North America during the American Revolution. In addition to official letters and reports, the collection comprises copies of secret military dispatches, reports and extracts detailing the activities of the commanders and colonial governors of North America, and a copybook of letters between American diplomat Benjamin Franklin, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Pownall, and Boston reverend Samuel Cooper.
Language: The material is in English, French, and Spanish
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:

1928-1982. M-30, M-46, M-338, M-1681, M-2013.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Other Finding Aids:

In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created three other research aids: The Subject Index and Contributor List provides access to events, people, places, and topics discussed in the Correspondence and Documents series (Volumes 1-16). This index also contains a list of contributors. The Volume Guide includes notes on the contents of each of the 22 volumes in the collection. The Guide to Volumes 17-21 provides lists of the documents in each of these volumes.

Processing Information:

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

Alternate Format:

Provenance:

William L. Clements purchased this collection from Nigel Stopford-Sackville in 1927.

Preferred Citation:

George Sackville Germain Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

This collection is arranged into five series:

  • Series I: Correspondence and Documents
  • Series II: Secret Military Dispatches letter book
  • Series III: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Pownall, and Samuel Cooper letter book
  • Series IV: Undated Reports
  • Series V: Supplements

Series I and V are ordered chronologically with undated items at the end.


Biography

British army officer and politician George Sackville Germain (1716-1785) was the son of Lionel Cranfield Sackville, seventh earl and first duke of Dorset, and Elizabeth Colyear. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Germain received his first army commission in an Irish regiment. In 1740 he served with distinction in the War of Austrian Succession and over the next eighteen years rose to prominence in both the British military and the House of Commons. In 1758, he attained the rank of commander- in-chief of the British forces in Germany under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, but shortly after, his military career ended in disgrace for failure to follow orders at the Battle of Minden.

Court martialed and dismissed from the service, Germain spent the next 16 years rebuilding his career in the House of Commons. In 1765, the Rockingham ministry appointed him vice-treasurer of Ireland. Upon her death in 1770, friend Lady Elizabeth Germain bequeathed to him her estate of Drayton along with a vast sum of money. Lady Germain's will also conferred to him the name Germain.

In 1775, Lord North appointed Germain first lord of trade and secretary of state for North America and the West Indies. The position gave him influence over the British army, navy, board of ordnance, and the treasury. He took office confident that vigorous British action combined with Loyalist support would insure victory. He helped orchestrate several military successes, such as the defense of Quebec (1776) and the capture of Charleston, South Carolina (1780), as well as disastrous defeats, such as the Battle of Saratoga (1777). As France, Spain, and the Netherlands entered the war, he focused much of his attention on naval battles in the West Indies. After Yorktown, he urged continuing the war and refused to accept American independence. His quarrelsome style alienated many of the top British commanders, George III, and the cabinet, and in February 1782, the King forced Germain to resign.

Germain married Diana Sambroke in 1754. They had two sons, Charles, later 2nd viscount Sackville, and George. He retired to his country estate, Stoneland Lodge in Sussex, and died there on August 26, 1785.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Lord George Sackville Germain papers (6 linear feet) contain the political and military correspondence of Germain, British military officer and secretary of state for North America from 1775 to 1782. Though the papers document Germain's entire public career, the bulk of the material relates to his role overseeing the military during the American Revolution. In addition to official letters and reports, the collection is also comprised of copies of secret military dispatches, reports and extracts detailing the activities of the commanders and colonial governors of North America, and a copy book of letters between American diplomat Benjamin Franklin, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Pownall, and Boston reverend Samuel Cooper.

The Correspondence and Documents series (4.5 linear feet) contains drafts and retained copies of letters from Germain and official incoming letters and documents sent to Germain during his years of military and public service. The collection includes little related to Germain's personal life.

The series holds some correspondence relating to Germain's early military career, including ten letters he wrote to his father while serving in the War of Austrian Succession. Though only a few items relate to Germain's service at Minden, present are several letters written and received by Germain in Germany in 1759, and French and Indian War-era letters from politicians and military leaders such as Pitt, Temple, Holland, Mansfield, Bute, Newcastle, Charles Townshend, Grenville, and Ligonier. Of special interest are the letters of Lord Jeffery Amherst and General Wolfe's account of the fall of Louisbourg and the military in Canada. Germain held no high office between the French and Indian war and the American Revolution but he kept in close contact with Sir John Irwin, with whom he discussed politics and current events.

The bulk of the collection covers Germain's tenure as secretary of state to the colonies (1775-1782), and provides a thorough account of his public policy decision-making process. As American secretary, Germain maintained voluminous correspondence with ministers and officials in England, particularly secretaries of state Lord Suffolk and Lord Stormont, Undersecretary William Eden, and Solicitor General Alexander Wedderburn. Germain also received regular updates from Richard Cumberland, whom Germain sent to Madrid to negotiate peace with Spain.

As a key overseer of the British war effort, Germain had direct communication with the commanders-in-chief in America and their immediate subordinates, as well as with the naval commanders. Included are letters from Thomas Gage, William Howe, Richard Howe, John Burgoyne, Henry Clinton, Charles Cornwallis, John Vaughan, Guy Carleton, and Frederick Haldimand. He communicated frequently with the British governors in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Florida, and with Governor Henry Hamilton at Detroit. As France, Spain, and the Netherlands entered the war, much of his attention turned to naval action and trade (sugar and slaves) in the West Indies. He also dealt with the Carlisle peace commissioners, various merchants, and loyalists, such as Jonathan Boucher, physicist-adventurer Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. The series concludes with 58 undated letters, largely written during the Revolution.

Below is a list of notable items from this series:

  • 1757: "Considerations on the present State of the Military Operations in North America"
  • January 20, 1775: Thoughts on the Dispute between Great Britain and Her Colonies, by Brook Watson
  • July 29, 1775: Report on the occupation of Charlestown Heights, written by William Howe
  • August 20, 1775: Military report by General John Burgoyne
  • October 18, 1775: An early "Constitution" created by the Provincial Congress of North Carolina, declaring independence and laying out the groundwork for a cooperative government among the colonies, containing 13 articles
  • December 29, 1775: "Reflections on the Dispute with the Colonies by Apollos Morris," containing a history or empires and discussion of the problem
  • [1775]: Report by John Shuttleworth on the British and American forces throughout North America: artillery, arms, and navy
  • [1775]: "Advantages of lord Cornwallis's Expedition going rather to Chesapeake Bay than to the Carolinas," by Sir John Dalrymple
  • January 12, 1776: Letter from Lord Ellibank who proposed returning Canada to the French as the most effective means of reducing the rest of our colonies
  • January 17, 1776: Proposal for growing vegetables for the British troops in North America - radishes, red spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and potatoes etc.
  • July 4, 1776: Contemporary manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence created for Germain
  • August 10, 13, 1776: Reports on the campaign in New York from William Howe, stationed at Staten Island
  • 1776: Peace commission instructions from Germain
  • February 28, 1777: "Thoughts for conducting the War from the Side of Canada"
  • March 18, 1777: "Political Remarks on the present state of affairs in respect to the Rebellion in America, and the danger of its involving us in a War in Europe"
  • April 2, 1777: William Howe's 3rd plan of military operations in North America
  • 1777: "A State of the Circumstances in Philadelphia"
  • March 8, 1778: A description of Germain's southern strategy sent to Henry Clinton
  • March 24, 1778: "Plan for taking of French and Spanish Islands," by John Drummond
  • May [26], 1778: Extract from Burgoyne's speech to the House of Commons concerning the Battle of Saratoga
  • August 24, 1778: British spy Dr. John Berkenhout's "Journal of an Excursion from New York to Philadelphia in the Year 1778," reporting on Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and others
  • February-July 1779: "A Short Journal and Remarks of Transactions, that happened at Grenada & other parts of the West Indies"
  • March 31, 1779: Two copies of letters from George Washington to Henry Clinton, enclosed in Clinton to Germain, no. 46, April 2, 1779
  • 1779: "Hints for the Management of an intended Enquiry: an assessment of the War with America," including reports on the state of the military and intelligence looking into Howe's decisions: such as "Why did he not attack Washington at Valley Forge" and "Why did he not pursue Washington's Army after the Defeat at Brandywine,” and General Grey's "evidence and opinions and extracts from Howe's letters used at the inquiry"
  • March 8, 1780: "Sketch of a System by which the rebellious Colonies in America might be reduced to Obedience in two Campaigns, which offers a strategic plan for engaging the rebels"
  • July 25, 1780: Extracts from General Horatio Gates' orderly book, headquarters at Buffalo Ford July 25-August 15, with details on divisions from Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia
  • August 10, 1780: Petition from Ethan Allen and others from Vermont, concerning their unhappiness with the Continental Congress and their desire to form an independent British province, by John Griffiths
  • August 21, 1780: Reports from General Charles Cornwallis on the victory at Charleston and the Battle of Hanging Rock
  • October 1780: Copy of a letter by Alexander Hamilton discussing and describing the capture and trial of John André, and Arnold and Washington's involvement in the incident
  • October 1781: Reports on the battle and surrender of Yorktown and the siege of Chesapeake Bay
  • January 13 and 15, 24, 1782: Letters from Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Thompson, A New Hampshire Loyalist in the British cavalry, stationed in South Carolina, describing fighting at the end of the war

The Secret Military Dispatches volume (429 pages) is comprised of 246 secret dispatches and orders sent by Germain to political and military leaders between 1775 and 1782. In these, Germain discussed military strategy for the British army and navy in America and the West Indies with Henry Clinton, John Dalling, John Grant, Frederick Haldimand, John Vaughan, and the Lords of the Admiralty, among other officers and governors.

The Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Pownall, and Samuel Cooper letter book (296 pages) contains copies of 68 letters from Benjamin Franklin, Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Pownall, and Reverend Samuel Cooper of Boston. These communicate both British and American points of view of the developing unrest in the colonies between 1769 and 1774. Throughout the volume, Franklin and Pownall wrote from London while Cooper wrote from Boston; each voiced their unique perspective on political and civil conflicts between England and America.

The Undated Reports series (39 items) consists of undated documents found in Germain's papers relating to trade, customs, government finances, Irish policies, military strategy proposals, assessments on the outcome of military engagements, conditions on the ground in various colonies, the state of West Indian islands, and the role of the French and Spanish in the American Revolution.

The Supplements series (40 items) is comprised of documents submitted to Germain to keep him informed about the conditions and developments of the American conflict. Many contain added commentary aimed to inform and influence his decision-making. The documents include reports and compiled summaries of correspondence and military dispatches related to operations throughout North America.

In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created three other research aids: The Subject Index and Contributor List provides access to events, people, places, and topics discussed in the Correspondence and Documents series (Volumes 1-16). This index also contains a list of contributors. The Volume Guide includes notes on the contents of each of the 22 volumes in the collection. The Guide to Volumes 17-21 provides lists of the documents in each of these volumes.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Acadians.
    • Admiralty--Great Britain.
    • Albany (N.Y.)
    • American loyalists.
    • André, John, 1751-1780.
    • Anglo-Dutch War, 1780-1784.
    • Anglo-Spanish War, 1779-1783.
    • Augusta (Ga.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Austrian Succession, War of, 1740-1748.
    • Bahamas.
    • Baltimore (Md.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Barbados.
    • Bengal (India)
    • Bennington, Battle of, N.Y., 1777.
    • Bermuda.
    • Bombay (India)
    • Boston (Mass.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Boston (Mass.)--Politics and government--To 1775.
    • Boston (Mass.)--History--Siege, 1775-1776.
    • Brandywine, Battle of, Pa., 1777.
    • Charleston (S.C.)--History--Siege, 1780.
    • Chesapeake Bay Region (Md. and Va.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Cherbourg (France)
    • Cherokee Indians.
    • Choctaw Indians.
    • Connecticut--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • Creek Indians.
    • Cuba--History.
    • Dominica.
    • East Florida.
    • East India Company.
    • Florida--History--English colony, 1763-1784.
    • Fort Detroit (Detroit, Mich.)
    • Fort Ticonderoga (N.Y.)
    • France. Armée.
    • France--Foreign relations--Great Britain--Early works to 1800.
    • France. Marine.
    • Gambia.
    • Great Britain. Army--Colonial forces.
    • Great Britain. Board of Trade.
    • Great Britain. Cabinet Secretariat.
    • Great Britain--Colonies--Administration.
    • Great Britain. Customs.
    • Great Britain--Foreign relations--History--18th century.
    • Great Britain--Politics and government--History--18th century.
    • Great Britain. Royal Navy.
    • Haidar Ali, Nawab of Mysore, ca. 1722-1782.
    • Indians of North America.
    • Indians of North America--Florida.
    • Indians of North America--Georgia.
    • Indians of North America--New York (State)
    • Indians of North America--South Carolina.
    • Indians of North America--Virginia.
    • Indians of North America--Wars--1775-1783.
    • Indigenous peoples--Great Britain--Colonies.
    • Ireland--History--18th century.
    • Kent (England)
    • Jamaica.
    • Lexington, Battle of, Lexington, Mass., 1775.
    • Long Island, Battle of, New York, N.Y., 1776.
    • Louisiana.
    • Machias Liberty (Privateer)
    • Massachusetts--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • Mexico.
    • Minden, Battle of, Germany, 1759.
    • Mississippi River--Description and travel.
    • Mobile (Ala.)--Description and travel.
    • Montréal (Québec)
    • Netherlands.
    • New Hampshire--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • New Jersey--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • New York (State)--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • Newfoundland.
    • North Carolina--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Nova Scotia--Description and travel.
    • Panama.
    • Pennsylvania--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Pensacola (Fla.)
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Québec (Québec)--History--Siege, 1775-1776.
    • Rhode Island--History--Colonial period, ca.1600-1775.
    • Saratoga Campaign, N.Y., 1777.
    • Savannah (Ga.)--History--Siege, 1779.
    • Senegal River.
    • Seven Years' War, 1756-1763.
    • Six Nations.
    • Slave trade.
    • Smuggling--United States.
    • South Carolina--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • Spain. Armada.
    • Sugar trade--West Indies, British.
    • Tariff--Great Britain.
    • Taxation--Great Britain.
    • United States--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
    • United States--Foreign relations--1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--British forces.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Maps.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Naval operations.
    • Vermont--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Virginia--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
    • Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    • West Florida.
    • West Indies--History --18th century.
    • Yorktown (Va.)--History--Siege, 1781.
    Contributors:
    • Abercromby, James, 1706-1781.
    • Amherst, Jeffery Amherst, Baron, 1717-1797.
    • Arbuthnot, Marriott, 1711?-1794.
    • Arnold, Benedict, 1741-1801.
    • Barrington, William Wildman Barrington, Viscount, 1717-1793.
    • Burgoyne, John, 1722-1792.
    • Bute, John Stuart, Earl of, 1713-1792.
    • Campbell, John, 1708-1775. .
    • Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1738?-1795.
    • Colden, Cadwallader, 1687-1776.
    • Cooper, Samuel, 1725-1783.
    • Coote, Eyre, Sir, 1726-1783.
    • Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805.
    • Dalrymple, Wm. (William), 1736-1807.
    • Dartmouth, William Legge, Earl of, 1731-1801.
    • Dorchester, Guy Carleton, Baron, 1724-1808.
    • Downshire, Wills Hill, Marquis of, 1718-1793.
    • Dunmore, John Murray, Earl of, 1732-1809.
    • Egremont, Charles Wyndham, Earl of, 1710-1763.
    • Fauquier, Francis, 1704?-1768.
    • Fox, Charles James, 1749-1806.
    • Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790.
    • Gage, Thomas, 1721-1787.
    • George III, King of Great Britain, 1738-1820.
    • Grenville, George, 1712-1770.
    • Haldimand, Sir Frederick, 1718-1791.
    • Hamilton, Henry, d. 1796.
    • Hood, Samuel Hood, Viscount, 1724-1816.
    • Howe, Richard Howe, Earl, 1726-1799.
    • Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814.
    • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826.
    • Johnson, Guy, ca. 1740-1788.
    • Murray, James, 1719?-1794.
    • Newcastle, Thomas Pelham-Clinton, Duke of, 1752-1795.
    • North, Frederick, Lord, 1732-1792.
    • Oswald, Richard, 1705-1784.
    • Pitt, William, Earl of Chatham, 1708-1778.
    • Pownall Thomas, 1722–1805.
    • Riedesel, Friedrich Adolf, Freiherr von, 1738-1800.
    • Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquis of, 1730-1782.
    • Sackville, George Germain, Viscount, 1716-1785.
    • Shelburne, William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1737-1805.
    • Strachey, Henry, Sir, 1736-1810.
    • Sydney, Thomas Townshend, Viscount, 1733-1800.
    • Townshend, Charles, 1725-1767.
    • Townshend, George Townshend, Marquis, 1724-1807.
    • Tryon, William, 1729-1788.
    • Vaughan, John, Sir, 1747 or 8-1795.
    • William Henry, Prince, Duke of Gloucester, 1743-1805.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Letter books.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Maps.
    • Memorandums.
    • Orders (military records)
    • Reports.
    • Returns (military reports)
    • Speeches.
    • Treaties.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
     
    Correspondence and Documents [series]
    Volume   1  
     1683-April 1759
    Volume   2  
     May 1759-1764
    Volume   3  
     1765-October 1775
    Volume   4  
     November 1775-June 1776
    Volume   5  
     July 1776-March 1777
    Volume   6  
     April-December 1777
    Volume   7  
     January-July 1778
    Volume   8  
     August-December 1778
    Volume   9  
     January-August 1779
    Volume   10  
     September-November 14, 1779
    Volume   11  
     November 15, 1779-February 15, 1780
    Volume   12  
     February 16-August, 1780
    Volume   13  
     September-December 1780
    Volume   14  
     January-July 15, 1781
    Volume   15  
     July 16, 1781-July 1782
    Volume   16  
     August 1782-1785 and  undated
     
    Secret Military Dispatches [series]
    Volume   18  
     1775-1782
     
    Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Pownall, and Samuel Cooper letter book [series]
    Volume   22  
     1769-1774
     
    Undated Reports [series]
    Volume   17  
    Reports
     
    Supplements [series]
    Volume   19  
    Supplements
    Volume   20  
    Supplements
    Volume   21  
    Supplements
    Additional Descriptive Data

    In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created three other research aids:

    • The Subject Index and Contributor List provides access to events, people, places, and topics discussed in the Correspondence and Documents series (Volumes 1-16). The index also contains a list of contributors.
    • The Volume Guide includes notes on the contents of each of the 22 volumes in the collection.
    • The Guide to Volumes 17-21 provides lists of the documents in each of these volumes.

    The Germain papers include 38 maps, now housed in the Clements Library Map Division. Below is a chronological list of the maps:

    Below is a list of eight printed items concerning Germain and published in his lifetime. For more books related to Germain, search "Sackville, George Germain, Viscount, 1716-1785" in the library's online catalog, Mirlyn.

    Biographical Timeline

    1716 Germain is born George Sackville
    1737 Appointed clerk to the council in Dublin
    1740 Promoted lieutenant-colonel of the 28th foot
    1743 June Appointed one of George II's aides-de-camp
    1745 May Shot in the chest during a battle at Fontenoy
    1748 Transferres to the colonelcy of the 12th dragoons then the 3rd dragoon guards
    1754 Marries Diana Sambroke
    1757 Promoted major-general and lieutenant-general of the ordnance
    1759 Fiasco at the Battle of Minden prompts his resignation from the army
    1760 Found guilty of disobedience
    1765 Appointed post of vice-treasurer of Ireland in the Rockingham ministry
    1767 His son, and later heir, Charles is born
    1770 Receives Lady Elizabeth Germain's fortune and estate of Drayton in Northamptonshire and assumes the surname Germain
    1775 November Appointed secretary of state for the American colonies under Lord North, and over the next 6 years, directs the British armies in America
    1778 Wife Diana dies of measles
    1782 February He resignes as secretary of state
    1785 Germain dies
    Alternate Locations

    Many of the maps acquired with the Germain papers are located in the Clements Library Map division. See below for a complete list of these maps.

    Related Materials

    The following Clements Library collections contain letters to and from Lord Germain:

    The Clements Library Graphics Division has two portraits of Germain: a print and a painting:

    The Derbyshire Records Office, the Ashmolean Museum, and the British Museum all contain letters to and from Germain. The King George III Manuscripts at the British Museum includes copies of many of the letters in the Franklin-Pownall-Cooper copybook.

    Bibliography

    Adams, Randolph Greenfield. The Papers of Lord George Germain: A Brief Description of the Stopford-Sackville Papers Now In the William L. Clements Library. Ann Arbor: The William L. Clements library, 1928.

    Brown, Gerald Saxon. The American Secretary; The Colonial Policy of Lord George Germain, 1775-1778. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1963.

    Mackesy, Piers. "Germain, George Sackville , first Viscount Sackville (1716--1785). "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

    Cumberland, Richard. Character of the Late Lord Viscount Sackville. London: Printed for C. Dilly..., 1785.

    The Historical Manuscripts Commission calendared the Germain Papers, but approximately one third of the Clements Library collection is not included in its Report on the Manuscripts of Mrs. Stopford-Sackville:

    Sackville, George Germain. Report On the Manuscripts of Mrs. Stopford-Sackville, of Drayton House, Northamptonshire. London: Printed for H.M.S.O. by Mackie & Co., 1904, 1910.