George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester papers (1779-1788)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Shannon Wait, February 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester papers
Creator: Manchester, George Montagu, Duke of, 1737-1788
Inclusive dates: 1779-1788
Extent: 2 linear feet
The Manchester papers primarily contain the diplomatic correspondence, memoranda, and treaty drafts of George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester, who was appointed British Ambassador to France to oversee the negotiations regarding the Peace of Paris in 1783.
Language: The material is in English, Italian, and French
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:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1970, 2002. M-1536, M-1546, M-4237.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

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

Preferred Citation

George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Manchester papers are arranged into two series:
  • Series I: Correspondence and Documents
  • Series II: Letter Books and Map.


George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester, was born on April 6, 1737, the son of Robert Montagu, 3rd Duke of Manchester, and his wife, Harriet Dunch. He began his career in the Huntingdonshire regiment of militia in 1757. On March 28, 1761, he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Huntingdonshire, and in May of 1762, he succeeded to the dukedom upon the death of his father, from whom he also inherited the sinecure of collector of the subsidies of tonnage and poundage outwards in the port of London, worth £1500. On October 23, 1762, Manchester married Elizabeth Dashwood, daughter of Sir James Dashwood, second baronet, of Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire, and Elizabeth Spencer. They had the following children: George Montagu, Viscount Mandeville (1763--1772); Caroline Maria Montagu (1770-1847); William Montagu, 5th Duke of Manchester (1771-1843); and Frederick Montagu (1774-1827).

From 1763 to 1770, Manchester served as lord of the bedchamber, and after the fall of the Grafton ministry in January, he resigned his position and went into opposition. As the struggle with the colonies intensified, Manchester showed himself a supporter of the Americans. He rose to particular prominence after he spoke in favor of Chatham's bill for a provisional settlement with the colonies on February 1, 1775. He also condemned trade restrictions on New England and preferential treatment for the southern colonies in North America. In the second Rockingham administration in 1782, Manchester was appointed lord chamberlain as well as privy councilor. The next spring, he was named ambassador to France to supervise the conclusion of treaty negotiations between Great Britain and France, Spain, and the Netherlands, but negotiations were too far long for Manchester to win many concessions for the British. Treaties with France and Spain were signed on September 3, 1783, at Versailles. The British treaty with the Netherlands was signed at Paris on May 20, 1784. Manchester died after a brief illness on September 2, 1788.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Manchester papers contain 250 letters, 30 drafts, 13 instructions, 9 notes, 4 letter books, and a map, spanning 1779 to 1788. These items primarily relate to diplomacy and Manchester's role in the negotiation of the Peace of Paris in 1783.

The Documents and Correspondence series contains 331 items pertaining to British politics, the American Revolution, the negotiations of the Peace of Paris, and other topics. These include diplomatic correspondence, memoranda, drafts of treaty clauses, and instructions for the period of 1783 to 1784, when Manchester participated in the negotiations with France, Spain, and the Netherlands as ambassador to France at the end of the American Revolutionary war.

Just nine letters in the collection predate 1783. These include several accounts of the British military situation in North America from Captain F. Taylor, Manchester's agent in London, in which Taylor noted that "things are as bad, as they can be" and criticized British politicians for leaving London for their country homes in a time of crisis (September 30, 1780). He also condemned the naval tactics of Admiral Henry Darby (February 12, 1781) and commented on British ships headed to Jamaica (October 30, 1781). Beginning in the spring of 1783, the primary topic of the letters and documents shifts to diplomacy and negotiations between Great Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. This includes the April 23, 1783, instructions given to Manchester by King George III, which discuss the release of prisoners, the rights of the "French naturalized English," and mandate that Manchester maintain frequent contact with other "Ministers employed in Foreign Courts."

The collection also contains numerous drafts of the treaty's articles and clauses, nearly all of which are in French. With these, it is possible to trace the course of negotiations through the various changes proposed and accepted by the principal negotiators. The drafts of articles pertain to the wide array of issues addressed in the treaty, including boundary negotiations and the ceding of territory, the privileges of British citizens in areas newly controlled by other nations, trading privileges in the West Indies, fishing rights in Newfoundland, use of wood cut in Central America, the release of prisoners of war, and other topics.

Also included is Manchester's incoming and outgoing correspondence concerning the treaty and negotiations, including several dozen letters from the French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes; a roughly equal number from the Spanish Ambassador to France, Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea, Comte d'Aranda; and 23 letters from British secretary of state for foreign affairs Charles James Fox. Correspondence concerns such issues as possession of the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon and associated fisheries in the north Atlantic, restitutions to be made in India between the English and the French, and minor changes to the wording of the treaty. Correspondence between Manchester and Fox, in particular, reveals the inner workings of the British side of negotiations, including concerns that plenipotentiary David Hartley would "be taken in by [Benjamin] Franklin" and "disgrace both himself and us" (May 15, 1783), and comments on Fox's strong support for Russia and Austria (August 4, 1783). In several letters, Fox comments on specific articles within the treaties.

The collection also has a substantial amount of correspondence relating to diplomacy and European politics, which Manchester received in his position as ambassador. This includes complaints by British citizens about their alleged mistreatment at the hands of the French, such as the seizure of the merchant ship Hereford after it took shelter from a storm in Nantes, France (May 17, 1783), and the capture of the ship Merlin by privateers ([May 1781]). Several of Manchester's colleagues wrote to him about Russian politics and activities, including Sir Robert Murray Keith, who described growing tensions with the Turks (May 30, 1783), and John Collet, who gave an account of the Russian mode of colonizing Crimea, which was to pay Genoan families to settle there (June 2, 1783).

Just 27 letters postdate 1783. These give news of European politics, including information on the Russo-Turkish War, a commercial treaty between France and Portugal (February 2, 1787), and several updates on the movements and activities of the French Navy.

The Letter Books and Map series, 1782-1783, contains four volumes of correspondence and a 1783 map. The first volume contains letters and extracts of correspondence written by Alleyne Fitzherbert to Thomas Robinson, 2nd Baron Grantham (27 letters) and Charles Fox (10 letters). Covering a total of 216 pages, the letters span November 29, 1782, to May 3, 1783. They chiefly concern the peace negotiations, including discussion of the restoration of enemy ships (December 7, 1782), the wording of the treaty's preamble (January 19, 1783), ongoing negotiations relating to territory in India, and numerous associated topics.

The second volume, which covers August 9, 1782, to May 30, 1783, contains letters written by Grantham to Fitzherbert (86 letters) and Fox (7 letters), totaling 427 pages. These letters announce various appointments and refer frequently to peace negotiations. Also included are many drafts of treaty articles.

The third volume is divided into two parts, which cover April 30, 1782, to December 7, 1783. The first part includes 10 letters between Grenville and Fox, and two between Grenville and Shelburne. These contain further discussion of territory negotiations and the demands of the French, Spanish, and Dutch. The second part of the volume has 58 letters with 49 enclosures, written by Manchester to Fox.

The fourth volume contains 67 letters from Fox to Manchester, dated April 29 to December 2, 1783 and occupying 169 pages. In his letters to Manchester, Fox wrote about the Spanish treatment of British citizens, control of the wood trade in Central America, possession of Tobago, and specific treaty articles.

The map, dated 1783, is housed in the Map Division and depicts several rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Subject Terms

  • France--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
  • Great Britain. Treaties, etc. United States, 1783 Sept. 3.
  • Great Britain--Foreign relations--France.
  • Great Britain--Foreign relations--Netherlands.
  • Great Britain--Foreign relations--Spain.
  • Great Britain--Foreign relations--Treaties.
  • Great Britain--Foreign relations--United States.
  • Netherlands--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
  • Spain--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
  • United States--Foreign relations--United States.
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1776-1783.
  • Abarca de Bolea, Pedro Pablo, conde de Aranda, 1718-1798.
  • Ainslie, Robert, Sir, 1730?-1812.
  • Bedford, John Russell, Duke of, 1710-1771.
  • Campbell, Archibald, 1726?-1780.
  • Castries, Charles de.
  • Catherine II, Empress of Russia, 1729-1796.
  • Croy, Emmanuel, duc de, 1718-1783 or 4.
  • Dyson, Jeremiah, 1722-1776.
  • Estaing, Charles Henri, comte d’, 1729-1794.
  • Fox, Charles, 1749-1809.
  • George III, King of Great Britain, 1738-1820.
  • Gérard de Rayneval, J.-M. (Joseph-Mathias), 1736-1812.
  • Grenville, Thomas, 1755-1846.
  • Halifax, George Montagu-Dunk, Earl of, 1716-1771.
  • Heathcote, Ralph, 1721-1795.
  • Hertford, Francis Seymour Conway, Marquess of, 1719-1794.
  • Jenyns, Soame, 1704-1787.
  • Johnstone, George, 1730-1787.
  • Keppel, Augustus Keppel, Viscount, 1725-1786.
  • La Pérouse, Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de, 1741-1788.
  • Lansdowne, William Petty, Marquis of, 1737-1805.
  • Legge, Julian, d. 1762.
  • Liston, Robert, Sir, 1742-1836.
  • Malmesbury, James Harris, Earl of, 1746-1820.
  • Manchester, George Montagu, Duke of, 1737-1788.
  • Mann, Horace, Sir, 1701-1786.
  • Montagu, Charles-Greville, Lord, 1741-1784.
  • Montagu, Frederick, 1733-1800.
  • North, Frederick, Lord, 1732-1792.
  • Oswald, Richard, 1705-1784.
  • Portland, William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, Duke of, 1738-1809.
  • Rochford, William Henry Nassau de Zuylestein, Earl of, 1717-1781.
  • Ross, Hercules.
  • Storer, Anthony Morris, 1746-1799.
  • Vergennes, Charles Gravier, comte de, 1719-1787.
  • Walpole, Thomas, 1727-1803.
Genre Terms:
  • Correspondence.
  • Maps.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Correspondence and Documents [series]
Volume   1  
 October 6, 1779-May 1783
Volume   2  
 June 1783-July 8, 1783
Volume   3  
 July 9, 1783-September 30, 1783
Volume   4  
 October 4, 1783-May 18, 1788
Letterbooks [series]
Volume   5  
Alleyne Fitzherbert to Thomas Robinson, 2nd Baron Grantham and Charles Fox,  November 29, 1782-May 3, 1783
Volume   6  
Thomas Robinson, 2nd Baron Grantham to Alleyne Fitzherbert and Charles Fox,  August 9, 1782-May 30, 1783
Volume   7  
Letters between Grenville, Fox, Shelburne, and Manchester,  April 30, 1782-December 7, 1783
Volume   8  
Charles Fox to George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester,  April 29 to December 2, 1783

Additional Descriptive Data

Alternate Locations

The following manuscript map is housed in the Map Division:

Plano De Los Tres Rios De Valiz, Nuevo, Y Hondo, Situados Entre Et Golfo Dulce O Provincia De Goatemala Y De La Yucatan En Et Que Se Manifiesta Les Esteros, Lagunas, Y Canales, Y a Que Embarcaciones Son Accessibles ; La Situacion Del Real Presido De Sn. Phelipe De Bacalar, El Camino Que De El Va a La Capital De Merida: La Laguna Peten Ytza, Y Parte De Su Camino, Des Poblado Hasta El Ultimo Pieblo De Yucatan. , 1783.

Related Materials

The following institutions hold collections related to Manchester:

British Library, British Museum, Bodleian Library, Cambridgeshire Archive Service, National Maritime Museum (London), Sheffield Archives, and University of Nottingham Library


The Manchester papers have been listed, but not published, in the Historical Manuscripts Commission Eighth Report , Appendix Part II, Nos. 946-1287, 1881.

Cannon, John, "Montagu, George, fourth duke of Manchester (1737--1788)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 17 Feb 2011]