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