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.