Saturday, December 17, 2016

Henry Seymour Conway and the Stamp Act Crisis

This month I have added the fourth chapter of my doctoral dissertation on the political career of General Henry Seymour Conway to this site. (See page headings above) It deals with his role in the short lived Rockingham administration in which he served as Southern Secretary of State with responsibility for the American colonies. He was a military man and took the position with reluctance mainly at the urging of his patron, the Duke of Cumberland, the uncle of the young King George III.

General Henry Seymour Conway
Walpole Lewis Library
Farmington, CT

On accepting the post he could have had no idea that Cumberland would die a few months later and leave the newly formed ministry substantially weakened. The failure of the new administration to attract additional support among leading politicians forced Conway into a more active role, especially since the great matter of the next Parliamentary session would be the government's response to the surprising riots in the American colonies over the recently imposed Stamp tax.

Eventually, Conway would take the lead for the ministry in guiding the repeal of the Stamp Act through the House of Commons. Coincidentally, Conway had been one of the few in the House who had opposed the passage of the Stamp tax in the previous session.

History has not regarded General Conway's political abilities very highly but even Edmund Burke, who became critical of Conway in the years after the fall of the Rockingham administration, gave Conway high praise for his role during the Stamp Act crisis. Burke described the scene after the vote for repeal.

When at length you had determined in their favor, and your doors thrown open showed them the figure of their deliverer [Conway] in the well earned triumph of his important victory, from the whole of that great multitude there arose an involuntary burst of gratitude and transport. They jumped upon him like children on a long absent father. They clung about him as captives about their redeemer. All England, all America joined in his applause.

Hopefully, in the New Year I will be able to publish the final two chapters on this site.