Saturday, June 24, 2017

General Henry Seymour Conway: Elder Statesman, 1768-1784.

I recently added the sixth and final chapter of my doctoral dissertation, “Henry Seymour Conway and the Commons’ Cause, 1719-1784” to the page section of this website. All six chapters as well as a Preface on now on the site. Posting the dissertation on this site has been a labor of love on my part.  The dissertation was completed and accepted by Fordham University long ago in 1972 under the supervision of Ross J. S. Hoffman. Dr. Hoffman was an emeritus Professor and I believe I was one of his last doctoral candidates. Although I went on to other things, I will never forget General Conway, Horace Walpole, or Dr. Hoffman.

Gainsborough: General Conway 

Chapter Six covers the sixteen-year period that began with the end of the Chatham administration in 1768 and ends with Conway’s withdrawal from public life in 1784 at the age of 65 after he failed that year to be nominated for a place in the new Parliament. The great central concern of those years was the American war. During this period Conway, known as a friend of America for his role in the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, consistently opposed all attempts to coerce the Americans by military force.

However, his vaunted independence meant that he was never considered to be part of any opposition group or party. In fact, his independence made him just the man to move the end of all offensive military operations in America after the disaster at Yorktown. He served briefly in the second Rockingham administration but stayed on after Rockingham’s death in order to secure peace. His actions alienated Whig friends like Charles Fox and Edmund Burke and the formation of the Fox North coalition marked the end of his political career.

In retirement he was free for the last ten years of his life to concern himself with a variety of other interests. In her edition of the works of Horace Walpole, Conway's famous cousin and friend, Mary Berry penned this little appreciation of General Conway in retirement.
It is only those who…have had the opportunity of penetrating into the most secret motives of his public conduct, and the inmost recesses of his private life, that can do real justice to the unsullied purity of his character—who like the editor saw and knew him in the evening of his days, retired from the honourable activity of a soldier and a statesman to the calm enjoyment of private life, happy in the resources of his own mind, and in the cultivation of useful science in the bosom of domestic peace—unenriched by pensions or places, undistinguished by titles or ribbons, unsophisticated by public life and unwearied by retirement.[1]
As an avid chess player, I was happy to discover recently that one of his favorite activities was chess. Some of his games can still be found online. One was a loss to the great French master, Philidor.

[1] The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, (5 vols.; London, 1798), I, XVIII.