Chapter II: Conway, Cumberland, and Devonshire

                   Chapter II: Conway, Cumberland, and Devonshire, 1754-1763

In 1754 Conway was in those political circles closest to the King. There, first place belonged to the Duke of Cumberland, his military patron. Right behind in the affection of George II were the Dukes of Devonshire, Grafton, and Richmond, all long-time courtiers and heads of great Whig families. Devonshire, one of Sir Robert Walpole’s closest friends and titular leader of the Old Corps, was a major figure in the Household and always one of the King’s most trusted advisors. Conway’s Old Corps ties were confirmed in 1755 when he became associated with the Duke’s son, the Marquis of Hartington. When the old Duke died later that year, his heir succeeded him as ‘Prince of the Whigs’ and confidant to the King. Hartington was also an intimate of Henry Fox and he Duke of Cumberland. Conway’s connection with the Fitzroy family went back even further. His brother had married Lady Isabella Fitzroy in 1741, and ever since Conway counted the Duke of Grafton as a friend. In 1757 the Duke was succeeded by his grandson, sixteen years Conway’s junior, who brought Conway into Parliament for Thetford in 1761. Also, in 1757 Conway’s stepdaughter, Lady May Bruce, married the young Duke of Richmond, grandson of another of George II’s friends and the nephew of Henry Fox. Richmond entered the army and viewed Conway as a mentor. The influence and power of Conway’s friends inspired suspicion and hatred among other politicians and it is no wonder that he had few political ties outside of this circle.

He had, for example, little to do with the Duke of Newcastle, for decades a leading figure in administration. Newcastle’s weight and energy made him essential in government but the parties closest to the King did not give him the esteem they had given to his brother. The Duke had never felt secure with the King and after the Regency Act of 1751, Cumberland had become an inveterate enemy. Neither was he on the best of terms with the Old Corps which distrusted his foreign policies, especially German alliances. The death of Pelham left Newcastle with no means of managing the House of Commons and pride, suspicion, and shrewdness made him reluctant to turn to Fox, whose abilities and connections might have made the Duke a cipher in his own administration. Conway had even less to do with those groups further away from the Old King. He had voted on occasion with William Pitt in opposition but only on matters of principle, and he was never a friend or follower of Pitt’s. Pitt was personally objectionable to the King, and Cumberland, Hartington, and Fox were always determined to keep him out of any leading role. Finally, Conway hardly knew the Prince of Wales. At Leicester House Cumberland was seen as a potential usurper, and the great Whigs were regarded as the captors of the King.[1]

After his brother’s death Newcastle decided to take the Treasury and divide the management of the Commons among a number of lesser men. He repulsed attempts by both Fox and Pitt to succeed Pelham, and they both remained in administration although obviously unhappy. The Duke chose Sir Thomas Robinson, a career diplomat little noted for his knowledge of the House, as Secretary of State and ostensible Manager. H. B. Legge, an Old Corps Whig, became Chancellor of the Exchequer although it was clear that the Pelhams’ old friend and advisor, Lord Dupplin, would be the political agent of the Treasury. Newcastle’s voice in the Commons was Attorney General William Murray, later Earl of Mansfield. It was a divided and weak system which required all the support it could get, and therefore Conway was not neglected. In July 1754 he became Colonel of the 4th Horse Guards, a regiment on the Irish establishment sometimes called the Irish Horse. In October he was given, after a very cordial meeting with Newcastle, the promise of a place in the Bedchamber on the first vacancy.[2] More importantly, he was asked in November to second the Address. The threat of war with France made this a more than ordinary assignment and many of the leading men in the House were reluctant to give more than lukewarm support to the ministry. The Earl of Hardwicke noted that, “this occasion requires some judgment and delicacy, “ and Legge, a good friend of Conway’s, observed that “we should be forced to lower our tone very much” if he refused.[3] Conway accepted and made a strong and effective speech. France was one of his abiding fears and he told the House,
I do not think that single and alone we are a match for the power of France, considering how much it has increased within the last century, and how firmly the people of that country are now united under a sole and absolute monarch.
He had no intention, however of yielding to the “groundless pretentions” or the “unjust encroachment” of that nation. Against France England would always have an effective resource: “an alliance with those Powers upon the continent of Europe, who have as much reason to be jealous of France as we have.” Subsidies might be necessary but he was sure “there is not an english Protestant…who would not cheerfully submit to it, rather than see his country reduced to a slavish dependency on France.” He urged the Address be approved nemine contradicente for only “a perfect unanimity amongst ourselves,” would induce the French Court to be reasonable, [4] and in such dangerous times hoped that “no gentlemen would suffer their private ambitions or emulation to obstruct the King’s measures or interrupt that unanimity.” [5]

In February 1755 he was chosen as Secretary by the newly appointed Lord lieutenant of Ireland, the Marquis of Hartington. Irish politics had been in turmoil ever since the end of the last war when, for a number of reasons, a large surplus had accrued in the Irish Treasury. The disposal of this surplus again brought into question the relationship between the two Kingdoms as Irish “patriots” questioned the legislative dependence of the Irish parliament. The patriots argued that their Parliament could dispose of the surplus as it pleased and pointed to a whole host of public works that needed to be done although cynics were quick to smell the pork-barrel. English government, however, insisted that the surplus belonged to the Crown and could only be disposed of with the “previous consent” of the Crown. The conflict came to a head in 1753 when the government headed by the Duke of Dorset and his son and Secretary, Lord George Sackville, suffered a rare defeat in the Irish House of Commons. Government was forced to back down as a number of its most prominent supporters deserted it to lead the opposition. Among these were Speaker of the House Henry Boyle, Prime Serjeant at Law Anthony Malone, and the increasingly popular Earl of Kildare. Besides leaning towards the patriot position these leaders were angered y the heavy-handed methods of Sackville and his ally George Stone, Primate of Ireland and one of the leading figures in Irish politics due to his perennial inclusion in the list of Lords Justices. To counter this opposition Sackville and Stone sought to create a court party and in 1754 drove their opponents out of their places. They failed, however, to break the united opposition and it seemed obvious that if Dorset returned to the Kingdom to conduct the session scheduled to open in the fall of 1755, the controversy would rise to new heights. Neither the King nor Newcastle wished to desert Dorset but in February 1755 the imminence of war with France and rumors of a descent upon the Irish coast made it necessary that a Lord lieutenant go to Ireland to put military defenses in order and calm the troubled political waters. [6]

In this crisis Hartington appeared to many as the one who could restore tranquility. His family had long been involved in Ireland. His father had been a popular Lord lieutenant and even after his semi-retirement in 1749 ministers continued to consult him on Irish affairs. In 1748 Hartington had married Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle, heiress of the Earl of Burlington, a great Irish landlord. The effect of this marriage has been described by an historian of the Cavendish family:
In their own country they already stood as high as they well could, but the Irish estates gave them a new importance in the sister island…The appointment of the head of the Cavendishes as lord-lieutenant of Ireland, though no new thing, received a new appropriateness. Irish blood was already in their veins from the first duke’s marriage with Mary Butler. Charlotte Boyle brought them both Irish blood and Irish lands. [7]
Through marriage Hartington was connected also with the Earl of Bessborough, head of the Ponsonby family and one of the leading politicians in the island. One sister had married William Ponsonby, Lord Duncannon (2nd Earl of Bessborough in 1758), and another had married John Ponsonby, the family’s spokesman in the Irish House of Commons. The connection with the Ponsonby’s, at this time supporters of the Primate, was a cause of concern to supporters of other factions, but Hartington’s reputed honesty and fairness, and his ties with Fox, a close friend of the Earl of Kildare, enabled him to appear as a potential conciliator. Writing from Holland House the Countess of Kildare described Hartington’s appointment as “just what we could wish; and few could have been named among our great folks here but what there would have been some objection to.” [8] On the other hand, in listing the qualities that Dorset’s successor should possess the Primate obviously used Hartington as his model:
A person might be found, whose name and character, built upon his father’s reputation, with the strength of his own property here, would so precede his arrival, as to make the way smooth before him, and enable him without difficulty…to carry such measures into execution as his majesty…should direct. I could name such a person were I allowed to do it. [9]
Conway was also chosen to soothe ruffled tempers and his credentials were similar to Hartington’s. Both were Old Corps Whigs on intimate terms with the Duke of Cumberland whose friends were assuming great importance in Newcastle’s administration. In addition, Conway’s family had long been connected with Ireland. By 1754 Conway’s brother impressed many as a suitable Lord lieutenant, and in March of that year had been asked to serve as Lord Deputy so that Dorset might save face and leave the country without having to appoint Lords Justices. [10] If this plan had not fallen through Conway might have become Secretary a year earlier. He was not unfamiliar with Ireland. Since 1751 his regiments had been stationed in that country and he had spent his last few summers there. He had been a member of the Irish Parliament since 1741 (co. Antrim), and although he did not take his seat until the session of 1755, this was an important asset. Archbishop Stone saw the importance of having the Secretary identified with Ireland:
There must be some gentleman of Ireland set up with a countenance and authority from the government in the house of commons…we may, and I hope shall, import English principles into that house; but they must be imported in Irish bottoms…there must be some one man stand out a little before the ranks in that house…When any man is marked in that way, the advantage will soon appear: and till then…the jealousy of persons directing the house of commons, who are not members of it, will subsist. [11]
When Conway took his place on the ministerial bench in 1755, he was greeted as “the first Irish Member who had been made secretary for many years.”[12] Indeed, William Torrens, one of the few historians to give detailed attention to Irish government during the reign of George II, argued that Conway’s appointment “was the first indication…of a change in the meaning and method of provincial rule.” He wrote,
Representing a great estate in Ulster, the Secretary abjured, silently but steadfastly, the traditions of absenteeism and the official belief so long insisted on at the Cockpit, that the appendant realm could only be kept fast by the great offices…being filled by functionaries sent across the Channel. [13]
Irish background, however, does not fully explain the choice of Conway. Horace Walpole wrote that Hartington refused to accept
unless Mr. Conway, with whom he was scarce acquainted, would consent to accompany him as Secretary and Minister.[14]
The position was indeed one of business and throughout the century ambitious and talented young men held it on their way to greater things. The Lord lieutenant stood in place of the King in Ireland, and his Secretary performed many of the characteristic duties associated with the term Minister. Indeed, this title, with all its opprobrium, was often hurled at active and effective secretaries. As Secretary Conway would be expected to negotiate with Irish political chieftains, handle the innumerable ordinary tasks of the executive, and even lead the Irish House of Commons. In addition, the Secretary’s considerable military duties help to explain why a favorite officer of the Duke of Cumberland was chosen in 1755. At one point in his stay in Ireland Conway wrote,
I seem all at once to resemble the man’s black horses, and white horses, and black-and-white horses, being civil as secretary, military as general, and civi-military as secretary-at-war,--a wonderful, as well as tiresome combination. [15]
His appointment was both a testament to the abilities he had already demonstrated in Parliament and the Amy, and the most serious test of those abilities he had ever faced.
Late in March report of an impending French invasion of Ireland prompted Hartington and Conway to hasten their departure. They spent their first month in the country reviewing military defenses, and did not reach Dublin until May. In arriving at the Castle Conway wrote Horace Walpole of the tension in the air.
Patriot meetings and patriot health’s have continued: patriot papers have been writ, and, in short, the minds of people kept in a sort of suspense, waiting, as it seems, for the event of things to see how well-satisfied they are to be. [16]
In general, the various chieftains had formed themselves into two camps. On one side, the Primate’s friends and the Ponsonbys, who had supported Dorset all along, were clamoring for continued exclusion of their enemies from places of profit and power; but they did not control a majority in the House and had reason to fear that they would be sacrificed like Dorset. On the other hand, the loose coalition led by Boyle and Kildare had major support in the House as well as in the nation. They demanded that the Primate be given up, that is, not appointed one of the three Lords Justices on the Lord lieutenant’s eventual departure from the Kingdom and that their old places be restored. Hartington and Conway, however, had their own plan. Soon after arriving in Dublin Conway told Walpole,
Lord Hartington continues to hold one steady and uniform language of a single and settled view to do the King’s business and the nation’s by plain and direct ways; and by an equal and impartial government, favouring no party nor faction, nor setting up any…I am persuaded such behaviour and such intentions, well supported, will carry him through. [17]
This was no cant for the two detested faction and were both determined to steer between the Irish ones in order to break them and establish government on a more secure footing.

Conway soon found that Irish politics had a character all their own. He wrote,
The great business of life is to stuff and be stuffed. Immoderate eating is among the prime social virtues; but immoderate drinking lifts you up to the skies. One would think such furious politics would interrupt it; but it’s quite the contrary…I am dreadfully annoyed with all sorts of incumbrance of the most disagreeable kind…visits, steams of meat, and fumes of wine, all conspiring to confound me.[18]
He told his brother that the “dismal life of hurry and business…makes me often sign for Park Place and a little of my beloved indolence.”[19] His greatest problem, however, was the insistence of the opposition leaders that the Primate be dropped from the list of Lords Justices. The invasion scare soon passed and Hartington did not wish to summer in Ireland, but rather than give in to the opposition Hartington and Conway both saw that the former must stay to avoid the necessity of appointing Lords Justices.  Conway described this decision as
A step prudentially taken, on the opinion of all those my Lord has conversed with, of all parties—and I do really think, though such against my own private inclination, as wise and necessary a step as ever was taken.[20]
Although in England the Lord lieutenant’s remaining in Ireland was viewed as a concession to the Speaker’s party, Conway advised Hartington to go further and give either a sign of favor to the Speaker or disfavor to the Primate. If it only took that to satisfy that party, he argued that “the public tranquility is purchased at a cheaper rate that ever it was before from any Parliamentary majority.”[21] The King disliked rewarding men for opposition and the English ministry balked, forcing Conway to go over in July to get the necessary support.
He and Hartington were agreed that the Primate must be excluded from any future share in the government, and the real object of his visit was to win over the Duke of Newcastle. Although the Archbishop was a favorite of the Duke, the latter wished to please Hartington. Conway met Newcastle on July 22 and won his cause, the Duke informing Hartington of his intention “to bring about every thing you wish, in the best, and most unexceptionable manner.”[22] He only asked that the Primate be allowed to request his own exclusion and promised to write him about the matter. Hartington, however, changed his mind, took the Ponsonbys into his confidence (who then convinced him that giving up the Primate would throw the government completely into the hands of the Speaker), and proposed the appointment of a Lord Deputy. Dismayed at the weakness of this scheme, as well as at his own ill-treatment Conway wrote a long letter of protest in which he disposed of all the arguments against removing the Primate. He told Hartington there would be no apprehension of the Primate’s friends abandoning government.
They might desert you; but when their connexions, and dependencies and the emoluments they possess are considered I don’t think they’ll desert Them.
Neither should the Lord lieutenant worry about the patriotic language employed by the Speaker’s party.
A Patriot that has got his Place is like a wild beast that is fed, and becomes as tame and tractable as possible. These notions…are the Arms of the Party, taken up for the purpose of opposition and your Lord: has experience enough of the world to know are always laid aside when those purposes are served.
Moreover, once the Speaker and his allies had made their “bargain,”
The personal jealousies and separate views so well known amongst them, the cry of the disappointed etc. will soon infallibly raise divisions amongst them, and the Speaker with those who come in and are satisfied will soon be more glad of your support than you of theirs.
The Ponsonbys might promise a majority of ten, but such a majority was “almost as bad and as contrary to your plan as a minority.”[23]  Hartington accepted his Secretary’s advice and the Lord Deputy scheme was dropped. Conway returned to Ireland with the promise that  English government would not insist on the inclusion of the Primate in the list of Lords Justices. The news of the Primate’s fall elicited this praise from Horace Walpole:
You have tranquillized a nation, have repaired your master’s honour, and secured the peace of your administration![24]
Back in Ireland Conway was plunged into the preparation for the Parliamentary session to open in early October. The Speaker and his friends now made further demands. Places, pensions, a free-hand in the distribution of the surplus revenue, were some of the things they requested before guaranteeing a peaceful session.
Conway asked Newcastle whether,
The government had not better yield a little even of their strict dignity to the necessity of the times; in order to recover it more surely hereafter, when the ferment in people’s minds is allayed; and those events have happened which may shortly be expected; I mean principally the breaking up of that which I am convinced is an unnatural coalition of various interests and parties…[25]
For the moment the Speaker’s friends went unsatisfied and calm was maintained in the session by careful management and constant negotiation behind the scenes. Both sides were ready to fly at each other but Hartington and Conway, who was always on the spot in the House, carefully avoided any provocative measures. Early in January 1756 Conway explained the government’s unwillingness to support a plan to limit the number of Roman Catholic priests in Ireland:
I believe under proper restrictions a very good law, in quiet times, but not very expedient at the present critical juncture.[26]
Later that month the Lord lieutenant, now 4th duke of Devonshire, protested an English scheme for sending Irish troops to America, telling Newcastle
I am afraid that you are not aware of the difficulties that we labor under, and the temper and dispositions of the people here…prudence and caution is absolutely necessary until they are a little more settled…[27]
The necessary revenues were voted including an augmentation of the Irish military establishment, and although it was agreed that part of the surplus be spent on Irish projects, all questions of “right” and “previous consent_--what had produced the turmoil of the Dorset administration—were dropped.

By late January only one problem remained. Into whose hands should the government fall on the Lord lieutenant’s departure? An intricate compromise was struck. Since the Primate could not be a Lord Justice, neither would Henry Boyle be one. A peerage, a pension, and the restoration of his place was to be both the Speaker’s reward and the means of getting him out of his powerful position in the Commons, where he was succeeded by John Ponsonby, Devonshire’s brother-in-law. The other former opposition leaders were given similar rewards and, as a later Secretary pointed out, “ the inferior partizans were all provided for, nemo non donatus abivit.” [28] Later administrations censured this settlement but at the time it was difficult to see what else could be done. The King “did not like buying people, who had opposed him,” [29] but gave in when Newcastle and others argued that as the Speaker’s party “had got the superiority in Ireland, it was necessary to find some way to remedy that…” [30]
When news of the deal finally leaked out in early March, the Speaker’s friends were “prodigiously angry” with him: some upset at the terms of the deal, others at not being in the secret. As Conway predicted, the public outcry was so great that the former opposition leaders had little choice but meekly to support government or awkwardly back out of their places. Conway wrote Fox that “the Government seemed to set out on a new footing, and that it was once more vested in the hands of the Governor.” [31]

Horace Walpole gave his cousin much of the credit for the apparent success of administration in Ireland, a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year:
You grand corrupter, you who can bribe pomp and patriotism, virtue and a Speaker, you that have pursued uprightness even to the last foot of land on the globe, and have disarmed Whiggism on the banks of its own Boyne. [32]
This was lavish but not wholly undeserved. Conway has usually been portrayed as an inept and inexperienced politician but it is clear that while he did not like much of the business, he did it well. The Lord lieutenant entrusted a good deal of the ordinary decisions of the executive to him, and assured Newcastle that major negotiations were never conducted without Conway. His activity in the Irish Parliament shows that he had become skilled in the arts of management. During the midst of the session his brother had expressed concern over a piece of business but Conway assured him,
Don’t think I am to be jockeyed. No! I have seen something of that way of proceeding; but this postponing it and leaving it out of the bill was my own work—only to avoid too much jealously and appearance of partiality. [33]
Conway’s approach to management is shown in the criticism he made of John Ponsonby:
That thorough bargaining kind of Politicks I believe he learnt from the Pr[imate] and I think it in general the worst method in the world especially where you have gentlemen of any character and delicacy to deal with. Those points should be touched gently and with Art. Many a man will engage himself by degrees that wont bear a direct question; and of all the methods of treating in the world I think it the most offensive to those you treat with and the least honourable to those who treat. [34]
In his Memoirs Walpole contrasted Conway’s parliamentary style and its effect with Sackville’s and Charles Townshend’s.
Mr. Conway soothed and persuaded; Lord George Sackville informed and convinced; Charles Townshend astonished; but was too severe to persuade, and too bold to convince…One loved the first, one feared the second, one admired the last without the least mixture of esteem.[35]
Conway lacked neither the skill nor experience of a “Minister”, only the temper and ambition. Describing the visits of the importunate, which as Secretary he had to bear almost without end, Conway told Walpole,
If I had the taste or the pride of an minister about me, I think I might find something like enjoyment in this; but with me it is quite other wise. It turns my head and my stomach, and almost my temper.[36]
Perhaps the most important effect of Conway’s stay in Ireland was the friendship that grew between him and Devonshire. Although “scarce acquainted” at the beginning, a similarity of character and opinion as well as mutual service combined to forge a bond that proved lasting. Two months after their arrival in Ireland Conway wrote of his chief,
What supports me and makes everything tolerable, is the great ease, good-nature, and friendship of Lord Hartington, which is beyond expression. Had I been under any other Lord-Lieutenant in the world, I should either have deserted or died of it.[37]
Early in 1756 Conway was raised to the rank of major-general, and that summer Devonshire offered him the colonelcy of the Royal Irish Dragoons, a position he declined.[38] Even after they had ceased to be Lord lieutenant and Secretary, the Duke continued to act as Conway’s patron. Conway came to value nothing so much as his association with the Cavendish family, and until the Duke’s death in 1764 was a most important confidant and advisor.

The connection became especially important in the fall of 1756 when Devonshire became First Lord of the Treasury. With the war going badly both Fox and Newcastle resigned in October, leaving the King with no choice but to call upon Pitt, the ally of Leicester House and the darling of the tory backbenchers. The formation of the ministry was placed in the hands of Devonshire, one of the few men the King still had reason to trust. Above personal ambition the Duke was genuinely concerned to keep up the old King’s dignity and authority. His stature and impartiality made it possible for him to negotiate with most of the contending parties. Indeed, both Fox and Pitt wanted him to take the Treasury, the former as a check on Pitt and he Grenvilles, and the latter as an inducement to the Whigs. [39] Conway, still Devonshire’s Secretary, became involved in these tangled negotiations, and at one point his intervention was crucial. Finding Pitt’s terms too high, Devonshire, on Fox’s urging, decided to take the Treasury with Fox as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  They hoped that if Pitt’s other demands were met he and his friends would be content. Conway, Hertford, and Walpole got wind of this plan the night before it was to be announced to the King, and the three agreed that Conway should go to the Duke and steer him away from such a dangerous scheme. [40] Next day Devonshire accepted the Treasury without conditions, that is, he agreed to drop Fox and go in with Pitt and Leicester House.

In this administration the Duke acted as the King’s man in a cabinet which the King distrusted, an uncomfortable situation which he only took temporarily. During the session his friends in the Commons tried to impede and obstruct what they considered rash measures. Conway worked with Fox to embarrass Pitt and protect the King’s interests. The King’s speech, for example, reflected Pitt’s desire to send away the Hanoverian troops who had been brought to England during the invasion scare. In the Lords Devonshire—to the consternation of Pitt’s friends—inserted a paragraph in the Address thanking the King for bringing over the troops, and in the Commons both Fox and Conway cautioned against sending them back.[41] Later in the session when George Townshend brought in a militia bill, Conway offered another plan as a diversion.[42] This failed but he and Fox continued to snipe at Pitt until the latter’s dismissal in April. This activity was part of a general plan of harassment which culminated in the Duke of Cumberland’s refusal to take command of the army in Germany as long as Pitt was a minister. [43] After Pitt’s fall Conway was made a groom of the Bedchamber, and continued to support his powerful friends in Parliament. Devonshire remained at the Treasury until the supplies were voted and Conway defended him against Pitt. [44] Although Fox was offended when Conway failed to appear for the vote on the Minorca inquiry (Fox did not believe Conway’s story of a swollen knee), Cumberland told him,
As to Harry Conway his carracter (sic) won’t allow of mis-representation, and at least his kind, warm behaviour to me in this last transaction [Pitt’s dismissal] ought to have removed any unjust suspicions…[45]
Despite the apparent success of his friends, Conway was unhappy with the political situation. He looked ahead, as many did, to a rapprochement between Pitt and Newcastle which would put the King in an even worse situation. [46]
The completion of the Minorca inquiry removed the one obstacle which still stood between Pitt and Newcastle. Negotiations began in May and were urged forward in the next few weeks by a common desire to crush the Cumberland party. The King’s enmity towards Pitt delayed a settlement and led him to grasp at straws. Only Fox was willing enough and audacious enough to come to the King’s rescue but it was clear that he did not have sufficient support in Parliament. Fox believed that the King’s favor would be sufficient support but Devonshire and Conway advised him to avoid such dangerous methods and bow to the majority the Newcastle-Pitt coalition would command. The King was forced to make his decision in June. On the 12th of that month Devonshire and Fox visited Conway’s country home, Park Place, to discuss the situation. Fox was urged to desist from embarking the King on such a narrow bottom, and apparently gave in. Three days later Conway was dismayed to hear that he was still talking rashly. He wrote Devonshire,
I am sorry for the news your Grace tells me as I doubt Mr. F’s ambition and his sanguine disposition to believe what he wishes, will make him undertake, much at his own risqué and not a little I am afraid at that of a good deal of confusion to the Publick affairs…He calculates on the venality of mankind and the effect of his M’s favour and Power; which might be just in most cases, but I think false in this; where the cry of the people, the general turn of the Parliament, and the influence of Leicester House are against him…[47]
Conway was concerned for the King’s honour and for royal authority, but in this confrontation between King and Commons he advised Devonshire to counsel the King to give in:
The practicability of his government and the Honour both of him and the Nation to be vigourously pursued at this critical juncture are the chief objects, and to attain them with any certainty abroad there must be some stability at home…It may be a hard and bitter pill to swallow but…none but the very capital points etc. such as immediately affect his Govt. are worth his M’s consideration now.[48]
In a few days the King agreed and the great coalition was formed. The friends of the King remained in important positions, for Cumberland still commanded the Army, and Fox became Paymaster, a concession both lucrative to him and pleasing to the King and the Duke. Devonshire, although not a minster, was of the Cabinet as Lord Chamberlain. Nevertheless, both Pitt and Newcastle were anxious to wrest control of the Army from Cumberland, and events on the Continent that summer played into their hands. The Duke’s attempt to protect Hanover against a superior French force failed and he was forced to withdraw the Electorate from the war by the Convention of Kloster-Seven. Immediately recalled, the Duke was insulted by his father and resigned all his military offices.

About the same time Conway found himself in a situation where he could ill afford to be without friends in high places. Relying on faulty intelligence, Pitt believed the French coastal town of Rochfort was poorly defended, and hit upon an attack there as a dramatic stroke to retrieve the military fortunes of the nation and relieve French pressure on Hanover. Conway was made second in command to Sir John Mordaunt. During the summer both generals expressed misgivings about the plan to the Cabinet [49] but the fleet finally sailed in September only to find Rochfort stoutly defended. Within a few days the force turned back without even attempting a landing. Although Conway was one of the few in the war council who pressed for some action, he was bound on returning to share in the disgrace. He feared the worst and as they were turning back wrote his brother,
I am sorry to say that I think on the whole we make a pitiful figure in not attempting anything…I expect my share of blame, and for the only time of my life dread to come back to England…[50]
Although his friends were convinced of his innocence, and Newcastle was sympathetic, there was no countering the anger of Pitt and the King. Only Mordaunt was court-martialed but Conway and the other generals shared in the abuse. Moreover, while Mordaunt was on trial Conway was reluctant to clear himself of blame by blaming others. Walpole recorded:
The Duke of Cumberland espoused the cause of the Generals, wished them to make it a common cause, and to pin down their whole defense to the impracticability of the measure. To this Conway would not consent. [51]
The King was particularly insulting and Conway complained of his “ill usage” at Court. He told Devonshire,
You know I have been waiting this week past, during which I have not had a word said to me…He this day for bonne Bouche gave before me such a pointed lecture upon Generals who misbehaved, as it was impossible not to know and feel the tendency of…I had given him his Hat or I own I should have been vastly tempted to lay it down and walk away. [52]
Only the intervention of friends kept him from resigning his place in the Bedchamber, but in his anger he welcomed the parliamentary inquiry that Pitt was contemplating.
I hear the Persecution is to be removed from the Cabinet to the Parlt; where at least one shall be at liberty to speak for oneself…I don’t feel my spirits sink, but rather rise; for when injury and injustice go to a certain pitch they raise a kind of indignation that keeps ‘em up. So that if I am to fall, I hope to do like a man. [53]
When Mordaunt was acquitted with honor, Pitt dropped the inquiry and Conway never got his chance in the House. He and the others, however, were still punished. In January 1758 the King struck the names of Mordaunt, Conway, and Cornwallis from the proposed staff for America, a crushing blow which led Conway to believe his military career was over.[54]

In December 1758 he was called upon to settle an exchange of prisoners in France but as long as the King lived he was not trusted with a command. In the annus mirabilis Conway was confined to home duty and only after the accession of George III was he allowed to join the army in Germany. He went over as second in command to Lord Granby and Walpole noted that “his character is vindicated at last.” [55]He hoped to regain his reputation in battle and zealously sought action, but in the next two years the war in Germany offered little opportunity. Politically, he was also in a sort of limbo. In the summer of 1758 he told Devonshire,
My comfort is that if I am ill at one Court I am worse at the other, so that if I fail of employment in the probably short period of his M’s life and of this war…it may probably be for ever.” [56]

Although he never had any connection with Leicester House, by 1759 the future George III listed Conway among those whose abilities might enable him to dispense with Pitt. [57] This may explain his command in 1761 but Leicester House was bound to be disappointed in Conway. By May 1762 the desire of the young King and his favorite, the Earl of Bute, for peace led to a serious curtailment of funds for the German war. Thirsting for battle and believing that one more push might break the existing stalemate, Conway began to complain of the scarcity of funds, and the difficulty of getting what funds there were to the officers in the field. [58] He should have known that such criticism would not be well taken, but he was genuinely surprised in November when an application for the governorship of a fortress came to nothing. He complained to Devonshire that a letter to Bute received “so dry and cold an answer that I am not much encouraged by it.” [59] The growing estrangement of his friends from the King undoubtedly contributed to this coldness. Being in Germany Conway could not have known that a few days earlier the Duke had been dismissed from his office and had his name struck from the Privy Council. There followed a wave of Whig resignations and although Conway’s response to this news was guarded, his sympathies were with his friend. He wrote,
I can have but one opinion of the right intention and the perfect honour and integrity that accompany every act of yours, and on the propriety nobody can judge so fitly as yourself… [60]
For the first time in his memory Conway’s friends were ranged against the Court that he and they had so long supported, and he feared the consequences.
I can’t but lament as an honest man the confusion…and the violence to which I hear our party spirit, and our mobbish spirit are going. The circumstances of our Country require such attention and care to heal the wounds and repair the damage of a long and most expensive war, and to improve the advantages of our conquests; in the midst of tumult and division that is not to be expected; however this is a ferment that must have its time to work off in some shape or other; and I know my dear Country too well to think they’ll philosophize in this storm…[61]

[1] The best sources for this state of parties in 1754 are Horace Walpole and the Duke of Newcastle. Walpole’s memoirs of the reign of George II have already been cited, as has Newcastle’s correspondence in the British Museum. The Duke’s letters to Lord Hardwicke are especially valuable. In addition, for the Court see James, Earl Waldegrave, Memoirs from 1754 to 1758 (London, 1821). For Henry Fox, see Letters to Henry Fox (cited in c. I), and Earl of Ilchester, Henry Fox, First Lord Holland (2 vols. London, 1920). For William Pitt, see Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, ed. By William Stanhope Taylor and Captain John Henry Pringle (London, 1838), I, 1741-1761. Richard Glover, Memoirs…from the resignation of Sir Robert Walpole in 1742, to the establishment of Lord Chatham’s second administration in 1757 (new edition, London, 1814) is valuable for Pitt and the Tories. Dodington’s Journal (cited in c. I) illustrates the fears of Leicester House.
[2] Conway to Walpole, Oct. 20, 1754, WSL.
[3] Hardwicke to Newcastle, Nov. 9, 1754, Add. MSS 32737, f. 328. Legge to Newcastle, Nov. 8, 1754, Ibid., f. 324.
[4] Parliamentary History, XV, 338-341.
[5] Hardwicke to Newcastle, [Nov. 15, 1754], Add. MSS 32737, f. 344.
[6] The major sources for the Irish crisis are again Walpole’s Memoirs and Newcastle’s correspondence. The correspondence between Newcastle and Archbishop Stone from 1753 to the dismissal of Dorset in early 1755 was printed by C. Lytton Falkiner in the English Historical Review, XX, July and Oct. 1905. See the article by J. L. McCracken, “The Conflict between the Irish Administration and Parliament, 1753-6,” Irish Historical Studies, September, 1942. W. E. H. Lecky, A History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1892) has only a few pages on this episode and barely mentions the Hartington administration.
[7] Francis Bickley, The Cavendish Family (London, 1911), 211.
[8] Countess of Kildare to the Earl of Kildare, May 15, [1755], in Correspondence of Emily, Duchess of Leinster, 1731-1814, ed. Brian Fitzgerald ( 3 vols.; Dublin, 1949-1957), I, 17.
[9] Archbishop Stone to Andrew Stone, March 4, 1755, in C. Litton Falkiner, “Correspondence of Archbishop Stone and he Duke of Newcastle,” English Historical Review, XX, Oct. 1905, 761.
[10] Walpole, George II, I, 390.
[11] Archbishop to Newcastle, Jan. 14, 1754, EHR, XX, 737.
[12] W. M. Torrens, History of Cabinets, from the Union with Scotland to the Acquisition of Canada and Bengal (2 vv., London, 1894), II, 252. This work has not been highly regarded by historians. It contains many inaccuracies and makes only the slightest reference to its sources. But Torrens used the Devonshire MSS and his discussion of Irish government during the reign of George II is far fuller than Froude or Lecky, who pass over the events of the 1750s with hardly a notice.
[13] Ibid., 256.
[14] Walpole, George II, II, 2-3.
[15] Conway to Walpole, April 5, 1756, Fraser’s Magazine, XLI, 282.
[16] Conway to Walpole, May 8, 1755, ibid., 273.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid., 274.
[19] Conway to Hertford, June 16, 1755, Colburn’s…Magazine, June 1881, 197.
[20] Ibid., 196.
[21] Ibid., 195.
[22] Newcastle to Hartington, July 23, 1755, Add. MSS 32855, f. 60.
[23] Conway to Hartington, Aug. 7, 1755, Devonshire MSS.
[24] Walpole to Conway, Sept. 23, 1755, Toynbee, III, 345.
[25] Conway to Newcastle, Sept. 20, 1755, Add. MSS 32859, f. 164.
[26] Conway to Walpole, Jan. 5, 1756. WSL.
[27] Devonshire to Newcastle, Jan. 29, 1756, Add. MSS 32862, f. 265.
[28] George, Earl of Macartney, “A Sketch of the Political History of Ireland to 1773,” in John Barrow, Some Account of the Public Life and a Selection from the unpublished writings, of the Earl of Macartney (2vv., London, 1807), II, 135.
[29] Newcastle to Devonshire, Jan. 28, 1756, Add. MSS 32862, f. 265.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Conway to Fox, March 2, 1756, Ilchester, Henry Fox, II, 81.
[32] Walpole to Conway, March 25, 1756, Toynbee, III, 408.
[33] Conway to Hertford, Dec. 18, 1755, Colburn’s…Magazine, Sept. 1881, 65.
[34] Conway to Devonshire, July 31, 1756, Devonshire MSS.
[35] Walpole, George II, II, 147-8.
[36] Conway to Walpole, Feb. 20, 1756, Fraser’s Magazine, XLI, 280.
[37] Conway to Hertford, Dec. 18, 1755, Colburn’s…Magazine, Sept. 1881, 65.
[38] Conway to Devonshire, July 18, 1756, Devonshire MSS.
[39] For the view of Fox and the Cumberland party see Duke of Bedford to the Duchess of Bedford, Nov. 2, 1756, Bedford Correspondence, II, 208. For Pitt and the Grenvilles see Waldegrave, Memoirs, 140, and Walpole, George II, II, 258.
[40] Walpole, George II, 268-9; and Ilchester, Henry Fox, II, 11.
[41] Fox to Lord Digby, Dec. 14, 1756, Eighth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Report and Appendix, Part I (1881), 221b.
[42] George Townshend to William Pitt, Feb. 14, 1757, Chatham Correspondence, I, 222.
[43] Walpole, George II, Ii, 335.
[44] Ibid., III, 19.
[45] Cumberland to Fox, May 23, 1757, Letters to Henry Fox, Lord Holland, ed. The Earl of Ilchester (London, privately printed for presentation to the members of the Roxburghe Club, 1915), 251.
[46] Walpole, George II, III, 3.
[47] Conway to Devonshire, Wed. morn., [June 15, 1757] Devonshire MSS.
[48] Ibid.
[49] Conway to Devonshire, July 19, 1757, Devonshire MSS. Add, MSS 32877, f. 11.
[50] Conway to Hertford, Sept. 30, 1757, WSL.
[51] Walpole, George II, III, 77.
[52] Conway to Devonshire, Dec. 24, 1757, Devonshire MSS.
[53] Ibid.
[54] Conway to Devonshire, June 28, 1758, Devonshire MSS.
[55] Walpole to Mann, March 3, 1761, Yale Walpole, XXI, 485.
[56] Conway to Devonshire, June 28, 1758, Devonshire MSS.
[57] L. B. Namier, England in the Age of the American Revolution (second edition, New York, 1961), 97.
[58] Conway to Devonshire, May 4, 1762, Devonshire MSS.
[59] Conway to Devonshire, Dec. 10, 1762, Devonshire MSS.
[60] Conway to Devonshire. Dec. 10, 1762, Devonshire MSS.
[61] Ibid.

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