The Manchester papers primarily contain the diplomatic correspondence, memoranda, and treaty drafts of George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester, who was appointed British Ambassador to France to oversee the negotiations regarding the Peace of Paris in 1783.
The Manchester papers contain 250 letters, 30 drafts, 13 instructions, 9 notes, 4 letter books, and a map, spanning 1779 to 1788. These items primarily relate to diplomacy and Manchester's role in the negotiation of the Peace of Paris in 1783.
The Documents and Correspondence series contains 331 items pertaining to British politics, the American Revolution, the negotiations of the Peace of Paris, and other topics. These include diplomatic correspondence, memoranda, drafts of treaty clauses, and instructions for the period of 1783 to 1784, when Manchester participated in the negotiations with France, Spain, and the Netherlands as ambassador to France at the end of the American Revolutionary war.
Just nine letters in the collection predate 1783. These include several accounts of the British military situation in North America from Captain F. Taylor, Manchester's agent in London, in which Taylor noted that "things are as bad, as they can be" and criticized British politicians for leaving London for their country homes in a time of crisis (September 30, 1780). He also condemned the naval tactics of Admiral Henry Darby (February 12, 1781) and commented on British ships headed to Jamaica (October 30, 1781). Beginning in the spring of 1783, the primary topic of the letters and documents shifts to diplomacy and negotiations between Great Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. This includes the April 23, 1783, instructions given to Manchester by King George III, which discuss the release of prisoners, the rights of the "French naturalized English," and mandate that Manchester maintain frequent contact with other "Ministers employed in Foreign Courts."
The collection also contains numerous drafts of the treaty's articles and clauses, nearly all of which are in French. With these, it is possible to trace the course of negotiations through the various changes proposed and accepted by the principal negotiators. The drafts of articles pertain to the wide array of issues addressed in the treaty, including boundary negotiations and the ceding of territory, the privileges of British citizens in areas newly controlled by other nations, trading privileges in the West Indies, fishing rights in Newfoundland, use of wood cut in Central America, the release of prisoners of war, and other topics.
Also included is Manchester's incoming and outgoing correspondence concerning the treaty and negotiations, including several dozen letters from the French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes; a roughly equal number from the Spanish Ambassador to France, Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea, Comte d'Aranda; and 23 letters from British secretary of state for foreign affairs Charles James Fox. Correspondence concerns such issues as possession of the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon and associated fisheries in the north Atlantic, restitutions to be made in India between the English and the French, and minor changes to the wording of the treaty. Correspondence between Manchester and Fox, in particular, reveals the inner workings of the British side of negotiations, including concerns that plenipotentiary David Hartley would "be taken in by [Benjamin] Franklin" and "disgrace both himself and us" (May 15, 1783), and comments on Fox's strong support for Russia and Austria (August 4, 1783). In several letters, Fox comments on specific articles within the treaties.
The collection also has a substantial amount of correspondence relating to diplomacy and European politics, which Manchester received in his position as ambassador. This includes complaints by British citizens about their alleged mistreatment at the hands of the French, such as the seizure of the merchant ship Hereford after it took shelter from a storm in Nantes, France (May 17, 1783), and the capture of the ship Merlin by privateers ([May 1781]). Several of Manchester's colleagues wrote to him about Russian politics and activities, including Sir Robert Murray Keith, who described growing tensions with the Turks (May 30, 1783), and John Collet, who gave an account of the Russian mode of colonizing Crimea, which was to pay Genoan families to settle there (June 2, 1783).
Just 27 letters postdate 1783. These give news of European politics, including information on the Russo-Turkish War, a commercial treaty between France and Portugal (February 2, 1787), and several updates on the movements and activities of the French Navy.
The Letter Books and Map series, 1782-1783, contains four volumes of correspondence and a 1783 map. The first volume contains letters and extracts of correspondence written by Alleyne Fitzherbert to Thomas Robinson, 2nd Baron Grantham (27 letters) and Charles Fox (10 letters). Covering a total of 216 pages, the letters span November 29, 1782, to May 3, 1783. They chiefly concern the peace negotiations, including discussion of the restoration of enemy ships (December 7, 1782), the wording of the treaty's preamble (January 19, 1783), ongoing negotiations relating to territory in India, and numerous associated topics.
The second volume, which covers August 9, 1782, to May 30, 1783, contains letters written by Grantham to Fitzherbert (86 letters) and Fox (7 letters), totaling 427 pages. These letters announce various appointments and refer frequently to peace negotiations. Also included are many drafts of treaty articles.
The third volume is divided into two parts, which cover April 30, 1782, to December 7, 1783. The first part includes 10 letters between Grenville and Fox, and two between Grenville and Shelburne. These contain further discussion of territory negotiations and the demands of the French, Spanish, and Dutch. The second part of the volume has 58 letters with 49 enclosures, written by Manchester to Fox.
The fourth volume contains 67 letters from Fox to Manchester, dated April 29 to December 2, 1783 and occupying 169 pages. In his letters to Manchester, Fox wrote about the Spanish treatment of British citizens, control of the wood trade in Central America, possession of Tobago, and specific treaty articles.
The map, dated 1783, is housed in the Map Division and depicts several rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula.