The Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney papers contain the official letters of Lord Sydney, spanning his entire political career, as well as material related to his grandfather, Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend (1664-1738); his father, the Honorable Thomas Townshend (1701-1780); and his son, John Thomas Townshend, 2nd Viscount Sydney (1764-1831). Of note is material related to the Shelburne ministry and the Paris peace negotiations at the end of the American Revolutionary War (1782-1783).
The Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney papers (approximately 1,000 items) contain the official papers of Lord Sydney, as well as letters and documents related to his grandfather, Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend (1664-1738); his father, the Honorable Thomas Townshend (1701-1780); and his son, John Thomas Townshend, 2nd Viscount Sydney (1764-1831). The collection is primarily made up of incoming letters and government documents, along with some drafts of letters written by Sydney. Of note is material related to the Shelburne ministry and the Paris peace negotiations (1782-1783).
The Secret Instructions and State Documents relating to the Negotiations for the Independence of America series (51 items) is comprised of two bound volumes of letters and documents. These include letters, reports, negotiation instructions, printed treaty articles, and minutes of the Privy Council, all related to the Peace of Paris that ended the American Revolution. Present are items in the hand of Sydney; William Petty, Lord Shelburne; Henry Seymour Conway; Evan Nepean; Thomas Orde; and Henry Strachey (see Additional Descriptive Data for an index of this material).
The Correspondence and Documents series (approximately 940 items) comprises the bulk of the collection and consists largely of incoming official letters and documents written during Sydney's political career.
The earliest material (1665-1761) relates to the official capacities of Sydney's forebears, Horatio Townshend, Charles Townshend, and the Honorable Thomas Townshend. These papers concern local politics, particularly regardingWhitchurch, as well as international affairs and trade relations with Europe, the West Indies, and America, including issues surrounding the international slave trade. Other topics covered in this period are currency issues in the American colonies, trade issues with Spain and the Spanish-controlled West Indies and South America, and dealings with the South Sea Company.
While the earliest Sydney item is a memo from  concerning French Fishing rights off Newfoundland and Cape Breton, the first substantial grouping of his papers begins in 1762, when Sydney served as clerk of the board of green cloth. The collection documents each of Sydney's subsequent official roles: lord of the treasury (1765-1766), paymaster of the forces under William Pitt and member of the Privy Council (1767-1768), and active opposition voice in the House of Commons (1769-1782). Much of this material is related to Parliamentary responsibilities, trade, and politics concerning the Pay Office. Approximately 200 items relate to Sydney's office in the Shelburne ministry during 1782. Of note are 51 items about the Paris peace negotiations, consisting of letters, secret instructions, official documents, minutes of council meetings, and memoranda, and letters between Shelburne and Sydney on the peace process and other foreign affairs in the Mediterranean, Portugal, and Spain.
Approximately 300 items fall between 1783 and 1789, when Sydney served the Pitt ministry. This material concerns home politics, election news, lawmaking, intelligence from Europe (primarily Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Spain), and British interests in India. The collection contains about 200 items, scattered throughout the collection, concerning the West Indies, including letters, memorials, petitions, and customs documents, many of which relate to the Leeward Islands during the American Revolutionary War, and to the St. Eustatius affair in 1781. Also of note are 16 letters from Sydney to George III, and 12 letters to Sydney from the King, as well as 20 letters from British Secretary of War George Young between 1775 and 1788.
The last 34 items relate to John Thomas Townshend, 2nd Viscount Sydney (1764-1831), covering the period from his father's death in 1800 until 1830. These letters are both social and political in nature. Of note is an 1803 document proposing a new order of knighthood called the "Order of Military Merit."
The series contains 74 undated items. These are ordered by creator's last name, with 39 miscellaneous fragments, documents, poems, essays in Latin, and printed items at the end.
Selected Highlights from the Correspondence and Documents series
Pre-Sydney Material (1665-1761):
- March 11, 1708 and : Petitions from the governors and assemblies of the Leeward Islands and St. Christopher to Queen Anne petitioning for protection from invaders
- Board of Trade to Queen Anne concerning Governor of New York Robert Hunter's proposal to settle 3,000 Palatines in New York and to employ them in the production of naval stores
- March 31, 1724: Auditors to the treasury department reporting on money due Robert Hunter for providing subsistence for the Palatines sent to New York
- : Charles Townshend's "Considerations on the Assiento Contract" and the slave trade in the West Indies
- November 1, 1732: Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount, to Charles Townshend, 3rd Viscount, containing instructions for managing Whitchurch
- October 4, 1733: Lewis Morris to the Great Britain Board of Trade on "Reasons against Paper Currency in New York and New Jersey"
- February 17, 1735: Francis Harrison reporting on politics in New York from the point of view of the "court party"
- January 15, 1736 and : Three items providing opinions on liquor licensing in England
- January 12, 1738: William Richardson concerning the selling of wine to Cambridge University
- : Proposed method "for supplying the Brazills with Negros, & an Encrease of the British Trade and Navigation"
- : "A Plan for Negotiation of a Peace with Spain"
- September 4, 1746: Ferdinand VI to Joseph Ruiz de Noriega, granting trading privileges for trading slaves in the Spanish colonies
- : Remarks on the taking of Fort St. Louis by Admiral Knowles (March 8, 1747/1748)
- September 27, 1751: James Ord to Henry Pelham, inclosing three items, one describing "The Present State of the African Trade particularly with relation to the English Collonys"
- : Petition to George II from Lord Baltimore for consent to "Bar the Entail upon the Province of Maryland"
- : Document on the Settlement of Nova Scotia and Louisbourg by the British
Sydney's early political career (1761-1781):
- May 1-June 10, 1769 and October-December 1772: Intelligence concerning tension between the British and the Caribs ("Black Charibs") of St. Vincent and plans for an expedition against the Caribs
- , May 31, 1772: Report on Puerto Rico for Sir Ralph Payne and a letter from Daniel O'Flaherty related to the island
- February 9, 1774: Power of Attorney relating to High Hall Wentworth's sugar plantation in Grenada
- December 23, 1777: Letter from John Thornton discussing British treatment of prisoners of war and political attitudes toward the American Revolution
- June 9, 1778: British Peace Commissioners to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, concerning peace negotiations, independence, withdrawing the army, and refugees
- July 17, 1779: John Frodsham's "Narrative of the Proceedings of His Majesty's Fleet, under the Command of Vice Admiral Byron from 25th May 1779 to the 15th July 1779" written from St. Kitts
- July 26, 1779: Anonymous letter on the Spanish declaration of war
- November 27, 1779: Letter of support from an anonymous merchant approving Sydney's stand against Lord North in the House of Commons
- : Intelligence on the French Fleet in the West Indies near Jamaica
- : Edward Thomson's estimate of the forces necessary to take Surinam
- July 30, 1781; April 20, 1782; September and October 1782: English translation of "A true and impartial Account of the present State of Peru" and intelligence on a revolt in Peru
Sydney's service in the Shelburne ministry (1782):
- February-July, 1782: Letters from Sir Robert Boyd concerning the siege of Gibraltar and Boyd's procuring of 12 Lamego hams as a prize
- August 7, 1782: James Macabee to Shelburne from the Salopian Coffeehouse, outlining a "plan for an expedition against the Havannah, connected with an idea conducive to pacification with America"
- August 13, 1782: Proposal from Benedict Arnold to Shelburne to fund the construction of a ship of war
- August 24, 1782: John Murray Dunmore, 4th earl of Dunmore, to Sydney containing a proposal to settle displaced Loyalists on the Mississippi River after the American Revolution
- September 4, 1782: Anonymous letter opposing the sending of an ambassador to the Barbary State of Morocco
- [September 1782]: Report translated from the Spanish on a revolt in Peru
Sydney's service in the Pitt ministry (1783-1789):
- : Notes on New England trade
- June 25, 1784: Henry Caldwell to Thomas Townshend, concerning taxes and the Quebec Act's effect on Canada
- July 17, 1784: Intelligence from Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzman, on the state of Spanish settlements in South America
- September 24, 1784: William Pitt to Sydney enclosing a letter from George III to Pitt concerning the East India Company and military forces in India: Document containing "observations on the Statute of 14 Geo: 3 For regulating Madhouses"
- : "Case of an English Subject at the Capture of Saint Eustatius by Lord Rodney and General Vaughan in the year 1781"
- : Document containing a "Comparative View of the Trade to Jamaica from the Continent of America in the years 1784 & 1785 and before the War"
- January 9, 1786: Marquis de Lafayette to John Adams dealing with trade between American and French merchants
- June 28, 1786: Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Henry Hope to Evan Nepean concerning Canadian politics and governance
- July 5, 1786: Documents and copies of letters from Sir George Brydges Rodney, commander in chief of the West Indies to the Secretary of the Navy, concerning St. Eustatius and the Leeward Islands, and from William Knox on the St. Eustatius Bill
- June 30, 1788: Thomas de Grey to Sydney concerning William Pitt's slave bill
- December 3, 1788 and : Resolution from the Privy Council containing the record of examination by George III's physicians of his illness and a report on the medical treatment given to the King
- March 1, 1789: Report from "Speculator A" to Sydney concerning corruption in Cape Breton
- April 9, 1789: Richard Downing Jennings account of the proceedings of Lord Rodney and General Vaughan at St. Eustatius
- June 6, 1789: Statement for Sydney's secret service-related accounts
- May 28, 1790: George Townshend memorandum to the House of Lords concerning the importation of personal property by subjects of the United States
- November 20, 1792: Sydney to unknown concerning the French character and the French role in the American Revolution
- Memorial from John Blankett regarding establishing a colony for convicts on Madagascar
- Extracts from Captain Arthur Phillip's diary detailing affairs with diamond mining in Brazil
- William Townshend to Nicholas Hawksmoor containing a brief note and a detailed pencil sketch of the doorway in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford
- Sydney's notes on the economy of New England
- Miscellaneous document: Observations on a bill to regulate distillers
- Miscellaneous document: On the status of St. Lucia
- Miscellaneous document: On the status of Surinam in the 17th century
The Additional Items series (3 items) consists of an account book, a legal report, and a legal document. The account book documents governmental expenses for secret services during the American Revolution, many of which are disbursements for Evan Nepean (1782-1791). The legal report concerns an inquiry into Edward Lascelles, collector of customs in Barbados, by Surveyor General Robert Dinwiddie (c.1745). The final item is a "Deed of trust" for land and slaves owned by Henry Compton and others in St. Kitts Island.