Lord Dartmouth (3): The American Revolution and Politics

Part II: Lord Dartmouth and the American Revolution

This part of the research paper is specifically interested in examining Lord Dartmouth’s connection to the world of politics and particularly to his time serving as the Secretary of State to the Colonies from 1772 – 1775. It is not the purpose of this section to give a history of the American conflict during 1772 – 1775, for that has been done in many places already. Rather, by narrating the history of some of Dartmouth’s political involvement it is the hope that something of character can be established, especially in regard to his political policies. Thus, this section will seek to argue that Dartmouth’s policies and character during this period have a direct connection to his evangelicalism.

Lack of Political Interest

As has been established Lord Dartmouth was regarded by all his acquaintances as a man of great religious piety. Yet, it also seems to be the common consent of many historians that he had very little interest and competence in politics. Bargar writes that “He [Lord Dartmouth] was not very much interested in political matters, but preferred to devote his time to his family and his philanthropy.”[1] Peter Marshall writes that Dartmouth displayed “virtually no interest in political questions” and only accepted the offer of the presidency of the Board of Trade “after characteristic demurrals and consultations.”[2] William Page writes that “Dartmouth will . . . be . . . remembered . . . above all as a philanthropist and supporter of Wesley and the Evangelical movement”[3] and thus not remembered primarily as a politician.

 How did Dartmouth ever enter the World of Politics?

Hence, the question that needs to be answered is: how did Dartmouth ever enter the world of politics and how was he possibly appointed to the prestigious and exalted position of Secretary of State to the Colonies? As will be shown, the primary reasons for his involvement in the political affairs of the country seem to be the result of past favours owed and family connections and obligations.

Appointment to Board of Trade as Part of the Rockingham Administration

Although Dartmouth took up his seat in the House of Lords on May 31, 1754, his political career really started in July 1765 when he was offered the presidency of the Board of Trade in the Rockingham administration.[4] Dartmouth’s response to the offer was less than enthusiastic. He stated that he had “never entertained a serious thought of taking part in administration.”[5] He requested that Rockingham would grant him more time to consider the proposal, “but if the urgency of the case should require an immediate determination, I beg your Lordship will consider me as having declined employment.”[6]

It is at this point that the Duke of Newcastle interfered. He was getting rather concerned about the stability of the Rockingham administration and was quite desirous for Dartmouth to accept the position. He urged Dartmouth to take the presidency of the Board of Trade based upon “appeals to duty, former friendship and the implication of past favours.”[7] He also used flattery and wrote in a post-script to Dartmouth,

That in the present state of our plantations, and new acquisitions in America, a man of your Lordship’s most excellent character and known disinterestedness is more wanted at the head of the Board of Trade than in any other station in his Majesty’s service; and this makes it in my opinion incumbent upon you to accept it.[8]

All these reasons persuaded the reluctant Dartmouth to accept the position on the Board of Trade.

Guilt upon Association: Repeal of the Stamp Act and American Support

Quite ironically it was Dartmouth’s brief and reluctant time in the Rockingham administration (1765 – 1766) that would in many ways help secure American support for his appointment to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. In 1765 the controversial Stamp Act was adopted by the English government (proposed by George Grenville and his supporters[9]) and put into practice in the American colonies. The American colonies despised the Stamp Act because of their belief that the British parliament had no right to tax the colonies without their consent.[10] In order to prevent growing dissatisfaction in America and return the colonies to some measure of peace, the Rockingham Ministry began to work towards repealing the Stamp Act. It was Rockingham’s “own hesitation to speak in public [that] drew Dartmouth more and more into the limelight.”[11] So it was Dartmouth’s work in the repeal of the Stamp Act that earned him the reputation as a friend of the colonies.[12]

Indeed, after Dartmouth managed to repeal the Stamp Act, the flood of support Dartmouth got from the colonies is quite astounding. He was showered with letters and gifts. Indeed, “The House of Representatives in Massachusetts voted unanimously to thank Dartmouth for his ‘noble and generous patronage of the British colonies.’”[13] So Dartmouth was considered a friend of the colonies based upon association with the administration that helped repeal the Stamp Act, not necessarily based upon any sound understanding of Dartmouth’s true thoughts regarding the American problem.

A Good Work Ethic

While Dartmouth may not have been very politically ambitious he was nevertheless quite dedicated to his political labours. He “attended one hundred twenty-five meetings during his term, missing only three.”[14] This dedication to his employment coincided with his ardent desire to do a good job. However, this noble desire led to Dartmouth’s growing frustration with his position. He began “to feel cramped in his new office. . . . [For he was] expected to deal with a large number of complex problems, [yet] he lacked the power to initiate or implement policies.”[15] Part of the problem here was “Burke’s policy of alliance between political and mercantile leaders [which] allowed the merchants to exercise a great deal of initiative in commercial matters.”[16] This took authority out of the hands of the Board of Trade and into the hands of the merchants. Dartmouth believed the only solution to such a frustration was to grant the Board of Trade the position of a Secretaryship. However, that was never granted and Dartmouth eventually resigned from his position because of this.

Resignation from Board of Trade

This resignation in 1766 was not met with much satisfaction on the part of Dartmouth’s acquaintances. It appears he had gained a reputation among his fellow politicians as being easy and sympathetic to work with. Dartmouth himself stated in a letter to Dennys DeBerdt (the American agent for Massachusetts[17]) that his time in the Board of Trade was one of most agreeable employment.[18] He continued the letter by stating:

notwithstanding the late excesses, I believe there are many [Americans] possessed of sound and sober principles both of religion and government, and . . . I should always have been happy to have assisted in promoting every wish they could reasonably form consistent with that subjection to the supreme authority of the Mother Country, upon which I think their own as well as our welfare and prosperity much depend.  I should have been glad to have continued on any footing that would have put it in my power to be of real use, but after having been refused the only thing that in my opinion could have enabled me to be of any service, without the offer of any other method of removing my difficulties, I thought it best to withdraw.[19]

This quote is extremely important in understanding Dartmouth’s policies when it came to the years immediately preceding the American Revolution. This quote firmly establishes Dartmouth’s strong contention that the parliament must be submitted to: that the parliament held authority over the American colonies. It also shows that the American colonies misunderstood Dartmouth’s true thoughts with how they were to be treated.

Appointment to Secretary of State to the Colonies

In 1770, Dartmouth’s step-brother, Lord Frederick North became Prime Minister. This proved crucial in Dartmouth’s appointment to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1772, for when Lord Weymouth resigned from this position in 1771, Dartmouth was asked to fill it by his step-brother. Once again, Dartmouth was most reluctant to accept the position, prompting King George to write to Lord North that “It gives me much pleasure that Lord Dartmouth has desired time to consider whether he will accept the seals of the Secretary of State, as it shows that inclination to any service that gives me personal satisfaction when it comes from a man of his excellent character.”[20] However, much to the disappointment and anger of Dartmouth’s step-father, Lord Guilford, he declined the position. Guilford wrote Dartmouth a rather harsh letter saying,

The more I reflect upon your refusal yesterday the more I am vexed. To have you appear to the world wanting in duty and regard to the King, love to your country, friendship to Lord North, and affection to me, is what I thought I should never live to see. I am too much hurt to talk upon the subject, and hope we shall never name it.[21]

However, Dartmouth eventually found himself accepting the position in 1772. Lord North was in a political crisis and desperately needed Dartmouth’s support and guidance. Without Dartmouth’s acceptance of a position in North’s ministry, North would most likely lose his position to the Bedford group.[22] So North wrote Dartmouth again and told him:

I can venture to assure you that His Majesty’s sentiments towards you are such as will make him accept the proposal with joy. You know the nature of the American Department much better than I do, and that it is upon the footing where you formerly wished to see it. You can not, I think, doubt of my earnest wish to have you within the service of the Crown, in a situation becoming your rank, abilities, and character, and you must be sensible how much I stand in need of your friendship and assistance upon the present occasion. . . . [If] you decline my proposition, you will certainly distress [me], if not the public service. . . . Let me conjure you not to send me a refusal, til you have seen me, and considered what I have to say.[23]

Thus, Dartmouth found himself once again faced with the urging of his close friend and brother, Lord North, to accept a position in government. The fact that he did not refuse this time is possibly due to the response he got the last time he refused. So once again Dartmouth only accepted a political position after he was pressured to by friends and family.

 Three Brief Case Studies of Dartmouth’s Policies towards British North America during His Time as Colonial Secretary in 1772

Dartmouth had a lot to deal with immediately upon entrance to the office. His predecessor left him to deal with three major issues in British North America: the Gaspée incident, Western expansion, and the Quebec Problem.

Gaspée Incident

Dartmouth’s response to the Gaspée Incident[24] was considered by the Americans to be balanced and tactful. While the English government called for the accused to be sent to Britain for trial, Dartmouth disagreed, wishing for them rather to be tried in the Americas.[25] Although the Commission of Inquiry failed to bring about accusations Dartmouth was congratulated by an American clergyman for being able to steer clear of the legal and social difficulties that would have arisen had there been a successful conviction.[26]

Westward Expansion

Dartmouth, in general, was favourable to the policy of westward expansion. This is primarily from his belief that expansion could not in any way realistically stopped.[27] So being a man who believed in order, he held that there should be rules and regulations regarding any westward expansion, in order that the natives be protected.[28] So out of concern for the natives, Dartmouth began working on the formation of a new colony: Pittsylvania.[29] However, due to the tumultuous affairs during Dartmouth’s term in office this plan never came to realization.

That being said, the overall picture during his first year in office was rather discouraging. As Bargar writes,

the conclusion of Dartmouth’s first year in the American Department present a discouraging picture. Failure and disappointment characterize the major aspects of his policy. He favored regular and orderly expansion of the settled areas of America, but the delaying tactics of the law officers and the violence of the Bostonians had prevented him from reversing Hillsborough’s anti-expansionist policy. . . . His policy of delay, in order to allow tempers to cool, proved ineffective [speaking of Dartmouth’s response to the Massachusetts’s Petition]. At the end of his first year in office, Britain and her colonies were as far from accommodation and compromise as they had been under Hillsborough’s administration.[30]

Furthermore, as Dartmouth’s true convictions became known to the Americans, more and more people began to question his abilities. Benjamin Franklin wrote to his son in July 1772 expressing concerns about Dartmouth’s true policy in regard to the colonies. He wrote,

Lord Dartmouth is truly a good man, and wishes sincerely a good understanding with the colonies, but does not seem to have the strength equal to his wishes. Between you and me the late measures have been, I suspect, very much the King’s own, and he has in some cases a great share of what his friends call firmness.[31]

Franklin was not alone in his sentiment either. Apparently, a colonial newspaper published “a letter, signed ‘an American,’ calling upon Dartmouth to resign, since ‘moral honesty’ was no substitute for ‘political virtue.’”[32] So more and more the pious character of Lord Dartmouth was recognized as not being analogous to effective policy making.

 Quebec Act

The colonial anger against Dartmouth only grew when he began supporting the Quebec Act. Dartmouth was very much involved in the writing of the Quebec Act and did not intend for it to be viewed as one of the “Intolerable Acts.” Lawson writes that it was nothing more than a coincidence of timing that this happened.[33] Rather, it was Dartmouth’s primary desire to meet the needs of the French Canadians, securing their loyalty and happiness.[34] The Quebec Act essentially provided four things that the Thirteen Colonies had objection to: extended boundaries, arbitrary government, a foreign law code, and an established Roman Catholic Church (a symbol of oppression and tyranny).[35] While Dartmouth’s intentions were honourable in the creation of the Quebec Act, the displeasure of the American colonies is clearly seen in a letter that Joseph Reed (a lawyer and delegate to the Continental Congress) wrote Dartmouth. In it he says:

The idea of bringing down the Canadians and savages upon the English Colonies is so inconsistent not only with mercy but justice and humanity of the Mother Country, that I cannot allow myself to think that your lordship would promote the Quebec Bill, or give it your suffrage with such intentions. Should it unhappily be applied in this way, it will wound the feelings of every man in this country so sensibly that I doubt whether any future accommodations or length of time would obliterate it.[36]

Dartmouth’s support of the Quebec Act certainly begs some questions. One major questions is: how could Dartmouth being a Protestant evangelical support the Quebec Act? How could he grant legal rights to a religion that he completely disagreed with?

There are a couple of things to consider when answering that question. First, it must be remembered that Dartmouth was not the only person involved in the writing of the Quebec Bill. While it was his primary duty to present it before the House of Lords, he did not write it all by himself.[37] Second, Lawson argues that Quebec presented a major problem for the British government. A major factor here was the “size of population conquered, and its well established civil and religious institutions.”[38] Governor Murray recognized the problems this presented when he requested that the Canadians be allowed, “’a very few privileges which the laws of England do not allow Catholics at home’ or their loyalty would always be in doubt, and governing them an impossible task.”[39] Thus, those in charge of the Quebec problem had a major issue on their hands, it was not simply an issue of pro-Catholicism or anti-Catholicism. Dartmouth had to secure the happiness and loyalty of the Canadian people. Bargar writes that

As early as December, 1772, Dartmouth had decided that it might be necessary to admit ‘some episcopal authority under proper restrictions’ for the Catholic Church in Canada. . . . ‘to conciliate their [the Canadiens’] affections and to create that attachment to and dependence on the British’ government upon which the safety and prosperity of the colony depended.’[40]

Therefore, Dartmouth did not view the Canadian issue just as a religious issue, but more as a political and security issue. Thus, Dartmouth, as a Protestant evangelical, could support a bill that granted religious tolerance to Catholicism.

 Lord Dartmouth’s Policy Philosophy toward the British Colonies between 1772 – 1775

Parliamentary Supremacy

Dartmouth was certainly a man of principle. This is especially seen in the several beliefs that drive Dartmouth’s policies (as evidenced in the above-mentioned case studies). One of them quite obviously is parliamentary supremacy. Indeed, this is the great driving force behind Lord Dartmouth’s policies during his time as Colonial Secretary. Bargar writes that “in his view of the constitution, the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy was essential; therefore, laws passed by Parliament had to be obeyed, whether they provided for colonial revenue or something else.”[41]

According to Dartmouth, this interpretation of parliamentary supremacy was a foundational key to the whole understanding of government. Without the supremacy of parliament, society (i.e. the First British Empire) was bound to crumple. Thus, Dartmouth very clearly believed in the importance of hierarchy in society, not only in the government of the church (recall what was written about him regarding Anglicanism), but also in the government of human society. Bargar writes that,

Dartmouth considered the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy as the keystone of the imperial arch; without it the empire would disintegrate. From his point of view, a colonial legislature must either acknowledge a subordinate position or else it would become entirely independent. It was illogical and unreasonable, he believed, for a provincial assembly to claim a divided sovereignty. The possible solutions to the problem, a federal empire or a system of responsible government, were equally foreign to the constitutional principles of the Eighteenth-Century.[42]

Therefore, Dartmouth had a major issue with the actions of the American colonies when they worked outside of the current government institutions and created their own extra-legal Congress.[43] In a letter to Thomas Cushing, the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Dartmouth expresses how he could never agree with that Assembly’s unconstitutional principles. The Earl stated that they were “wild and extravagant doctrines . . .  which appear to me so utterly inconsistent with any pretension to a share in the privileges and advantages of British subjects, that I could never subscribe to them. . . .”[44]

A Policy of Conciliation

Dartmouth, not surprisingly, was most interested in conciliation when it came to British North America. He did not purposefully work to isolate the Americans, nor did he work to further antagonize them. Yet, he had a relatively realistic picture of the situation: conciliation, in the end, may not be possible as all. Dartmouth wrote his under-secretary, William Knox, expressing such,

I rather wish than expect a settlement of our differences upon the ground that can be given, and though both sides will have a great way to go before they will be within the sound of each other’s voice, it is not impossible that they may come near enough to shake hands at last. If they mean to admit duties for regulation of trade, and will add to that a revenue for the support of civil government, and such military force as they shall themselves desire to have among them, I think we may soon be agreed. God send that day as soon as may be.[45]

The Policy of Firmness

While Parliament supported a policy of firmness in regard to the actions of the colonies, Dartmouth tended to hold to the principle of limited firmness. Some wondered how Dartmouth could support such a policy. Joseph Reed “expected that Dartmouth would resign, rather than ‘dip his hands in blood.’ He could not understand how Dartmouth could remain a member of a government which had adopted coercion as a policy.”[46] Yet, it must be remembered that Dartmouth’s position was a difficult one. While he found warfare distasteful[47], he could not easily act outside of the wishes of parliament. There was in fact a “strong faction in the government and in Parliament [that] preferred to force colonial submission, rather than bargain with ‘rebels.’”[48]

Ultimately, Dartmouth believed that limited coercion would “prevent bloodshed by overwhelming the radical leaders of the mob. At the same time, it would strengthen the determination of those elements variously described as the ‘better sort’ or the ‘right thinking’ colonists.”[49]

Lord Dartmouth’s Difficulties with the Office

It would perhaps be an understatement to say that Dartmouth’s office was a high-stress job, especially for a man of his character and sensibilities. One especially gets a sense that he did not find the job easy when reading what John Newton writes him in the Cardiphonia Letters. Numerous letters contain encouragement for Dartmouth to work in that office as the servant of the Lord, reminding him that he, as a Christian, had a special duty in that office.

In December 1772, Newton wrote Dartmouth stating,

It is given to your Lordship to act from nobler principles, and with more enlarged views. You serve a Master, of whose favour, protection, and assistance you cannot be deprived, who will not overlook or misconstrue the smallest service you attempt for Him, who will listen to no insinuations against you, who is always near to comfort, direct and strengthen you, and who is preparing for you such honours and blessings as He only can give, an inheritance (the reverse of all earthly good) . . . . Thus animated and thus supported, assisted likewise by the prayers of thousands, may we not warrantably hope that your Lordship will be an instrument of great good, and that both church and state will be benefited by your example, counsel, and care? . . . His [i.e. the godly man’s] time is divided between serving his country in public and wrestling for it in private.[50]

In June 1773, Newton wrote Dartmouth again congratulating him that God has been pleased to appoint him, whose “honours and privileges” came for Him only, to “an elevated rank.”[51] He concludes his letter reminding Dartmouth that his citizenship is not on the earth, but rather in heaven and so he ought to seek the delight and pleasure of the Lord, not of men.[52]

One also gets the sense that Dartmouth felt alone in his office and so Newton likens Dartmouth’s situation to that of Abdiel, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Thus, he writes,

You are not indeed called to serve God quite alone; but amongst those of your own rank, and with whom the station in which He has placed you necessitates you to converse, how few are there who can understand, second, or approve, the principles upon which you act, or easily bear a conduct which must impress conviction or reflect dishonour upon themselves! But you are not alone; the Lord’s people (many of whom you will not know till you meet them in glory) are helping you here with their prayers.[53]

Later in 1775, Newton reminds Dartmouth of the sovereignty of God over all human affairs and that God is using him as an instrument for good and the spread of the gospel. For example, Newton reminds Dartmouth that it was only due to Dartmouth’s political influence that he himself got into the service of the church and that has led to the salvation of several individuals.[54]

How Does Dartmouth’s Evangelicalism Connect to His Policies?

That all being said, it is now time to consider the question: does Dartmouth’s evangelicalism connect in any way to his policy making?

A major way that Dartmouth’s evangelicalism shaped his policies was in the way that he conducted himself. He was the “good Lord Dartmouth” as the American patriot, Samuel Adams, referred to him.[55] It should be remembered that Benjamin Franklin considered him almost too polite for the job: he was too gentle and timid. Others considered him too “morally honest” for the work of politics.

That being said it should be pointed out that Dartmouth was already considered a radical in his support of evangelicalism and thus one cannot argue that he just towed the party line when it came to his support of parliamentary supremacy. He may have been considered a political conservative, but he was in many ways revolutionary when it came to his support of radical preachers such a George Whitefield. Indeed, Dartmouth was looked down by many in upper society because of his religious convictions. He was addressed by the Opposition as the “Psalm-Singer.”[56] He was refused a position in the royal household, “on the grounds that ‘so sanctimonious a man should gain too far on his Majesty’s piety.’”[57] Even his own family disagreed with his religious sentiments. His Uncle, Henry Legge, took particular issue here. Faith Cook writes,

Disowned and treated with contempt by some of his high-ranking relatives, particularly his uncle, Henry Legge, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Dartmouth appealed to the Countess [of Huntingdon] to try to effect some reconciliation. Her words to his family eased the situation to such an extent that his relatives even came to her Park Street home to hear Whitefield preach.[58]

Thus, it can never be stated that Dartmouth supported parliamentary supremacy because he was afraid of what others would think of him. He rather held to this belief because he viewed it as a core principle of government.

Lord Dartmouth’s Revolutionary Attitudes with Respect to the Established Church

The topics of Dartmouth’s religious persecution and conservative policy making prompt the question: how revolutionary was Dartmouth when it can to his religious sentiments?[59] Lord Dartmouth’s radical evangelicalism is seen in his support of radical clergymen like John Newton and George Whitefield, even encouraging work outside of the Church of England and possibly condemned by the Church. This is conveyed in two letters particularly. In 1768, Lord Dartmouth wrote the Countess of Huntingdon expressing the displeasure of a certain rector upon the preaching of Mr. Downing. He writes,

The rector was so displeased with Mr. Downing preaching, and the great crowds that flocked to hear him, that he excluded him from the pulpit after three or four sermons, and refused to admit Mr. Stillingfleet, though I said everything I could to induce him to do so. Since then I have opened my house, but find it too small for the numbers who solicit permission to attend. I hope shortly we shall have a large place, for I have no hopes of again obtaining the use of the parish church.[60]

This shows a Dartmouth that is not afraid to work outside the established institutes, even to the extent of allowing rebels for the gospel to preach at his very own house.

Shortly after this occurrence, Dartmouth engaged in more evangelically rebellious activities by attending upon the preaching of George Whitefield, conducted immediately outside a church, due to barred entrance. Aaron Seymour writes that

Mr. Whitefield came to Cheltenham, and notice of his arrival having been circulated by Lord Dartmouth, an immense crowd collected from all parts, expecting he would preach in the church. At the time appointed, Mr. Whitefield, attended by Lord and Lady Dartmouth, Messrs. Madan, Venn, Talbot, and Downing, arrived at the church door, and finding it closed, Mr. Whitefield stood upon a tombstone and addressed a most attentive multitude from ‘Ho! Everyone that thirsteth.[61]

Yet, this radicalism is contrasted quite starkly by some of Dartmouth’s concerns with opinions expressed by John Newton regarding the government of the church. It seems that Newton requested that Dartmouth proofread a manuscript of a book that he wrote on the subject of church history. Dartmouth seemingly gave his reply and Newton wrote to him saying that he had “corrected what . . . [he] had wrote upon the government of the primitive church, with a pair of scissors, not a bit here and there, but . . . [he] cut out every line of it.”[62] It turns out that Newton had argued in this censored section that the government of the early church was at odds with the government of the Church of England. It not clear for what exact reasons Dartmouth discouraged Newton from expressing such sentiments, but it seems to be primarily because in doing so, Newton would be disagreeing with the church in which he was ministering.[63]

This leads to the ultimate conclusion that while Dartmouth did not have a problem acting outside the Church of England, he could not completely support separation from it. This is perhaps evidenced most sharply by the fact that he remained a sincere member of the Church of England all his life, while his close friend, the Countess of Huntingdon, eventually became a Dissenter.[64]

The Response of Other Evangelicals to the American Problem

Dartmouth’s attitudes towards the Established Church demonstrate that he was not afraid of being somewhat revolutionary when it came to the institutions of society, yet he remained balanced regarding his actions. The question that now must be answered is: how did other evangelicals view the American Revolution? Did they agree with Dartmouth’s policies? One may get the wrong assumption that all evangelicals supported the principles of the American Revolution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, as will be shown, the answer is not quite as simple as that.

John Newton

For example, John Newton was running into problems due to his supposed favourable attitude towards the Americas. It is unclear how much he truly supported them, but his sentiments were radical enough for him to be accused of being pro-revolutionary. Bruce Hindmarsh states that

By the autumn the attendance [at the Olney Chapel] had dropped to about forty, but the meeting was still spirited enough to draw the notice of some who accused Newton and his people of siding improperly with the Americans. On I October Newton preached a patriotic sermon in his defence, but the following February the accusation still had enough currency that he was forced to write to Lord Dartmouth to explain that he was not meddling in politics or complaining against the government.[65]

John Newton is a complex character on this issue. As noted above, he writes several letters to Dartmouth that encourage him in his office, calling him to remember his important position in that office, especially as a Christian. Yet Newton never tells Dartmouth that the Americans should be reconciled or be granted their own legislative or political autonomy. So perhaps the conclusion can be drawn that while he may have been sentimental to the American problem, he was not a full-fledged supporter of the Revolution.

 John Wesley

That is contrasted by John Wesley’s very pro-revolutionary attitude. A quote from one of his letters in 1775 to Lord Dartmouth will be enough to demonstrate his position regarding the rebelling colonies:

All my prejudices are against the Americans, for I am an High Churchman, the son of an High Churchmen, bred up from my childhood in the highest notions of passive obedience and non-resistance; and yet in spite of all my rooted prejudice, I cannot avoid thinking (if I think at all) that an oppressed people asked for nothing more than their legal rights and that in the most modest and inoffensive manner which the nature of thing would allow.[66]

John Thornton

However, Dartmouth, as an evangelical, was not alone in his sentiments regarding parliamentary supremacy. John Thornton (an evangelical and British merchant) seems to agree with Dartmouth’s convictions of firmness and parliamentary supremacy. He writes on August 14, 1773,

When the righteous are in authority, the people have just reason to rejoice and to expect a blessing for righteousness exalteth a nation and it’s the general departure from God that brings a reproach upon us and affords just ground of fear. The minds being exasperated on both sides appears to be the greatest difficulty in America: it seems desirable (if practicable) to remove the persons that are so obnoxious to the province however unjustly, as in some measure it might facilitate a reconciliation; for surely a steady, considerate, judicious Governor might be found that would have the good of the province at heart and yet be becomingly firm where needful: and, with some discretionary power, he might yield or not in less interesting matters as he found expedient, an appearance of yielding in non-essentials some times has a great sway, and if the substance can be secured and unanimity restored it may be safer to give up the shadow.[67]

Nor is this whole issue a matter of Established Church versus the Dissenters. Anglicans supported the revolution and Dissenters could also be loyalists.[68] Just because Dartmouth was an Anglican does not mean that he supported the British cause. Noll writes that while “the most visible spokesmen for a Christian loyalism were members of the Church of England . . . at least a few loyalists could also be found among the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Baptists.”[69]


Therefore, in conclusion to this section, it is possible to state two things regarding Dartmouth based upon the evidence discussed.

First, Lord Dartmouth’s evangelicalism did affect his political work, but perhaps not in the way one would expect. It mostly affected the way in which he looked at situations and reacted to them. He was regarded as a morally outstanding individual. He was one who could be trusted, yet not one who could think creatively to affect a solution regarding the colonies. Nor is that necessarily something that Dartmouth can be blamed for. He was a man of his time and thus parliamentary supremacy mattered a great deal to him and many others.

Further, Dartmouth worked in his office as a Christian, as evidenced by Newton’s letters to him. One should recall their close friendship when considering this. These were not simply the ramblings of some over zealous preacher, but rather Dartmouth truly desired these letters. In fact, Newton’s letters are often the result of questions or topics that Dartmouth has suggested he answer or write upon. Thus, Dartmouth certainly did not make the distinction between private religion and public life.

Second, the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy was certainly not something that defined whether one was an evangelical. Indeed, many evangelicals supported the authority of parliament. Although John Wesley may have supported the Colonies, that does not mean that all evangelicals shared his beliefs. Being an evangelical does not shape one’s political views one way or the other on this subject. Dartmouth could very easily be an evangelical and against the American Revolution.

























[1] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 15

[2] Peter Marshall, “William Legge” (Accessed December 1, 2016)

[3] William Page, HMC Vol. III, viii

[4] Colin Bonwick, “Introduction to The American Papers of the Second Earl of Dartmouth” in The American Papers of the Second Earl of Dartmouth. (Wakefield: Microform Academic Publishers, 1993), 1

[5] Quoted in Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 21

[6] Quoted in ibid

[7] Speaking of their long friendship since Dartmouth’s Grand Tour in 1752. Ibid, 22

[8] Quoted in ibid

[9] Phillip Lawson, “George Grenville and America: The Years of Opposition, 1765 – 1770” in A Taste for Empire and Glory: Studies in British Overseas Expansion, 1660 – 1800. (Vermont: Variorum, 1997), VII, 561

[10] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 26

[11] Ibid, 31

[12] Bonwick, “Introduction to The American Papers of the Second Earl of Dartmouth”, 2

[13] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 33

[14] Ibid, 36

[15] Ibid, 40

[16] Ibid

[17] B.F. Stevens, HMC Vol. II, vi

[18] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 42

[19] Quoted in ibid

[20] Quoted in ibid, 52 – 53

[21] Quoted in ibid, 53

[22] Ibid, 56

[23] Quoted in ibid, 56 – 57

[24] The burning of a British patrol ship by inhabitants of Rhode Island. Peter Marshall, “William Legge” (Accessed March 30, 2017)

[25] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 78

[26] Ibid, 81

[27] Ibid, 70

[28] Ibid, 70

[29] Stevens, HMC Vol. II, x

[30] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 93 – 94

[31] Quoted in ibid, 88

[32] Quoted in ibid, 91

[33] Lawson, “A Perspective on British History and The Treatment of Quebec” in A Taste for Empire and Glory, V, 256

[34] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 118

[35] Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. (Michigan: William Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992), 125

[36] Quoted in Historical Manuscripts Commission: Report XI, Appendix, Part V. (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1887), 363

[37] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 119

[38] Lawson, “The Treatment of Quebec”, V, 263

[39] Ibid, 265

[40] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 127

[41] Ibid, 85

[42] Ibid, 92

[43] Ibid, 157

[44] Quoted in ibid, 89

[45] Quoted in ibid, 154

[46] Ibid, 109

[47] Bonwick, “Introduction to The American Papers of the Second Earl of Dartmouth”, 2

[48] Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 146

[49] Ibid, 109

[50] John Newton, Cardiphonia of the Utterance of the Heart. (London: Morgan and Scott LD, 1911), 37

[51] Ibid, 44

[52] Ibid, 45

[53] Ibid, 66

[54] Ibid, 101

[55] Stevens, HMC Vol. II, ix

[56] Nathaniel Wraxall, The Historical and the Posthumous Memoirs of Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall, 1772 – 1784 Vol. III. (London: Bickers and Son, 1884), 268

[57] Quoted in Bargar, Lord Dartmouth, 11

[58] Cook, Selina, 125

[59] Here the focus is not necessarily on the theological differences, but rather the actual activities Dartmouth engaged in that would be viewed as against the Church of England.

[60] Seymour, The Life and Times of Selina Vol. I, 429

[61] Ibid

[62] Quoted in HMC Vol. III, 189

[63] Hindmarsh, John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition, 318

[64] Bebbington, Evangelicalism, 29

[65] Hindmarsh, John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition, 202

[66] Quoted in HMC, Report XI, 379

[67] Tyson and Schlenther, In the Midst of Early Methodism, 255 – 256

[68] P. J. Marshall, “Transatlantic Protestantism and American Independence” in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History Vol. 36, No. 3, (September, 2008), 350

[69] Noll, A History of Christianity, 122

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