Conway, Henry Seymour
CONWAY, HENRY SEYMOUR (1721-1795), English field marshal and statesman, was the second son of Francis Seymour, of Ragley, Warwickshire, who took the name of Conway on succeeding to the estates of the earl of Conway in 1699 and was created Baron Conway in 1703 (see Seymour or St Maur). Henry Seymour Conway's elder brother, Francis, 2nd Baron Conway, was created marquess of Hertford in 1793; his mother was a sister of Sir Robert Walpole's wife, and he was therefore first cousin to Horace Walpole, with whom he was on terms of intimate friendship throughout his life. Having entered the army at an early age, Conway was elected to the Irish parliament in 1741 as member for Antrim, which he continued to represent for twenty years; in the same year he became a member of the English House of Commons, sitting for Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire, and he remained in parliament, representing successively a number of different constituencies, almost without interruption for more than forty years. Meantime he saw much service in the army abroad, where he served with conspicuous bravery and not without distinction. In 1745 he became aide-de-camp to the duke of Cumberland in Germany, and was present at Fontenoy; in the following year he had command of a regiment at Culloden. In 1755 he went to Ireland as secretary to the lord-lieutenant, a position which he held for one year only; and on his return to England he received a court appointment, having already been promoted major-general. In 1757 he was associated with Sir John Mordaunt in command of an abortive expedition against Rochfort, the complete failure of which brought Conway into discredit and involved him in a pamphlet controversy. In 1759 he became lieutenant-general, and served under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in the campaigns of 1761-1763. Returning to England he took part in the debates in parliament on the Wilkes case, in which he opposed the views of the court, speaking strongly against the legality of general warrants. His conduct in this matter highly incensed the king, who insisted on Conway being deprived of his military command as well as of his appointment in the royal household. His dismissal along with other officers was the occasion of another paper controversy in which Conway was defended by Horace Walpole, and gave rise to much constitutional dispute as to the right of the king to remove military officers for their conduct in parliament - a right that was tacitly abandoned by the Crown when the Rockingham ministry of 1765 reinstated the officers who had been removed.
In this ministry Conway took office as secretary of state, with the leadership of the House of Commons. In the dispute with the American colonies his sympathies were with the latter, and in 1766 he carried the repeal of the Stamp Act. When in July of that year Rockingham gave place to Chatham, Conway retained his office; and when Chatham became incapacitated by illness he tamely acquiesced in Townshend's reversal of the American policy which he himself had so actively furthered in the previous administration. In January 1768, offended by the growing influence of the Bedford faction which joined the government, Conway resigned the seals of office, though he was persuaded by the king to remain a member of the cabinet and "Minister of the House of Commons." When, however, Lord North became premier in 1770, Conway resigned from the cabinet and was appointed to the command of the royal regiment of horse guards; and in 1772 he became governor of Jersey, the island being twice invaded by the French during his tenure of command. In 1780 and 1781 he took an active part in opposition to Lord North's American policy, and it was largely as the result of his motion on the 22nd of February in the latter year, demanding the cessation of the war against the colonies, when the ministerial majority was reduced to one, that Lord North resigned office. In the Rockingham government that followed General Conway became commander-in-chief with a seat in the cabinet; and he retained office under Shelburne when Rockingham died a few months later. On Pitt's elevation to the premiership, Conway supported Fox in opposition; but after the dissolution of parliament in 1784 he retired from political life. He was made field marshal in 1793, and died at Henley-on-Thames on the 9th of July 1795. Conway married in 1747 Caroline, daughter of General Campbell (afterwards duke of Argyll), and widow of the earl of Aylesbury. He had one daughter, Anne, who married John Darner, son of Lord Milton, and who inherited a life interest in Strawberry Hill under the will of Horace Walpole.
Conway was personally one of the most popular men of his day. He was handsome, conciliatory and agreeable, and a man of refined taste and untarnished honour. As a soldier he was a dashing officer, but a poor general. He was weak, vacillating and ineffective as a politician, lacking in judgment and decision, and without any great parliamentary talent. In his later years he dabbled in literature and the drama, and interested himself in arboriculture in his retirement at Henley-on-Thames.
See Horace Walpole, Letters, edited by P. Cunningham (9 vols., London, 1857), many of the letters being addressed to Conway; Memoirs of the Last Ten years of the Reign of George II. (2 vols., London, 1822); Memoirs of the Reign of George III., edited by Sir D. le Marchant (4 vols., London, 1845); Journal of the Reign of George III., 1771-1783 (2 vols., London, 1859). See also the duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George III. (4 vols., London, 1853). Much information about Conway will also be found in the biographies of his leading contemporaries, Rockingham, Shelburne, Chatham, Pitt and Fox.
(R. J. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)