Second Viscount Charles, an English statesman, born in 1676, died at Rain-ham, Norfolk, June 21, 1738. He succeeded to his title at ten years of age, and soon after taking his seat in the house of peers attached himself to the whigs. In 1706 he was appointed one of the commissioners to treat for the union with Scotland, and in 1707 captain of the yeomen of the queen's guard; and in 1709, in the capacity of ambassador extraordinary to the United Provinces, he negotiated the barrier treaty. The accession of George I. having brought the whigs into power, Townshend was appointed one of the principal secretaries of state, and took the lead in the administration until the summer of 1716, when, owing to the intrigues of his colleagues, Lord Sunderland and Gen. Stanhope, he was dismissed. To break the ignominy of his fall, he was offered the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, which he indignantly declined; but the king, fearing the public displeasure, induced him to accept it. The growing influence of Sunderland and Stanhope with the king rendered the position uncomfortable, and, with his colleague and brother-in-law Walpole, he retired from office in April, 1717. After remaining several years in opposition, he was in 1720 appointed president of the council, and on the reconstruction of the ministry in 1721 he resumed his old position of secretary of state, Walpole becoming first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer.
Finally, displeased with Walpole's growing ascendancy and disputing upon questions of public policy, Townshend resigned, May 15, 1730.
Charles, an English statesman, grandson of the preceding, born Aug. 28, 1725, died Sept. 4, 1767. He entered parliament in 1747, and in 1753 brought himself into notice by a speech of great power and eloquence on the marriage bill. In 1754 he was appointed a lord of the admiralty, and in the first administration of Pitt he was treasurer of the chamber, which office in 1761 he exchanged for that of secretary of war. During the ministry of the earl of Bute he remained out of office, but in that of George Grenville which succeeded (1763), he was appointed first lord of trade and the plantations. He zealously supported Grenville's stamp act, introduced in 1765, in a speech which elicited from Col. Barre in reply one of the most memorable efforts of parliamentary eloquence; but during the Rockingham administration, in which he held the office of paymaster of the forces, he advocated the repeal of the act. On the formation of the second Pitt administration in 1766, he became chancellor of the exchequer, and, with a vacillation which gained him the name of the weathercock, advocated the necessity of a tax upon American ports.
On June 2, 1767, he introduced into the house of commons the celebrated resolutions imposing duties upon paper, tea, and other articles imported into the American colonies, which eventually led to their revolt and independence. The illness of Pitt rendered necessary a reconstruction of the cabinet, and Townshend was generally understood to have been selected to form a new ministry, when he suddenly died.