Downing, Sir George, 1623–84, English diplomat. A nephew of Gov. John Winthrop of Massachusetts, he was educated at Harvard. He returned (1646) to England, joined the parliamentarians, and was appointed (1649) scoutmaster general (chief of intelligence) of the army in Scotland. In 1657, Oliver Cromwell sent him as ambassador to Holland. He made his peace with Charles II in 1660 and received (1663) a baronetcy after betraying three regicides to the government. He was again ambassador to Holland, where his aggressiveness was a factor in the outbreak (1664) of the second Dutch War. From 1667 to 1671, Downing served as secretary to the treasury commission. As head of the customs commission, he went again to The Hague in 1671 but was expelled in 1672. He amassed enormous wealth and owned Downing St., London, which is named for him.
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