1709 - 1778 (68 years)
Has more than 100 ancestors and 5 descendants in this family tree.
||William Pitt |
||Earl Prime Minister |
||"the elder" |
||15 Sep 1709
||11 May 1778
||Westminster Abbey, London, Middlesex, England
||This person is also William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham at Wikipedia |
||17 Jan 2003 |
||William Pitt, "the elder"|
Detail of a portrait of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, by William Hoare. Part of the Carnegie…
- 1st Earl of Chatham; second son and fourth of seven children
William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, known as 'the Great Commoner', dominated the political scene influencing government from within and without. He is remembered for his vocal criticism of harsh British policy levied against the American colonies and his skills as a wartime leader during the Seven Years' War.
He entered Parliament in 1735 at the age of 27 after attending Oxford. He gained attention by leading the Patriot faction in opposition to prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, but his skills at oratory did not establish for him a power base. His first office was as paymaster-general,1746, where he made a name for himself by his honesty and failure to take financial advantage of the office. Discouraged by his lack of progress within government, he turned to criticizing the Duke of Newcastle, and his government's war policy, resulting in his dismissal in 1755. After Newcastle resigned in 1756, Pitt formed a government with George Grenville and the Duke of Devonshire. Pitt and Grenville argued over the administration of the war and in April, 1757, King George II dismissed Pitt. After several months with virtually no government, Pitt was recalled to government at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War to form a coalition government with Newcastle.
Pitt served very effectively as a wartime prime minister with Newcastle attending to domestic affairs. He sent a strengthened British fleet to blockade French ports and provided supplies to Frederick the Great of Prussia. His policies resulted in victory over the French in India and Canada and on the seas. He sought to continue the war until France was completely defeated, and broaden the war by declaring against Spain. He met with opposition by other ministers and disagreement by George III. He resigned in 1761 and spent the next five years criticizing the government. He called the 1763 Peace of Paris "too lenient", encouraged criticism of the House of Commons and denounced British policy toward the American colonies gaining him a following both at home and in the colonies.
Second Ministry (1766-68)
In July, 1766, Pitt was recalled to form and lead another coalition government. This time, he met with little success as prime minister. He entered the House of Lords as Earl of Chatham which proved a disaster. His government was unable to deal with the problems in America; he supported the Americans against the king, but was not for independence; and in fact, proved incapable of governing at home as well. His most loyal ministers resigning around him, Pitt fell into depression and resigned his office October 1768.
Pitt did not leave the political arena. He continued to speak out against British policy in the colonies and fight for parliamentary reform, but he gained little following. He was a statesman, not a politician. He collapsed in the Lords speaking out against the withdrawal of troops from the colonies and died a month later in 1778 at the age of 70.
1757 - Frederick the Great is victorious at Prague over the Austrians. General Robert Clive establishes British rule in India with victories in Bengal, Calcutta and Plassey. The first public concert is held in Philadelphia. "The London Chronicle" comes on the scene.
1758 - The Seven Years' War continues. East Prussia is held by the Russians. The Prussians blockade Olmutz. The British take Louisburg. Austrian troops lay seige to Neisse and defeat Frederick the Great at Hochkirch.
1759 - Austria defeats Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf. The British take Quebec from the French; Generals Montcalm and Wolfe are killed in the campaign. Scottish poet Robert Burns is born. Voltaire writes "Candide".
1760 - Russians burn Berlin. King George II dies and is succeeded by George III, his grandson. Josiah Wedgewood famous pottery works are founded in Staffordshire, England. London's Botanical Gardens in Kew are opened. Edmund Hoyle, establishes the rules for whist.
1766 - Repeal of the Stamp Act. Britain's right to tax the colonies is restated in the Declaratory Act. Mason-Dixon Line is laid down by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, two English surveyors. Theatre Royal in Bristol opens. Czarina Catherine the Great of Russia declares freedom of worship. The first paved sidewalk is finished in Westminister, London. Henry Cavendish discovers hydrogen is lighter than air.
1767 - Taxes on imports to the colonies are levied including tea, glass, paper and dyes. Chaos in India; General Clive leaves. The Assembly of New York refuses to support the quartering of troops and is suspended. Jesuits are expelled from Spain.
The family was not aristocratic and the politicians in the family relied on connections and their own abilities to make their way in life. Between 1719 and 1726, Pitt was educated at Eton and then he went up to Trinity College Oxford. He left there in 1728 before graduating and took a place at the University of Utrecht. Pitt then was provided with a Cornetcy in Cobham's Regiment (the King's Own Regiment of Horse) in 1731but was dismissed in 1736 for a sarcastic speech he made in parliament. Cobham was his uncle. Pitt undertook a foreshortened "grand tour" in 1733-4, visiting only France and Switzerland.
Pitt entered political life in 1735 when he was elected as MP for Old Sarum, the family's rotten borough. In 1737 he was appointed Groom of the Bedchamber to the Prince of Wales. In this period of his life, Pitt opposed Walpole's government and sat on a Committee of Enquiry into Walpole's use of Civil List money. In October 1744 he was bequeathed £10,000 by the Duchess of Marlborough for his opposition to Walpole. The money was well-received because Pitt was perpetually in debt.
In 1746 Pitt was appointed Paymaster General, a post which carried Cabinet status. He worked hard in Pelham's ministry and on the death of the PM (in 1754) expected to be rewarded by the incoming PM and Pelham's brother, the Duke of Newcastle. When Newcastle did nothing to help Pitt, he was indignant and wrote a letter of complaint to the PM. Newcastle then arranged for Pitt to represent the rotten borough of Aldborough in 1754. In 1756 the Seven Years' War broke out; Pitt was Secretary of State with sole charge of the direction of the war and foreign affairs. During the early years of the war, Britain suffered a number of reversals but late in 1758 the army began to make inroads into French control of Canada including the capture of Fort Duquesne which was renamed Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania). In 1759 Quebec surrendered after the death of Generals Wolfe (Br.) and Montcalme (Fr.) in the battle for the town. Pitt had fulfilled his promise to "save his country". He then wanted to press home Britain's advantage by declaring war on Spain before the Spanish had time to prepare for and declare war on Britain. This was always a likelihood since the French and Spanish royal families were related and had signed the "Family Compact" to provide mutual assistance in time of war. The new king, George III, and his advisers - particularly the Earl of Bute - were reluctant to extend the war. Pitt's position was made untenable and he resigned in 1761.
The king and Bute, pleased to have Pitt out of office, offered him a variety of posts including the governorship of Canada and the Chancellopship of the Duchy of Lancaster - offices that would keep Pitt out of parliament. He refused all these offers but hinted that rewards for his relatives would be welcome. He accepted a pension of £3,000 for his own lifetime and for that of his wife and his son. Mrs. Pitt was created Baroness Chatham: she was lampooned as "Lady Cheat'em" for some time.
In 1762, Bute was obliged to declare war on Spain, just as Pitt had proposed a year earlier. However, at the end of the year, Bute had begun negotiations for a peace. Pitt returned to parliament to deliver a scathing, three-hour speech attaching the proposals: the performance was enshrined in Dalrymple's poem, The Rodondo. Bute found the burdens of office too much to bear and in 1763 was replaced by George Grenville, Pitt's brother-in-law who was PM until July 1765.
In January 1765, Sir William Pysent - a total stranger - left his Somerset estate of Burton Pysent to Pitt. The estate was worth about £40,000. In the same year the king made overtures to Pitt for the formation of a ministry. Pitt was in poor health and also was aware that he was the king's last resort for PM so he refused. Rockingham formed a short-lived ministry and in 1766 Pitt became PM in his own right but now elevated to the peerage as the Earl of Chatham. By accepting the peerage he lost all credibility as the "Great Commoner" and was unable to control the House of Commons.
The Duke of Grafton was First Lord of the Treasury in this ministry and Charles Townshend was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The budget was overturned by a successful Rockinghamite motion to reduce the land tax to 3/- in the £. Chatham, who had not expected his ministry to have so many troubles, collapsed and spent the next eighteen months out of touch with politics (and possibly out of touch with reality). It was Townshend who introduced the American Import Duties Act in 1767 in an effort to raise money from the colonies to pay for their defence even though this was against Chatham's policy. However, with the "great man" incommunicado, the ministers did much as they pleased. Eventually Chatham resigned in October 1768, leaving the Duke of Grafton to form a ministry in his own right.
Over then next ten years, Chatham appeared from time to time in parliament to support or attack the government, depending on its policies. He tried desperately to avert open conflict with the American colonies but each time he failed to get his own way he retired to the country, ill. On 7 April 1778 he attended the House of Lords for a debate on the situation in the colonies with the intention of opposing the Duke of Richmond's motion to give the colonies their independence. He spoke against Richmond, who responded. When Chatham rose again to reply, he opened his mouth, clutched his chest and collapsed on the Duke of Portland. Chatham was carried from the House of Lords and taken to Hayes .