Prime Minister William Pitt, "the Younger"

Prime Minister William Pitt, "the Younger"

Male 1759 - 1806  (46 years)    Has more than 100 ancestors but no descendants in this family tree.

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  • Name William Pitt 
    Prefix Prime Minister 
    Suffix "the Younger" 
    Relationshipwith Francis Fox
    Born 28 May 1759  Hayes, Kent Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 16 Jan 1806 
    Buried Westminster Abbey, London, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I132602  Geneagraphie
    Links To This person is also William Pitt the Younger at Wikipedia 
    Last Modified 26 Oct 2016 

    Father Earl Prime Minister William Pitt, "the elder",   b. 15 Sep 1709,   d. 11 May 1778, Hayes Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 68 years) 
    Mother Hester Grenville,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 1754 
    Siblings 3 siblings 
    Family ID F53780  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
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  • Notes 
    • 2nd son; Prime Minister 1783-1806

      The youngest prime minister on record, winning the post at the tender age of 24 in 1783. As prime minister he is remembered for his tough policies against corruption, fiscal reform, shifting power toward the House of Commons and the union with Ireland.
      Pitt was precocious, entering Cambridge at 14 and Parliament at 22. He was chancellor of the Exchequer in the government of William Petty, Earl of Shelburne (1782-83). The Tories and friends of George III helped him become prime minister.
      Unlike his father, Pitt the Younger had a talent for finance. He restructured Britain's finances, negotiated new tariffs with France and faired well in office until 1793 when France declared war - the beginning of years of conflict. In 1798 the Irish revolted against his policies. His solution, the Act of Union 1800, included Catholic emancipation which was rejected by the king. Pitt resigned in protest in 1801.
      Returning as prime minister in 1804, he gained the support of the Austrian, Russian and Swedish leaders in an attempt to defeat Napoleon's armies. The news of Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz in 1806 is said to have caused Pitt's death.

      Perspective
      1783 - Britain recoginizes the independence of America with the Peace of Versailles.
      1784 - The Brighton Pavillion is built. The first school for the blind in opened in Paris. The East India Company is brought under control of the British government.
      1785 - The seismograph is introduced for the measurement of earthquakes. Blanchard and Jeffries cross the English Channel by balloon.
      1786 - Lord Cornwallis is named Governor-General of India. Rebellion of Daniel Shays in Massachusetts. Ezekiel Reed (American) invents a machine to manufacture nails. Charleston, NC Golf Club is founded.
      1787 - Constitution of United States is signed. American Federal government is established. Pennsylvania becomes a state. Turkey declares war on Russia. John Fitch launches a steamboat on the Delaware River. The dollar is introduced in America. In England the Marylebone Cricket Club is formed and moves to Lord's.
      1788 - Bread riots in France. Lord Byron is born. First cigar factory opened in Germany. New York is named as capital of the United States. New Hampshire ratifies the U.S. Constitution as ninth state. George III has attack of mental illness; crisis of power in England.
      1789 - The French Revolution begins. Paris mob storms the Bastille. Lafayette becomes commander of National Guard. French feudal system is abolished. French King moves court from Versailles to Paris. Declaration of the Rights of Man issued. George Washington is elected president of the United States without opposition.
      1790 - William Pitt refuses to recognize Belgium. Benjamin Franklin dies. Philadelphia is recognized as the capital of United States. First U.S. patent law is in force. Washington D. C. is founded. Jews in France are granted civil liberties.
      1791 - U.S. Bill of Rights is ratified. Vermont becomes a state. Canada is divided into two provinces. Thomas Paine publishes "The Rights of Man." Joh Wesley, founder of the Methodists dies. The waltz becomes the dance in England. The first "English Stud Book" is published. Motion for the abolition of slave trade passed Parliament.
      1792 - Mary Wollstonecraft, British feminist and writer, publishes "Vindication of the Rights of Women," the first feminist manifesto. George Washington is re-elected president of the United States without opposition. Construction on The White House is begun. The French Republic is proclaimed. The first guillotine in Paris.
      1793 - Louis XVI is executed and the Reign of Terror in France begins. Queen Marie Antoinette is executed. Holy Roman Empires declares war on France. U.S. proclaims neutrality. Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin.
      1794 - The Commune of Paris abolished. Robespierre executed. Jacobin Club is closed. U.S. Navy is created. The first telegraph is in Paris. Slavery is abolished in the French colonies.
      1795 - Napolean appointed commander-in-chief in Italy.
      1796 - George Washington refuses a third term as president. Napolean marries Josephine de Beauharnais. he defeats Austrian army at Lodi; establishes two republics. John Adams is elected president of the United States. British capture Elba. Spain declares war on Britain. Peking forbids the importation of opium into China. France adopts the metric system.
      1797 - Napoleon defeats Austrians at Rivoli and moves on to Vienna. He founds the Ligurian Republic of Genoa. Peace is instituted between France and Austria. Napoleon is appointed to lead troops in invasion of England. He arrives in Paris. Admiral Nelson and Jervis defeat the Spanish fleet at Cape St. Vincent. British sailors mutiny over poor conditions and low pay on the "Solent" at Spithead near Portmouth. John Adams is inaugurated as U.S. president.
      1798 - The French take Rome and proclaim the Roman Republic; Pope Pius VI leaves the city. The French take Geneva and Bern in Switzerland and annex the left bank of the Rhine. Napoleon advances into Egypt, takes Malta, occupies Alexandria and with the winning of the Battle of the Pyramids becomes master of Egypt. The French fleet is destroyed by Nelson in Abukir Bay. The French land in Ireland. King Ferdinand IV of Naples declares war on France. The French overrun his Kingdom. In England, a 10 percent tax on incomes over £200 is introduced to help pay for the cost of war. In Germany, Aloys Senefelder invents the lithographic method of printing.
      1799 - Napoleon and his troops invade Syria, defeats the Turkish army at Abukir, and leaves Egypt. Austria declares war on France and is victorious in battle at Stockach, Magnano and Zurich. French win at Bergenop-Zoom, but are defeated at Cassano. The Russians enter Turin. Britain joins the Russian-Turkish alliance. In America, George Washington dies. In Egypt the Rosetta Stone is found. In Siberia, a preserved mammoth is found in the ice. In France, Honore de Balzac, novelist, and Ferdinand Delacroix, painter, are born.
      1800 - Napoleon's armys are victorious against the Turks at Helipolis, and the Austrians advancing toward Vienna. The British capture Malta. A plot to kill Napoleon is uncovered in Paris. In America, the capital is moved to Washington D. C. from Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson is elected president of the United States. Eli Whitney makes muskets with interchangeable parts. Infrared solar rays are discovered by WIlliam Herschel. In London, The Royal College of Surgeons is founded.
      1801 - Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. Peace between Austria and France marks the end of the Holy Roman Empire. Thomas Jefferson inaugurated as U.S. President. Russian Czar Paul is assassinated. Nelson claims victory over Danish navy off the coast of Copenhagen. In France, Alexandre Dumas is born. In London, "Peerage" is published. Horse racing is introduced at Goodwood by the Duke of Richmond.

      Second Ministry
      1804 - Napoleon is proclaimed emperor in Paris and is crowned in the presence of Pope Pius VII. War in India between East India Company and Holkar of Indore. Spain declares war on England. Aaron Burr kills Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Benjamin Disraeli is born. Thomas Jefferson re-elected president of the United States. After a year of planning, the Lewis and Clark expedition heads west, exploring the valleys of the Missouri and Mississippi, over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. "History of British Birds" is finished by Thomas Bewick.
      1805 - Napoleon crowned King of Italy. Wins over Austrian and Russian troops in Battle of Austerlitz. Austria and France make peace. Country of Egypt is established, Mehemet Ali is pasha. Britain and America in conflict over trade in the West Indies. Mungo Park embarks on second expedition to the Niger River. Morphine is isolated by F. W. A. Sarturner. Paganini, violinist extraordinaire, begins touring Europe.
      ******************************************************
      The younger Pitt was a fragile, sickly child, with inherited gout. Because of his debilitating ailments, he was taught at home by Rev. Edward Wilson, a Cambridge graduate. The boy was competent in Latin at the age of seven; he had a quick, retentive mind and seems to have been more interested in books than in 'gentlemanly' sporting activities. In 1773 he was sent to Pembroke Hall (now College) Cambridge at the age of fourteen, where he studied classics, maths, English history and political philosophy. At University, Pitt worked hard and showed a reserved, aloof and self- controlled character. He graduated with an MA, without examination, in 1776. His father chose Cambridge because, having been educated there, he did not want his son to go to Oxford.
      In 1773 Pitt suffered an attack of gout and Dr. Anthony Addington (father of PM Henry Addington) prescribed a bottle of port a day as the cure. Port is the most toxic of all wines and the prescribed remedy probably exacerbated the problem. Pitt was only fourteen years old but he continued to drink throughout his life. Henry Addington commented 'Mr. Pitt liked a glass of port very well, and a bottle better'.
      Whilst he was at university Pitt became friendly with Lord Camden and several peers, which stood him in good stead when he entered political life. By early 1775, Pitt was attending parliament to hear politicians speak; apparently he was consciously preparing himself for parliament.
      On 11 May 1778 the Earl of Chatham died; in the same year Pitt entered Lincoln’s Inn to study law. He ran into debt and stayed that way until death. He was called to the Bar in June 1780 and joined Western Circuit. He also stood as candidate for Cambridge University in the 1780 General Election and came last in the poll out of five candidates, but secured 14% of the total votes cast. Pitt began canvassing patrons for a seat in parliament and in November 1780 he was offered Appleby by Sir James Lowther, through influence of Duke of Rutland who was a university friend of Pitt.. In January 1781, at the age of 21, Pitt took his seat in the House of Commons.
      Samuel Goodenough, an MP, said in February 1781, 'The famous William Pitt, who made so capital a figure in the last reign, is restored to us’ and Edmund Burke commented: ‘He’s not a chip off the old block; it’s the old block itself’. Pitt attached himself to Shelburne’s group - naturally enough, since this was his father's political following.
      Pitt's maiden speech supported Burke’s Bill of Oeconomical Reform. Pitt was called on by MPs to speak, with no warning and no chance to prepare; he stood up and demonstrated his oratorical ability. Pitt had a rich voice and was an effective speaker: cool, incisive and a master of reasoned argument. He was rarely emotive but was a very impressive speaker who used a wide vocabulary. For example, when speaking of the American War, he called it, 'most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unnatural, unjust and diabolical'.
      Pitt was most concerned about the American War and wanted parliamentary reform to consolidate middle-class power and restrict the influence of Crown. He spoke rarely until 1783 when he became PM and he refused ‘minor office’ under Rockingham. Pitt was influenced by Shelburne and was never a democrat. He also had powerful friends.
      Pitt was appointed Chancellor of Exchequer at the age of twenty-four by Shelburne in July 1783. Pitt knew little about his new duties and less about practical business of government, although he was in all but name leader of the Government in the Commons. There were only three commoners in Shelburne’s Government and the Ministry was insecure because Shelburne could not command a majority despite having royal support:
      Shelburne's supporters 140
      North’s supporters 120 + Fox's supporters 90 = 210

      Shelburne's policies were unlikely to attract of North’s or Fox’s followers. Also, Shelburne had a reputation for duplicity following his support of the Earl of Bute during the 1760s. The reputation was probably undeserved and Shelburne was one of the most gifted of PMs in this period. He wanted commercial treaties with France and America and the introduction of freer trade. Many of Pitt’s later economic measures carried out Shelburne’s policies although Pitt gave scant recognition to Shelburne, with whom he resigned in 1783.
      *********************************************
      William Pitt suffered from poor health and was educated at home. His father, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, was the former M.P. for Old Sarum and one of the most important politicians of the period. The Earl of Chatham was determined that his son would eventually become a member of the House of Commons and at an early age William was given lessons on how to become an effective orator.
      When William was fourteen he was sent to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. His health remained poor and he spent most of the time with his tutor, the Rev. George Pretyman. William, who studied Latin and Greek, received his M.A. in 1776.
      William grew up with a strong interest in politics and spent much of his spare time watching debates in parliament. On 7th April 1778 he was present when his father collapsed while making a speech in the House of Lords and helped to carry his dying father from the chamber.
      In 1781 Sir James Lowther arranged for William Pitt to become the M.P. for Appleby. He made his first speech in the House of Commons on 26th February, 1781. William Pitt had been well trained and afterwards, Lord North, the prime minister, described it as the "best speech" that he had ever heard.
      Soon after entering the House of Commons, William Pitt came under the influence of Charles Fox, Britain leading Whig politician. Pitt joined Fox in his campaign for peace with the American colonies. On 12th June he made a speech where Pitt insisted that this was an "unjust war" and urged Lord North's government to bring it to an end.
      Pitt also took an interest in the way that Britain elected Members of Parliament. He was especially critical of the way that the monarchy used the system to influence those in Parliament. Pitt argued that parliamentary reform was necessary for the preservation of liberty. In June 1782 Pitt supported a motion for shorting the duration of parliament and for measures that would reduce the chances of government ministers being bribed.
      When Lord Frederick North's government fell in March 1782, Charles Fox became Foreign Secretary in Rockingham's Whig government. Fox left the government in July 1782, as he was unwilling to serve under the new prime minister, Lord Sherburne. Short of people willing to serve him, Sherburne appointed the twenty-three year old Pitt as his Chancellor of the Exchequer. Fox interpreted Pitt's acceptance of this post as a betrayal and after this the two men became bitter enemies.
      On the 31st March, 1783, Pitt resigned and declared that he was "unconnected with any party whatever". Now out of power, Pitt turned his attention once more to parliamentary reform. On 7th May proposed a plan that included: (1) checking bribery at elections; (2) disfranchising corrupt constituencies; (3) adding to the number of members for London. His proposals were defeated by 293 to 149. Another bill that he introduced on 2nd June for restricting abuses in public office was passed by the House of Commons but rejected by the House of Lords.
      In Parliament Pitt opposed Charles Fox's India Bill. Fox responded by making fun of Pitt's youth and inexperience and accusing him of following "the headlong course of ambition". George III was furious when the India Bill was passed by the House of Commons. The king warned members of the House of Lords that he would regard any one who voted for the bill as his enemy. Unwilling to upset the king, the Lords rejected the bill by 95 votes to 76.
      The Duke of Portland's administration resigned and on 19th December, 1783, the king invited William Pitt to form a new government. At the age of only twenty-four, Pitt became Britain's youngest prime minister. When it was announced that Pitt had accepted the king's invitation, the news was received in the House of Commons with derisive laughter.
      Pitt had great difficulty finding enough people to join his government. Except for himself, his cabinet of seven contained no members of the House of Commons. Charles Fox lead the attack on Pitt and although defeated in votes several times in the House of Commons, Pitt refused to resign. After building up his popularity in the country, Pitt called a general election on 24th March, 1784. Pitt's timing was perfect and 160 of Fox's supporters were defeated at the polls. Pitt himself stood for the seat of Cambridge University.
      Pitt now had a majority in the House of Commons and was able to persuade parliament to pass a series of measures including the India Act that established dual control of the East India Company. Pitt also attacked the serious problem of smuggling by reducing duties on those goods that were mainly being imported illegally into Britain. The success of this measure established his reputation as a shrewd politician.
      In April 1785 Pitt proposed a bill that would bring an end to thirty-six rotten boroughs and to transfer the seventy-two seats to those areas where the population was growing. Although Pitt spoke in favour of reform, he refused to warn the House of Commons that he would resign if the measure was defeated. The Commons came to the conclusion that Pitt did not feel strongly about reform and when the vote was taken it was defeated by 248 votes to 174. Pitt accepted the decision of the Commons and never made another attempt to introduce parliamentary reform.
      The general election of October 1790 gave Pitt's government an increased majority. For the next few years Pitt was occupied with Britain's relationship with France. Pitt had initially viewed the French Revolution as a domestic issue which did not concern Britain. However, Pitt became worried when parliamentary reform groups in Britain appeared to be in contact with French revolutionaries. Pitt responded by issuing a proclamation against seditious writings.
      When Pitt heard that King Louis XVI had been executed in January 1793, he expelled the French Ambassador. In the House of Common's Charles Fox and his small group of supporters attacked Pitt for not doing enough to preserve peace with France. Fox therefore blamed Pitt when France declared war on Britain on 1st February, 1793.
      Pitt's attitude towards political reform changed dramatically after war was declared. In May William Pitt brought in a bill suspending Habeas Corpus. Although denounced by Charles Fox and his supporters, the bill was passed by the House of Commons in twenty-four hours. Those advocating parliamentary reform were arrested and charged with sedition. Tom Paine managed to escape but others such as Thomas Hardy, John Thellwall and Thomas Muir were imprisoned.
      Pitt decided to form a great European coalition against France and between March and October 1793 he concluded alliances with Russia, Prussia, Austria, Spain, Portugal and some German princes. At first these tactics were successful but during 1794 Britain and her allies suffered a series of defeats. To pay for the war Pitt was forced to increase taxation and to raise a loan of £18 million. This problem was made worse by a series of bad harvests. When going to open parliament in October 1795, George III was greeted with cries of 'Bread', 'Peace' and 'no Pitt'. Missiles were also thrown and so Pitt immediately decided to pass a new Sedition Bill that redefined the law of treason.
      Britain's continuing financial difficulties convinced Pitt to seek peace with France. These peace proposals were rejected by the French in May 1796 and William Pitt once again had to introduce new taxes. This included duties on horses and tobacco. The following year Pitt introduced additional taxes on tea, sugar and spirits. Even so, by November 1797, Britain had a budget deficit of £22 million. On several occasions Pitt was in physical danger from angry mobs and he had to be constantly protected by an armed guard. Pitt's health began to deteriorate and newspapers began reporting that the prime minister had suffered a mental breakdown and was insane. Pitt responded by passing new laws that enabled the government to suppress and regulate newspapers.
      Britain's financial problems continued and in his budget of December 1798 William Pitt introduced a new graduated income tax. Beginning with a 120th tax on incomes of £60 and rising by degrees until it reached 10% on incomes of over £200. Pitt believed that this income tax would raise £10 million but in fact in 1799 the yield was just over £6 million.
      In 1797 Pitt appointed Lord Castlereagh as his Irish chief secretary. This was a time of great turmoil in Ireland and in the following year Castlereagh played an important role in crushing the Irish uprising. Castlereagh and Pitt became convinced that the best way of dealing with the religious conflicts in Ireland was to unite the country with the rest of Britain under a single Parliament. The policy was unpopular with the borough proprietors and the members of the Irish Parliament who had spent large sums of money purchasing their seats. Castlereagh appealed to the Catholic majority and made it clear that after the Act of Union the government would grant them legal equality with the Protestant minority. After the government paid compensation to the borough proprietors and promising pensions, official posts and titles to members of the Irish Parliament, the Act of Union was passed in 1801.
      George III disagreed with Pitt and Castlereagh's policy of Catholic Emancipation. When Pitt discovered that the king had approached Henry Addington to become his prime minister, he resigned from office. Although Pitt had been paid £10,500 a year as prime minister, he was now deeply in debt and for a while he feared that he would be declared bankrupt. A group of friends agreed to help but it was only after selling his family home that he was able to satisfy his creditors.
      In May 1804 Henry Addington resigned from office and once again William Pitt became prime minister. Lord Castlereagh was appointed Secretary for War but many leading politicians, including Charles Fox, refused to serve under Pitt. Out of the twelve man cabinet, only Pitt and Castlereagh were from the House of Commons.
      With Napoleon planning to invade England, Pitt quickly formed a new coalition with Russia, Austria and Sweden. When the French were defeated at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805, Pitt was hailed as the savior of Europe. However, Napoleon fought back and in December, 1805 he triumphed over the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz.
      Pitt was devastated by the news of Napoleon's victory and soon after was taken seriously ill. He was so heavily in debt when he died that the House of Commons had to raise £40,000 to pay off his creditors.


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