Pitt, William, Earl of Chatham, 1708-1778

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1708-11-15
Death 1778-05-11
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

English statesman.

From the description of Letter signed : [London], to an unidentified correspondent, 1760 Apr. 30. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270891755

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [London], to Charles Townshend, 1761 Sept. 29. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270623045

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [London], to [Lord Sackville], 1758 Nov. 24. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270623042

From the description of Autograph letter in third person : [Bath], to Mr. Flood, "Saturday evening." (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270621820

From the description of Autograph letter signed with initials : Randalls, to "Dick" [probably Richard Grenville, Lord Temple], [no year] Nov. 7. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270888398

From the description of Document signed : [London], 1761 Apr. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270890753

Epithet: Prime Minister; of Add MS 39263

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000408.0x000074

British statesman.

From the description of Papers, 1721-1783. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 39208685

From the description of Recommendation of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, circa 1777. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79453059

Epithet: Colonel

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000862.0x000282

Epithet: of Add MS 38011

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000408.0x000078

Epithet: of Sloane MS 3827

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000408.0x000079

Pitt was a member of the British Parliament (1735-1766) and served as Prime Minister (Jul. 1766-Oct. 1768).

From the description of [Letter] 1766 Jun. 24, Burton Pynsent [to] Nuthall / William Pitt. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 317958601

Born in 1708 to a merchant family, William Pitt rose to great heights in British politics, serving at various times as a Member of Parliament, secretary of state, and prime minister. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, Pitt began his political career in Parliament in 1735 after assuming a seat vacated by his older brother. Referred to as the "Great Commoner," Pitt stood apart from most of his colleagues for his willingness to court public support, criticize those in power, and promote the interests of the colonists abroad. Pitt married Hester Grenville, daughter of Richard Grenville and Countess Temple in 1754. In 1756, Pitt became secretary of state during the early stages of the Seven Years' War. During his tenure, Pitt focused the country's military strategy on confronting the French at sea and in the colonial areas of both North America and India. He also rallied public support behind the war effort and strengthened relations with Prussia. These actions greatly contributed to Britain's success in the war. He is also sometimes referred to as Britain's first Imperialist, who paved the way for expansion into North America, India, and Africa. In 1766, Pitt was invited by King George III to become prime minister, at which point he accepted the title of Earl of Chatham. He selected cabinet members with varying political ideas which resulted in a divided administration. Pitt also suffered from chronic gout, and spent much of his term in seclusion. After two years in office, the statesman resigned in 1768 and retreated to Hayes, his estate on the outskirts of London in Kent. During this time, Hester, Pitt's wife, looked after most of his affairs as his deteriorating condition left him at times unable to write or see visitors. The following years were marked by illness and financial trouble. When his health permitted, Pitt continued to make sporadic appearances before the House of Lords, most notably speaking in defense of the North American colonists and their grievances. He argued that concessions should be made in order to appease the colonists and avoid war. William Pitt died in 1778. William Pitt the Younger followed his father into a career in politics, becoming prime minister in 1783 at the age of 23. Influenced by the writings of Adam Smith, he reduced tariffs and government spending while levying new taxes in an effort to lower the debt resulting from the American Revolution. In 1793, following the French Revolution, France attacked Britain, prompting Pitt to form a number of ultimately unsuccessful coalitions with other European states. Pitt also introduced restrictive measures aimed at silencing those British subjects urging Parliamentary reform. The war drained Britain's financial reserves and inflamed Irish nationalists, who believed French revolutionaries would help them overthrow the monarchy in England. To ease these tensions, Pitt proposed a union between Ireland and England. However, due to a disagreement with King George III over Catholic emancipation, Pitt resigned from the government in 1801. In 1804, Pitt returned to serve a second term as prime minister, dying in office in 1806.

From the description of Papers of the William Pitt family, 1757-1804. (University of Pittsburgh). WorldCat record id: 31731812

From the description of Papers of the William Pitt family, 1757-1804 [electronic resource]. (University of Pittsburgh). WorldCat record id: 671395808

Epithet: Lieutenant; RN

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000408.0x00006d

William Pitt, the Elder (Earl of Chatham, 1708-1778), entered parliament for Old Sarum in 1735. He became secretary of state in 1756.

William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806), son of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, was elected to parliament in 1781, became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1782, and became Britain's youngest Prime Minister at age 24 in 1783.

From the description of William Pitt collection, 1758-1806. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702162316

William Pitt, the Elder (Earl of Chatham, 1708-1778), entered parliament for Old Sarum in 1735. He became secretary of state in 1756.

William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806), son of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, was elected to parliament in 1781, became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1782, and became Britain's youngest Prime Minister at age 24 in 1783.

From the description of William Pitt collection, 1758-1806. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83684443

William Pitt (1759-1806) was born at Hayes, Kent, on 28 May 1759, the second son of William Pitt, first earl of Chatham, and Hester, daughter of Richard Grenville. He was educated at home, before entering Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1773 (M.A., 1776). In 1781 he became M.P. for Appleby, and in 1782 he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in the government of Lord Sherburne. He resigned from the government in March 1783, but in December of that year, following the fall of the Duke of Portland's administration, he became Britain's youngest prime minister. His success in the general election of 1784 gave him a majority in the House of Commons, and allowed him to pass new measures in Parliament. These included the India Act, which established dual control of the East India Company, and a reduction in duties, which was intended to tackle the problem of smuggling. In April 1785 Pitt tried to introduce a bill to remove the 36 rotten boroughs in the country and to transfer the seats to other areas. However, the bill was defeated in the House of Commons.

In February 1793 France declared war on Britain. Pitt decided that it was essential to suppress all domestic dissention if the war was to be fought successfully. As a result, he introduced a bill to suspend Habeas Corpus, and backed away from his earlier support for constitutional reform. At this time a number of parliamentary reformers were arrested. To counter France Pitt formed alliances with the other European powers. However, the allies suffered defeats during 1794, and the cost of the war and poor harvests forced the government to raise taxation, leading to angry protests. Pitt's health began to suffer, leading to reports in the press that he was having a breakdown. In response, he passed legislation to allow the government to suppress and regulate the newspapers.

There was growing unrest in Ireland during the 1790s, and in 1798 an uprising had to be suppressed by the Irish chief secretary, Castlereagh. In 1801 Pitt introduced the Act of Union to unite Ireland with the rest of Britain under one Parliament. Castlereagh and Pitt appealed to the Irish Catholic population by promising that they would be granted equality before the law after the Act was passed. However, George III opposed the offer of Catholic emancipation, and Pitt felt it necessary to offer his resignation. He returned to office in 1804, to take up the struggle again against France. Pitt formed a new alliance with Russia, Austria and Sweden against Napoleon, and following the English victory at Trafalgar in 1805 was hailed as the Europe's saviour. However, Napoleon's victory over the Russian and Austrian forces at Austerlitz crushed Pitt, who fell seriously ill. He died at his house in Putney on 23 Jan. 1806.

From the guide to the William Pitt: Correspondence, 19th century (copies of originals of 1773-1805), (Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Revolutions
  • Warfare
  • Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
  • Prime ministers
  • Politics
  • Seven Years' War, 1756-1763 - Campaigns
  • Indentured servants

Occupations:

  • Statesmen--Great Britain

Places:

  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Canary Islands, Spain (as recorded)
  • Northampton, Northamptonshire (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Ireland, Europe (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Hertfordshire, England (as recorded)
  • Cologne, Germany (as recorded)