William Pitt - History

William Pitt  - History

Renowned English statesman William Pitt became Chancellor ofthe Exchequer at age 23 and Prime Minister at 24, the youngestever. Not only did Pitt succeed despite his tender years, hisgovernment stayed in power for some 17 years. Among Pitt'sachievements was passage of the India Act of 1784 and union withIreland in 1800. Though Pitt resigned the premiership in 1801 overthe king's failure to approve Pitt's Bill to emancipate theCatholics, he returned some three years later when the threat ofNapoleon began to loom over England. In 1805, the French weredefeated at Trafalgar thanks to the coalition Pitt engineeredbetween England, Russia, Austria, and Sweden. When the coalitionbroke apart, Napoleon triumphed over Russia and Austria atAusterlitz (1805) and Pitt did not live to see Napoleon's ultimatedefeat at Waterloo. Pitt, who never married and was viewed as aloner with no close companions, died in such severe debt that theHouse of Commons paid the £40,000 needed to satisfy Pitt's creditors.

Leadership during Seven Years’ War of William Pitt, the Elder

The outbreak of the Seven Years’ War gave Pitt his supreme opportunity for statesmanship. The war began with heavy losses and considerable confusion of policy. The popular demand for Pitt became irresistible, and he declared, “I am sure I can save this country, and nobody else can.” In November 1756 he formed a ministry that excluded Newcastle, with the Duke of Devonshire as its nominal head. In June 1757 Newcastle returned to office on the understanding that he should control all the patronage and leave Pitt to conduct the war.

Pitt determined that it should be in every sense a national war and a war at sea. He revived the militia, reequipped and reorganized the navy, and sought to unite all parties and public opinion behind a coherent and intelligible war policy. He seized upon America and India as the main objects of British strategy: he sent his main expeditions to America, to ensure the conquest of Canada, and supported the East India Company and its “heaven-born general,” Robert Clive, in their struggle against the French East India Company.

He subsidized and reinforced the armies of Frederick the Great of Prussia to engage the French on the Continent, while the British Navy harassed the French on their own coasts, in the West Indies, and in Africa. Choosing good generals and admirals, he inspired them with a new spirit of dash and enterprise. His hand, eye, and voice were everywhere. By 1759, the “year of victories,” Horace Walpole, man of letters and son of Sir Robert Walpole, wrote with reluctant admiration, “Our bells are worn out threadbare with ringing for Victories.” Pitt, the “Great Commoner,” was known and feared throughout the world. This resolute and concerted policy was too much for Bourbon France, and, by the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Great Britain remained supreme in North America and India, held Minorca as a Mediterranean base, and won territory in Africa and the West Indies.

Pitt had given Britain a new empire besides preserving and consolidating the old. But, before the war ended, he had been forced to resign. In 1760 George III came to the throne resolved, as was his chief adviser, the Earl of Bute, to end the war. When Pitt failed to persuade his colleagues to declare war on Spain to forestall its entry into hostilities, he resigned in October 1761. He alone was not tired of war. He never considered its carnage or the ruin facing a bankrupt country. He had tended to concentrate the whole conduct of government into his own hands and worked with furious energy. His haughty manner, which alienated many, and his high-handed treatment of affairs had earned him respect and admiration but little friendship.

When his resignation was accompanied by a peerage for Hester and an annuity to her of £3,000, there was again an outburst of abuse and scurrility. Just as when he had accepted the pay office, this acceptance of a peerage and a pension for his wife seemed to be the result of a political bargain. As rewards for his immense services they were meagre enough, but it was some measure of his unique reputation for highminded disinterestedness that his accepting them should provoke so much bitter disillusionment. His effigy was burned, and Hester was reviled as Lady Cheat’em. Pitt attacked the terms of the Treaty of Paris as an inadequate recognition of Great Britain’s worldwide success. But, though his popular appeal was soon restored, his career as war minister was over.

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William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham

William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham PC (15 November 1708 – 11 May 1778) was a British statesman of the Whig group who led the government of Great Britain twice in the middle of the 18th century. Historians call him Pitt or Chatham, or William Pitt the Elder to distinguish from his son, William Pitt the Younger, who also was a prime minister. Pitt was also known as The Great Commoner, because of his long-standing refusal to accept a title until 1766.

Pitt was the member of the British cabinet and its informal leader from 1756 to 1761 (with a brief interlude in 1757), during the Seven Years' War (known as the French and Indian War in North America). He again led the ministry, holding the official title of Lord Privy Seal, between 1766 and 1768. Much of his power came from his brilliant oratory. He was out of power for most of his career and became well known for his attacks on the government, such as those on Walpole's corruption in the 1730s, Hanoverian subsidies in the 1740s, peace with France in the 1760s, and the uncompromising policy towards the American colonies in the 1770s.

Pitt is best known as the wartime political leader of Britain in the Seven Years' War, especially for his single-minded devotion to victory over France, a victory which ultimately solidified Britain's dominance over world affairs. He is also known for his popular appeal, his opposition to corruption in government, his support for the colonial position in the run-up to the American War of Independence, his advocacy of British greatness, expansionism and colonialism, and his antagonism toward Britain's chief enemies and rivals for colonial power, Spain and France. Peters argues his statesmanship was based on a clear, consistent, and distinct appreciation of the value of the Empire.

Pitt’s first ministry, 1783–1801

In December 1783, after the defeat in the House of Lords of Fox’s East India Bill, George III at once took the opportunity to dismiss the coalition and asked Pitt to form a government. Pitt clearly did not take the premiership as the King’s tool, for his first step was to try, on his own terms, to include Fox and his friends in the new ministry. But Fox would not consent to join a government from which his ally Lord North would have been excluded.

When Parliament reassembled in January 1784, the government was at once defeated by 39 votes on a virtual motion of censure, but Pitt refused to resign, and George III was prepared to abdicate rather than again surrender to the Fox–North coalition. Pitt admitted that his situation was without precedent but denied that he was prime minister through backstairs influence. He hung on, and gradually the coalition’s majority in Parliament began to crumble many members, fearing the loss of their seats at a general election, went over to Pitt’s side during February and March, doubtless in the hope that he would gain a majority in the existing house sufficient to make a dissolution unnecessary. By March 8 the majority against him was one vote, and on March 25 Parliament was dissolved.

No 18th-century government lost a general election, and Pitt’s success in 1784 was never in doubt. The “influence of the Crown” ensured that the new House of Commons was chosen by the Treasury. Patronage and corruption gave Pitt a majority, and secret service money paid election bills. Although public opinion aided Pitt in the open constituencies, it is nevertheless misleading to say that he was “the choice of the people” he was the dispenser of royal patronage. Pitt himself was returned for the University of Cambridge only once again (1790), at subsequent elections, did he have to stand a contest.

When Pitt became prime minister, the national credit was impaired by the heavy cost of the American Revolution. The debt was about £250,000,000, a staggering amount for those days. Pitt imposed new taxes to wipe out the deficit, checked smuggling by reducing the high duties that encouraged it, and reduced frauds in the revenue by establishing an improved system of auditing. He also simplified customs and excise duties, bringing them into a single consolidated fund, out of which all public creditors were to be paid. In 1786 he introduced a sinking fund on a new principle: an annual surplus of £1,000,000 was to be appropriated to the purchase of stock and allowed to accumulate at compound interest for 28 years, by which time the income from it would amount to £4,000,000 a year. In 1792 another act provided that a sinking fund of 1 percent should be attached to every new loan, which would thereby be redeemed within 45 years. The system worked reasonably well in peacetime because there was an annual surplus of revenue, but, after the outbreak of war in 1793, the government redeemed debt bearing a low interest by fresh borrowing at a higher rate of interest.

Fox’s East India Bill had been defeated, but the problems it was designed to solve remained. Britain’s increased possessions in India made it necessary for the administration there to be supervised by the government rather than be left in the hands of the commercial East India Company. Pitt, therefore, introduced his own East India bill (1784). He set up a new government department, the Board of Control, to supervise the directors of the company. He also ended an inappropriate division of authority in India by making the governor general supreme over the subordinate governments of Bombay and Madras. In 1786 a supplementary act increased the authority of the governor general over his own council. Warren Hastings, governor general of Bengal since 1773, returned home in 1785, having greatly strengthened British power in India, only to undergo the ordeal of an impeachment for his conduct. Pitt honestly believed that there was a case against Hastings and, determined that the British name should be freed from the suspicion of injustice or oppression in the government of Asian peoples, supported the demand for an inquiry. But those who conducted the impeachment acted with unwarrantable rancour the trial dragged on for seven years and, although Hastings was finally acquitted, the expenses almost ruined him.

Another imperial problem with which Pitt had to deal was that of the future of Canada. By the Constitutional Act of 1791 the then province of Quebec was divided into a predominantly French province of Lower Canada and a predominantly English province of Upper Canada. Pitt, who was in office when men were first transported to Australia, never regarded that country as anything more than a convict settlement.

Pitt’s foreign policy was only moderately successful. In 1788 he made alliances with Prussia and with Holland, aimed at restricting French influence. But, in effect, the alliance served only one useful purpose: Prussia’s diplomatic support enabled Pitt in 1790 to triumph over the Spanish without having to go to war in the Nootka Sound dispute. Thus, the Spanish claim to a monopoly of trade and settlement on the western seaboard of North America was finally destroyed. Pitt’s intervention in eastern Europe, however, bore no such marks of triumph. Catherine II of Russia was bent on establishing her supremacy in the Black Sea. In March 1791 Pitt sent her an ultimatum demanding the restoration to the Sultan of all conquests except Crimea. But his policy of bolstering up the Turkish Empire was supported neither by the entire Cabinet nor by public opinion, and the government, badly shaken, had to reverse its policy.

Although the British government clung to neutrality as long as possible, in face of the European wars started by the leaders of the French Revolution, war proved unavoidable. It was not the execution of the French king Louis XVI in January 1793 that made a continuation of peace impossible but it was the provocative French decrees of late 1792, which authorized their armies to violate neutral territory and which promised military assistance to any European people wishing to depose its rulers. The French, confident of victory after their successes against the Austro-Prussian forces and believing that England was ripe for revolution, declared war on England and Holland on February 1, 1793. Pitt refused to intervene to restore the French monarchy. He fought to protect Britain’s vital commercial and colonial interests.

The French Revolution had revived the agitation for parliamentary reform, dormant since a bill introduced by Pitt in 1785 had been defeated, but the cause of reform was soon discredited because its advocates were thought to approve of the violence in France. The unwise demonstrations of the radicals caused the government to have recourse to repressive legislation. In May 1792 a proclamation against seditious publications was issued and the Habeas Corpus Act, which normally prevented the detention of persons without trial, was suspended in 1794 and remained so until 1801.

The French Revolution had disastrous repercussions in Ireland, too, creating new hatreds to exacerbate the old religious feuds and a rebellion in 1798. As early as 1792 Pitt had held that an ultimate union of the two countries was the only solution of the Irish religious problem the events of 1798 convinced him that union was most urgently necessary. Large-scale corruption carried the measure through the Irish Parliament, but opposition from Pitt’s Cabinet and particularly from the King prevented him from carrying his supplementary proposals—Catholic emancipation and state provision for Catholic and Dissenting clergy. As a result, Pitt resigned on February 3, 1801, and his friend Henry Addington formed a government. The crisis again drove the King insane, and after his recovery in March he accused Pitt of having caused his illness. Pitt replied that he would never again press the Catholic question during the King’s reign.

Patriotic motives induced Pitt to support the new ministry, but for several months during the session of 1802–03 he never attended Parliament, living in Walmer Castle, where, holding the ancient office of warden of the Cinque Ports, he organized a local volunteer force. In March 1803 Addington invited Pitt to join the government, but Pitt made it clear that he would return only as prime minister. War broke out again in May 1803, and by 1804 Pitt was increasingly critical of the government’s financial polity and its measures to meet the growing danger of invasion. Addington’s majority fell steadily, and he decided to resign. On April 30 Pitt was informed that the King wished him to plan a new ministry. Pitt replied that a nonparty government was desirable but fell in with the King’s determination that Fox be excluded.


The Schenley Edit

The building, originally known as the Hotel Schenley [6] and designed by architects Rutan & Russell, [7] opened in 1898, became the keystone of entrepreneur Franklin Nicola’s dream of Oakland as a center for culture, art and education. Nicola had been instrumental in the formation of the Bellefield Company with the help of Andrew W. Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie, George Westinghouse and H.J. Heinz, who were among the first stockholders to share Nicola’s vision for Oakland. They erected the beaux-arts structure on land once owned by fellow stockholder Mary Croghan Schenley. [8] The Schenley Hotel was Pittsburgh's first large, steel-framed "skyscraper hotel" it was described as "Pittsburgh's class hotel of the early 20th century". [9]

Famous guests Edit

Full of marble, chandeliers, and Louis XV architecture, the Schenley quickly became the Pittsburgh home to the great and the near-great. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the register at the Schenley, as did Eleanor Roosevelt. [10]

Singer-actress Lillian Russell lived in suite 437 and married Pittsburgh publisher Alexander Moore in the French Room (now a dining room on the first floor). [11] Dramatic tenor Enrico Caruso and his entourage occupied seven suites during their stay. Sarah Bernhardt, Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald, Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy stayed at the Schenley. Italian tragedian Eleonora Duse succumbed to pneumonia in suite 524. [12]

The Schenley was not just the place to stay in Pittsburgh as the 20th century began: it was where the young ladies of society "came out," where couples married, and where one could dine on the "haute cuisine" of the day. It was also the place where Pittsburgh power brokers met and many of the discussions leading to the birth of the U.S. Steel Corporation were held at the Schenley. Its formation was celebrated at the "Meal of Millionaires" in 1901. Later in 1914, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) was organized at the Schenley Hotel. The state of Pennsylvania dedicated a historical marker outside of union in 1967 to commemorate the event. [1] Many famous industrialists and businessmen, including Andrew Carnegie and Diamond Jim Brady, had eaten at various times at the hotel.

1909 was a year that changed the Hotel Schenley forever. That summer, Forbes Field opened just down the street and the University of Pittsburgh moved from its Northside location to Oakland. From that time on, the "Waldorf of Pittsburgh" gradually became the home of the National League baseball players in town to play the Pittsburgh Pirates, and students and faculty took their place among the Pittsburgh elite. Now added to the register were names such as Babe Ruth, Casey Stengel, Ty Cobb, and Rogers Hornsby. The deals struck over dinner at the Schenley now included baseball trades. [8]

For the next 40-plus years the Schenley continued to operate albeit on a less grand scale. Pittsburgh's Renaissance I brought modern hotels to downtown Pittsburgh and, ironically, Frank Nicola's dream of an Oakland civic center turned out to be a nightmare for the Schenley. The turn-of-the-century marvel had been built in rural Pittsburgh. The 1950s Schenley was surrounded by hospitals, educational facilities, concert halls, and private clubs with no parking to serve the hotel's mobile guests.

A part of Pitt Edit

In 1956, the then Schenley Park Hotel was sold to the University of Pittsburgh. The hotel underwent a $1 million ($9.52 million in 2020 dollars [13] ) renovation to convert it to university use. The top four floors first served as a men's dormitory called Schenley House while the rest of the building was purposed as a student union, which was named Schenley Hall. [14]

Shortly after this, during the height of the cold war in September 1959, the Schenley Hall ballroom in the Union was the site of a luncheon for Nikita Khrushchev, chairman of the Soviet Union, and various Soviet and U.S. officials, including Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. that was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and Pitt Chancellor Edward Litchfield. Pittsburgh and the University was the last stop in his eleven-day transcontinental tour prior to a three-day conference with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The New York Times proclaimed "Pittsburgh Stop Warmest of Tour". [15]

As the student population of the Pittsburgh campus blossomed to 30,000-plus and their activities diversified and grew, it became clear that the grand structure needed an overhaul.

In 1980, the University announced a $13.9 million ($43.7 million in 2020 dollars [13] ) renovation and restoration for the Union, made possible by bonds sold through the Allegheny County Higher Education Building Authority.

During the 18-month project and restoration led by Williams Trebilcock Whitehead, [11] seven upper floors were gutted to make way for modern offices for students and the student affairs administration. A 10th floor, which had been added several years after the hotel was first built, was removed to relieve stress on the building. [10] However, the turn-of-the-century character of the main floor was restored through careful restoration of the Louis XV mirrored ballroom, the lower lounge that had enclosed the original Bigelow Boulevard-side porch 13 years after the hotel was originally built, and the marbled-wall former hotel lobby, now called the Tansky Family Lounge, which includes the "stairway to nowhere", a remnant of a previous renovation. In addition, the rarely used basement was transformed into a functional lower level with a new Forbes Avenue Entrance and plaza. [8] The original wooden hotel room doors salvage from the upstairs renovation were used for the walls of the lower level student recreation room, now called "Nordy's Place". Further, a third west entrance facing the university's Schenley Quadrangle and Litchfield Towers dormitories was added and included a new multi-level glass roofed atrium just inside the new entrance. [10] The renovations were completed in 1983 and the building was renamed the William Pitt Union. [16]

A ghostly legend passed down among students begins with the story of a visit by the Russian National Ballet where it took up accommodations in the historic Schenley Hotel prior to opening its tour of the United States in Pittsburgh. The prima ballerina, tired from travel, decided to rest before the premiere performance, drifted off, and slept through her curtain call and the whole of the performance. The company's director, either so incensed by her missing the premiere, or so impressed by the stage presence of her understudy, decided to replace the prima ballerina with the young upstart for the remainder of the tour. The ballerina was so distraught that she took her own life that night, ashamed and humiliated that she would be replaced by the young understudy. It is now said if one were to ever take a nap or fall asleep for whatever reason in the Tansky Family Lounge, also known as the Red Room, they will always wake up just in time for whatever exam, class, meeting, appointment, etc. they may have missed. The Prima Ballerina haunts the room to make sure they never succumb to her same fate. [17]

Another tale tells of a ghost haunting the Lillian Russell Room, room 437 within the offices of The Pitt News, in the area of Lillian Russell's former residence when the union served as the Schenley Hotel. [18]

A notable infamous incident at the Schenley Hotel occurred on July 12, 1950, when a hotel night guard went on a shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of two men and the wounding of another. [19]

The William Pitt Union now serves as the student union and hub of the University of Pittsburgh and contains a variety of lounges, ballrooms, reception, performance, and meeting spaces. One of the most notable facilities is the Louis XV style William Pitt Union Ballroom on the main floor which features vaulted ceiling, mirrored walls, two grand crystal chandeliers, and detailed moldings and artwork that are faithful restored to the condition of the Hotel Schenley. Other formal rooms include the Kurtzman Room and lower atrium of the Tansky Family lounge on the main floor, as well as two dining rooms on the first floor. The Tansky Lounge itself is the restored grand lobby of the hotel. In addition, the William Pitt Union Assembly Room, the largest room on the main floor at 6,200 square feet (580 m 2 ), contains a stage with theatrical lighting and serves as the facility's primary multi-purpose event space. [20] The William Pitt Union is also the home to the International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame (dedicated in 1984 [21] ), C. M. Kimbo Art Gallery, a dance studio, meeting and conference rooms, university offices, and, on the lower level, a food court. The upper floors of the union serve as the primary location for the offices for over 300 student organizations, including the student newspaper, The Pitt News, the student radio station, WPTS, and the student government. [22] The fourth floor also contains Lillian Russell Room of The Pitt News office which is the location of her former residence during the union's days as the Schenley Hotel. The Russell Room contains a portrait or Russell, a fireplace, stained glass fanlight, decorative moldings, and other elements. [23] In 2007, the recreation room on the ground floor of the union was renovated and by resolution of the Pitt Student Government Board in December 2007, was named "Nordy's Place" in honor of Chancellor Mark Nordenberg who the board resolved was a student favorite and worthy of the honor.[4][5] Gigs Game Center, outfitted with videogame hardware and software, is also located on the lower level. [24] In 2009, renovations to the second floor improved the accommodations of the student careers center and renovations to the fifth floor were completed to provide six new meeting spaces for student organizations, four of which with hard-surface flooring enabling groups to practice dance routines and other activities. [25] In addition, a formal area was created where student organizations can host special events such as workshops and award presentations. [26] In 2010, a $2 million project was undertaken to renovate 9,200 square feet (850 m 2 ) of space on the ninth floor. [27] The renovation, completed in 2011, created a new student study and lounge area, a 20-person conference room, a kitchen/coffee area, file/storage areas, and new offices for Residence Life, and Pitt Arts, and Student Volunteer Outreach. [28] A $1.93 million renovation of the Assembly Room, which included uncovering three large windows to allow in natural light, as well as a stage extension and technology upgrades, was completed in 2013. [29] In addition, a $390,000 renovation of first floor restrooms and $1.85 million renovation of the lower levels of the union, including its food court and dining spaces, was completed in 2013. [29] [30]

His Last Years

For some time Pitt supported the ministry of his successor, but he eventually lost confidence in Henry Addington's ability. Pitt was recalled to office in May 1804 and helped to rededicate England to the struggle against Napoleon Bonaparte. But his long years of wartime service had undermined his health, and the news of the defeat of England's allies at the Battle of Austerlitz shattered Pitt completely. His health declined rapidly, and he died on Jan. 23, 1806.

Pitt left tremendous debts (the financial wizard had paid no attention to his personal accounts) but no children to pay them. He had never married. His devotion was solely lavished upon his country. His last words were of England: "Oh, my country! How I leave my country!"

PITT, Hon. William (1759-1806).

William Pitt began his parliamentary career with one great advantage and one great handicap. As the son of Chatham he inherited something of his father’s aura: his name ensured him an expectant welcome in the House, and he could count on the goodwill of his father’s friends. His great handicap was his poverty: with an allowance of only £300 a year, he had to take to the bar as a profession. In his youth he had been a model son: devoted to his father, earnest, and studious. In 1779, when not yet of age, he planned to contest Cambridge University at the forthcoming general election—evidence of assurance and also of immaturity. His name could not compensate for his youth and lack of achievements in the world yet, though he came bottom of the poll, he did surprisingly well. In 1781, at the request of his friend the Duke of Rutland, he was returned by Sir James Lowther for Appleby.

On 26 Feb. 1781 Pitt made his maiden speech in support of Burke’s economical reform bill. Failure to impress the House at his outset might have been the extinction of his hopes. Yet he did not fail, and the first men in the House vied with each other in their congratulations. There was nothing very new in Pitt’s argument, but the speech showed all the characteristics of his mature oratory: logical in its argument, clear in its arrangement, eloquent in its expression, and confident in its delivery. Having found his feet, Pitt did not make the mistake of speaking too often. During his first session he made only three speeches, and in each case the newspapers complimented him by reporting them at length. On 1 Jan. 1782 James Hare wrote to Lord Carlisle:1

When it is remembered that Pitt had not then been a year in Parliament and that Fox was virtually the leader of the Opposition, this is a remarkable tribute to the position Pitt had won for himself.

It was not by his oratory alone that Pitt impressed the House: he managed to convey a sense of intense earnestness and moral purpose. ‘He had early determined in the most solemn manner’, he said in January 1782, ‘never to suffer any private and personal consideration whatever to influence his public conduct at any one moment of his life.’2 On 8 Mar., when North’s Administration was tottering to its fall, he made a celebrated declaration: ‘That he could not expect to take any share in a new Administration and, were his doing so more within his reach, he never would accept of a subordinate situation.’ It was an amazing statement for so young a man, particularly in an age which expected candidates for office to be modest about their pretensions. And when the Rockingham Administration was being formed, Pitt duly refused the offers of minor employment made to him.

There are some significant likenesses in the characters of Pitt and his father. Both impressed by their calmness and self-assurance, and Pitt had much of his father’s aloofness and distaste for party. By not accepting office under Rockingham he was able to stand apart from the struggle for power between Fox and Shelburne, a possible alternative leader of Administration. By family tradition he was inclined more to Shelburne, and Fox already saw him as a rival. On 11 May he wrote about Pitt:3

Undistracted by the day to day routine of office, Pitt found time to appeal to a wider audience outside the House. On 7 May 1782 he moved his motion for an inquiry into the system of representation, an issue which transcended party divisions. The motion was defeated, but Pitt had created an image of himself as the champion of parliamentary reform.

When Shelburne formed his Cabinet in July 1782, Pitt was originally set down for the Home Office. But there were difficulties in appointing a young man who had never held office before over the head of his seniors. On 9 July 1782 the King wrote to Shelburne:4

In the event Pitt became chancellor of the Exchequer without the lead in the House of Commons, but with a seat in the Cabinet. Shelburne’s weak Administration could only hope to survive through an alliance with either Fox or North and Pitt, unalterably opposed to North, undertook to see Fox. They met on 11 Feb. 1783. In reply to Pitt’s query ‘whether there were any terms on which he would come in’, Fox said: ‘None, while Lord Shelburne remained.’ ‘Then we need discuss the matter no further’, said Pitt, ‘I did not come here to betray Lord Shelburne.’5

In the debate of 17-18 Feb. Pitt spoke in defence of Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, and in that of 21 Feb. made clear the object of the Coalition’s attack:6

Shelburne, defeated in the House of Commons, could no longer remain in office, and he consulted Dundas as to whom he should recommend to the King as his successor. Dundas instantly suggested Pitt.7

Pitt, offered the premiership by the King, asked time to consider, but on 27 Feb. declined.

On 24 Mar., when negotiations between the King and the Coalition were broken off, Pitt was again offered the Treasury and again declined.

During the time of the Coalition Pitt increased his stature in the House of Commons, and gave indications of the policy an Administration formed by him would pursue. On 7 May he introduced his plan of parliamentary reform: London and the counties were to have their representation increased, and boroughs which proved themselves to be corrupt were to be disfranchised. On 17 June he moved for a bill to effect economy in government departments. Both measures were lost, the one in the Commons and the other in the Lords but they consolidated Pitt’s reputation as the champion of reform. ‘If Pitt could be persuaded [to take office]’, wrote Fox on 9 Sept., ‘. he would do more real service to the country than any man ever did.’9 But he despaired of gaining Pitt’s support.

On 18 Nov. Fox’s East India bill was introduced into the House of Commons, and Pitt, in Richard Fitzpatrick’s words, ‘threw down the gauntlet of opposition to the whole system and principles of the bill’. In a letter to the Duke of Rutland of 22 Nov. Pitt outlined his objections:

Pitt spoke the feelings of a large section of public opinion, but misjudged opinion in the House of Commons: the bill passed the Commons with a large majority but was rejected in the Lords after the King had intervened against it. The Coalition was dismissed, and Pitt accepted the Treasury. He owed his appointment to the favour of the Crown, not to the confidence of the Commons. On 6 Dec. he wrote to Rutland: ‘The Closet will do everything, as far as I can judge, in fair co-operation and concert, if the crisis is found to be ripe, which I think it will.’ The negotiations leading to Pitt’s assumption of office cannot even now be traced in detail, but so much is clear: that once Pitt was convinced by John Robinson’s calculations that he could secure a majority in the House of Commons, he agreed to accept.10

Pitt was for nearly ten years the only commoner in the Cabinet: this gave him a strong position with respect to the King and the other ministers. But first he had to bear the brunt of the attack from the Coalition in the House of Commons. In the three months when Pitt was in a minority in the House he displayed coolness, steadiness, and courage of the highest order. Had he faltered, his political career would have been virtually over, and the King would have had to surrender again to the triumphant Coalition on even harder terms than in April 1783. But Pitt did not falter the Coalition failed to drive him from office in the first few days and as it became clear that he was going to stand his ground, the House of Commons gradually veered round towards him. By 25 Mar., when Parliament was dissolved, Pitt’s victory was assured and the rout of the Coalition at the general election of 1784 was merely the ‘crowning mercy’.

With an ample majority and the confidence of the Crown, Pitt began the task of restoring national credit and reforming abuses in government—work which he was well fitted to do. His attitude to the House of Commons was curiously detached. He seemed to regard himself as the servant of the Commons, bound to interpret and carry out its wishes, rather than as its leader. On three important questions in this Parliament, Pitt was defeated in the House: the Westminster scrutiny, parliamentary reform, and the Duke of Richmond’s fortifications plan yet he did not resign, nor was his position rendered insecure by these defeats. Fox said in the House during the debate on Richmond’s fortifications plan:11

In short, Pitt was no party leader, and his position was very different from that of a modern prime minister. His personal following was small. A computation of the House of Commons made in May 1788 gave the number of members attached to Pitt as 52 and added: ‘Of this party, were there a new Parliament and Mr. Pitt no longer minister, not above twenty would be returned.’12 Nor did he take pains to cultivate a party. Daniel Pulteney, an intelligent observer and a supporter of Pitt, wrote on 6 July 1784:13

Pitt’s attitude to the House of Commons strongly resembled his father’s: both were solitary men. Pulteney wrote about him on 23 Apr. 1785:

And Sir Gilbert Elliot wrote at the time of the Regency crisis:14

After 1790 foreign affairs and the war with France are the dominating themes in Pitt’s career, and faced with the challenge from revolutionary France the erstwhile reformer became a conservative.

William Pitt - History

The fortunes of England were now at the lowest ebb. For three years she had suffered one defeat upon another, and now, at the close of the year 1757, there was not an English fort or hamlet in the basin of the St. Lawrence or in the Ohio Valley. The chief cause of this condition was a want of ability in the conduct of the war. The Duke of Newcastle, who was at the head of the British cabinet, was little fitted to carry on the great business of the nation. Above all things England wanted a man of ability and decision of character at the head of affairs, and at length she found one in the person of the rising statesman, William Pitt, the greatest Englishman of his generation. Pitt came into power in the summer of 1757, and his comprehensive mind soon grasped the situation. His touch was the touch of the master he soon changed the succession of defeats to a succession of victories, and to him above all men was due the fact that England and not France became the possessor of North America.

In the early spring of 1758 Pitt sent a powerful fleet commanded by Admiral Boscawen to capture Louisburg. The fleet consisted of twenty-two line-of-battle ships and fifteen frigates, and bore ten thousand troops under the command of General Amherst. With Amherst was associated the most brilliant young military commander of England -- James Wolfe. After a long and tempestuous voyage, the fleet lined up in the waters of Louisburg early in June, and on the 7th a landing was effected under the leadership of Wolfe. The outposts were soon captured, and the British cannon opened on the French fortress. For many weeks the incessant roar of the bombardment told of the coming doom of Louisburg. By the end of July the walls began to crumble, the French garrison of fifty-six hundred men surrendered to their conquerors, and for the second time the fort passed into English hands. This was the first important British victory in the French and Indian War and, with all honor to Boscawen, to Amherst, and to Wolfe, the chief glory of the victory must be awarded to William Pitt. Thus began a series of English successes that was to continue to the end of the war but the series was broken by one disastrous reverse.

It was during these same weeks when the British shells were bursting over the walls of Louisburg that Abercrombie and Lord Howe led an army through the wilderness of northern New York, only to be defeated by the great French commander, Montcalm. The army was the largest ever yet assembled in America, comprising fifteen thousand men -- six thousand British regulars and nine thousand provincials, or, as we must soon begin to call them, Americans. The nominal leader was General Abercrombie, the real one Lord Howe, a young man of great vigor who may be favorably compared with Wolfe. We find also in this army John Stark and Israel Putnam, who afterward became famous in a greater French war. The object of the army was to capture Fort Ticonderoga, on the shore of Lake Champlain, now held by Montcalm with a force of not less than four thousand men. Howe laid his plans with great skill and approached the fort, but at the first skirmish with the French pickets he was shot dead. 1 His death was an irreparable blow to the English, who nevertheless attacked the fort again and again with heroic bravery. The stupid Abercrombie, himself remaining out of danger, imposed an impossible task upon his brave artillery. Six times in a single day they dashed against the fort with ever increasing slaughter. They were mowed down in hundreds by the hail of musketry, and on the evening of that fatal day 1944 of their number lay dead on the field 2 -- a greater loss of life than was suffered by either side in any battle of the Revolution. The broken army retreated into the wilderness, and Ticonderoga remained in the hands of the French.

There was one ray of sunshine, however, to cheer the defeated army. Colonel John Bradstreet with three thousand provincials set out in August to capture Fort Frotenac. Crossing Lake Ontario in open boats, they landed on the Canadian shore, and in a few days the coveted prize was in their possession. This was a serious blow to the French, as the communication between Quebec and the Ohio Valley was now completely severed.

So slow was the progress of the main army that when winter approached many weary miles were yet to be covered. A council of war was about to decide to abandon the project for the season, when word was received that the French garrison had been greatly weakened and could not endure a siege. This news infused new life into the expedition, and it was decided to press forward. Washington was sent ahead with twenty-five hundred men, but when he reached the place he found nothing but smoking ruins. The French had fired the fort and abandoned it and this much-coveted spot, which had cost Braddock and his brave army so dearly, passed into English hands without a blow. The place was now named Pittsburg in honor of William Pitt, who had inspired the expedition and the great city that grew up on the spot retained the name, and is a perpetual monument to the memory of the great commoner, whose unswerving friendship for the colonies during the Revolution can never be forgotten.

Source: "History of the United States of America," by Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904. Transcribed by Kathy Leigh.

Ten Interesting Facts About William Pitt of Chatham

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Also known as William Pitt the Elder, Pitt was one of the United Kingdom’s greatest statesmen. Rising up through the ranks of politics to become Prime Minister in the 18 th Century, he came from a more modest background than other British leaders. His legacy is one that helped bring England to the forefront of world imperial powers, and he has long served as a source of inspiration to many political leaders. Thus, it’s not so surprising that there are plenty of interesting facts related to his life and work that we intend to share with you.

Which Pitt Again?

Much like John Adams and John Quincy Adams in the United States, Pitt produced a legacy in his son William, who also served as Prime Minister from 1783 to 1806. To distinguish them, the elder Pitt is often referred to as either William Pitt the Elder or Pitt of Chatham, while his son is known as William Pitt the Younger.

Somewhat Humble Beginnings

More of a man of the people than other Prime Ministers of the time, Pitt’s grandfather earned his influence as a merchant, actually competing against the East India Company who employed him. He earned enough money that he was able to secure enough power and influence to become the governor of Madras in India, serve a stint in Parliament, and later become governor of Jamaica. He earned the nickname Thomas “Diamond” Pitt after selling the Regent diamond to the Duke of Orleans for £135,000. His sons Robert (William’s father), Thomas, and John were all MPs also, and his daughter Lucy married a leading Whig politician, practically guaranteeing that young William would be destined for political greatness.

Getting His Start

While a champion of advancement through merit, Pitt actually got his start thanks to his brother Thomas, who had a “pocket borough” (a seat held by a person or family) after being elected to Parliament for both Okehampton and Old Sarum in 1734. Thomas opted to sit for the former and gave the latter to William.

You’ve Probably Been There

William Pitt actually has a lot of places named after him in Canada and the US, though none perhaps as well-known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Many other places are named for his peerage of Chatham.

The Great Commoner

Pitt earned the nickname “The Great Commoner” as he refused titles of nobility for years, something which certainly helped endear him to the British public. His personal motto was “Measures, not men”, and he tended to elevate others based on their accomplishments rather than their connections. He didn’t accept any title until 1766 when King George III requested him to form a government and Pitt made himself Lord Privy Seal, which meant his elevation to the House of Lords as Earl of Chatham and Viscount Pitt of Burton Pinset.

Father and Son

In addition to being buried close to one another in Westminster Abbey, William Pitt the Elder and William Pitt the Younger have monuments within visual distance of one another at the City of London Guildhall.

The Peacemaker

While Prime Minister, Pitt led the country through the Seven Years’ War, which in the United States is known as the French and Indian War. The results of the conflict placed England in heavy debt, which resulted in the imposition of the Stamp Act and other taxes and duties on the American Colonies, leading to the American Revolution. Now a member of the House of Lords, Pitt attempted to reconcile the grievances of the colonists in 1775, but his “Provisional Act”, which would have met the Americans’ demands for representation, trial by jury, and recognition of the Continental Congress, was rejected by the House of Lords.

Great Orator

One of Pitt’s most distinguishing features was his gift of public speaking. Pitt’s speeches in Parliament are what helped elevate him from a mere MP into the cabinet and later to Prime Minister. He used his speeches to set himself up as something of a rival to Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, who had been in office for over twenty years by 1742. While at this point, King George II was not wild about Pitt for some of his views, Pitt’s perseverance and mellowing brought him closer to George’s favor. His military endeavors during the Seven Years War continued his political rise, and while George III was initially skeptical of him, Pitt’s oratory and continued work to elevate England eventually earned the king’s trust.

The Loner

While Pitt was certainly a gifted speaker and statesman, he was also described as aloof and preferred solitude to company. His own nephew once remarked that Pitt “lived and died without a friend.”

Mental health

It’s possible that some of his loner tendencies and temper may have been due to suffering from bipolar disorder, a condition that would not be recognized until 1851.

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