Biography of William Pitt, Earl Of Chatham


WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM, some times styled Pitt the Elder, one of the greatest of English statesmen and orators of the 18th century, was born November 15th, 1708. After an education at Oxford and Eaton, he travelled on the continent and on his return obtained a cornetcy in the Blues. In 1735, he entered parliament. He espoused the cause of Frederick, Prince of Wales, then at deadly feud with the King, and offered a determined opposition to Walpole, who was at the head of affairs. He was deprived of his commission in consequance - an insult and injury which only increased the vehemence of his denunciation of the court and the government. His influence, both in and out of the House of Commons, increased rapidly, and Walpole, being driven from power, the King, notwithstanding his hatred of Pitt, found it necessary to allow his admission to a subordinate place in the administration; subsequently he was appointed to the lucrative office of paymaster-general. In 1755, when Henry Fox was made secretary of state, finding himself opposed to the foreign policy of the new ministry, Pitt resigned his office as paymaster. In the following year, when the King, acceding to the popular demands, had to dismiss Fox, Pitt became nominally secretary of state, but was virtually premier. He immediately began to put into execution his own plan for carrying on the war with France. The King opposing this policy, Pitt resigned office in April 1757, but was recalled in June, in obedience to the loud demands of the people.

Now firmly established in power, Pitt's war policy was characterized by unusual vigor and sagacity. Success returned to the British arms. French armms were beaten everywhere by Britain, and her allies - in India, in Africa, in Canada, on the Rhine - and British fleets drove the French ships from almost every sea. But the prime mover of all these victories found himself compelled to resign on the accession of George III. Until 1766, he remained out of office. In that year he received the royal commands to form a ministry. He undertook the task, choosing for himself the office of Privy Seal, with a seat in the House of Lords, as Viscount Pitt, and Earl of Chatham. Owing to ill health he resigned in 1768. He did not however, cease to take interest in public affairs. He spoke strongly against the arbitrary and hard policy of the government towards the American colonies, and warmly urged an amicable settlement of the difficulties. He died May 11th, 1778.