Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Pitt, William (1759-1806), second son of the great Earl of Chatham and Lady Hester Grenville, was born May 28th, 1759. He went into residence at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge in 1773, and in 1780 was called to the bar, and went the Western Circuit. His political career began in the autumn of the same year, when Parliament was dissolved, and he was elected for Appleby. His first speech was delivered in the following February, in support of Burke's scheme of Economical Reform, and made a deep impression on the House. In 1782 he refused Rockingham's offer of the Vice-Treasurership of Ireland, which was not a Cabinet office, and later in the same year joined Lord Shelburne's Ministry as Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. In February, 1783, Lord Shelburne was displaced by the Coalition, and when this Administration came to an end in December of the same year Pitt, being then in his twenty-fifth year, undertook to form a Ministry, although there was a majority against him of nearly two to one. So masterly was his conduct of affairs that by the beginning of March, 1784. the adverse majority had dwindled down to one, while in the country his policy excited vehement enthusiasm. He now dissolved Parliament, and found himself supported by a large majority. When the French Revolution degenerated into the tyranny of a sanguinary mob he placed himself at the head of the opposition to France. His war administration was not fortunate; but, in spite of this, his home policy was such as to preserve to him the confidence of the nation at large. Among the questions which he dealt with during his first premiership were electoral reform, which the opposition of George III. forced him to abandon; the government of India, in which he achieved a striking success; the reduction of the National Debt, and the revision of taxation and of trade duties; the impeachment of Warren Hastings, in which, however, he took no active part; the abolition of the slave trade, the Regency, and the parliamentary union of Ireland with England. It is impossible to defend the means by which Ireland was prevailed upon to part with her Parliament; but it is to be remembered in Pitt's favour that, if he was not superior to the employment of corruption as a means of government, he was personally incorruptible, although his financial affairs were deeply involved. As to the policy itself, it is impossible to judge it with certainty, since the obstinacy of the king prevented it from being fully carried out. An essential part of it, in its author's estimation, was Catholic emancipation; and, being unable to overcome the king's fanatical aversion to this, he in 1801 resigned, after having held office for seventeen years. For a time he was content to support Addington, but when he saw that his successor's war measures were inadequate his attitude changed; and, as the consequence of his attacks, the Ministry resigned in 1804, and he was recalled. His aim at a time of national difficulty and danger was to form a Government which should include the best men of all parties; but the king's hatred of Fox was implacable, and he had to content himself with a Tory Ministry. His energy and resource in the crisis in which the nation now found itself were almost incredible; but his policy met with reverse after reverse. In April, 1805, the Opposition proposed a vote of censure on Lord Melville, the Treasurer of the Navy in his former administration, for mismanagement, and the carrying of the motion by the Speaker's casting vote, in spite of Pitt's strenuous defence, was felt by him as almost a vote of no confidence in himself. At this time he was concluding a treaty with Russia to serve as the basis of another European confederation against Bonaparte, and when in August Austria joined the coalition and was followed by Sweden, his hopes of bringing his Continental policy to a triumphant issue rose high; but on the 19th October Mack, with thirty thousand Austrian soldiers, capitulated at Ulm, and the news was little less than a death-blow to Pitt, in spite of the glorious victory at Trafalgar two days later. His health was by this time sadly shattered, and early in December he went to Bath for rest and treatment. There it was that intelligence reached him of the overthrow of the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz. This calamity was more than his broken health and spirits could bear. He travelled back to Putney in January for the opening of Parliament on the 21st, but was too ill to be present, and death came two days later (January 23rd, 1806). He was never married. At one time of his life he formed an attachment for Miss Eden, the eldest daughter of Lord Auckland, but his pecuniary embarrassments prevented him from prosecuting it, and the lady afterwards became the Countess of Buckinghamshire.