William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806)
Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804-1906

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William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806) Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804-1906

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Pitt was endowed with mental powers of the first order; his readiness, his apprehension, his resource were extraordinary; the daily parliamentary demand on his brain and nerve power he met with serene and exhaustible affluence; his industry, administrative activity, and public spirit were unrivalled; it was perhaps impossible to carry the force of sheer ability further; he was a portent.
Earl of Rosebery, Pitt.

(2) William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806) Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804-1906

(3) William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806) Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804-1906

(4) William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806) Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804-1906

(5) William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806) Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804-1906

Additional Information on
William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806)
Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801, 1804-1906

William Pitt was the second son of the Earl of Chatham (Pitt the Elder). It has been said that he was born to be a politician. Pitt had lived and breathed politics since the day he was born, spending many long hours in Parliament listening in earnest to his father's speeches. He was an extremely academic child and excelled in his studies. After graduating he studied law and was called to the Bar in 1780.

The next year he entered Parliament as the member of the Commons for Appleby. He immediately affiliated himself with Lord Shelburne's opposition against Lord North, ie. the previous followers of his father. Pitt soon demonstrated his abilities as a superb orator, and by the age of twenty two was widely respected.

In 1782-1783 Pitt became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House under Shelburne. This position served to anger and provoke Charles Fox who had previously been Shelburne's right hand man, and so began a period of bitter rivalry between the two - comparable only to that of Disraeli and Gladstone in the next century.

In 1783, after Shelburne resigned from office, and the Duke of Portland's ministry had fallen, King George III asked Pitt to accept office as the next Prime Minister. At twenty four years of age Pitt was the youngest Prime Minister in British history. His opponents scoffed that it would not last for more than a few weeks, but in fact it survived for seventeen years. Pitt's first year in Parliament was difficult, and riddled with defeats. However, the more Fox harrassed him the stronger Pitt became at handling him. As a result, Pitt's support grew rapidly. In the general election of 1784 Pitt secured a huge majority against Fox.

Pitt held very firm ideals. He was particularly concerned with bringing about parliamentary reform, union with Ireland and Catholic emancipation. He was also an excellent financial manager, and immediately set about reducing the national debt. Unfortunately some of his major proposals were rejected by Parliament - namely parliamentary reform, abolition of slave trade and union with Ireland. In 1784 Britain established political control over their territories in India. 1788 saw the establishment of a colony in Australia as a place to send British convicts.

However, the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 brought an end to Pitt's peaceful office, as Britain declared war on France (1793). Pitt's ministry strengthened at this time, as the Whigs rallied together to raise support. The problem escalated in 1793 when the Irish rose in rebellion, encouraged by declarations of help from the French. In 1800 the Act of Union was passed in an attempt to solve the problem and raise British morale in the war. However, fierce opposition to Pitt's calls for Catholic emancipation led to his resignation in 1801. He was followed by Henry Addington who secured peace with France, but by 1803 the war had resumed and Napoleon was planning to invade Britain. The nation turned to Pitt, who returned as Prime Minister the following year. He formed a coalition with Russia, Austria and Sweden against France. The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 served to confirm British supremacy at sea, but in land, Napoleon reigned victorious. Pitt died in January 1806 in the midst of major European warfare. His last words were,
'Oh my country! How I leave my country!'

Although he led a quiet social life, Pitt had always been in debt (his father left him nothing). So when Pitt died owing vast amounts of money the House of Commons voted that £40,000 should be awarded to his creditors - as a gesture of thanks and goodwill for his many years of service.


He was not merely a chip of the old block, but the old block itself.
- Edmund Burke on William Pitt (the Younger's) first speech in the House of Commons, 28th Feb 1781.

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