Community Showcase More. Follow TV Tropes. You need to login to do this. Get Known if you don't have an account. When he died the following year, Boconnoc was inherited by William's elder brother, Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc. There is evidence that he was an extensive reader, if not a minutely accurate classical scholar. Demosthenes was his favourite author.
William diligently cultivated the faculty of expression by the practice of translation and re-translation. In these years he became a close friend of George Lyttelton ,  who would later become a leading politician. In a violent attack of gout compelled him to leave Oxford University without finishing his degree. He then chose to travel abroad, from attending Utrecht University in the Dutch Republic ,  gaining a knowledge of Hugo Grotius and other writers on international law and diplomacy.
It is not known how long Pitt studied at Utrecht;  by he had returned to his brother's estate at Boconnoc in Cornwall. He had recovered from the attack of gout, but the disease proved intractable, and he continued to be subject to attacks of growing intensity at frequent intervals until his death. On Pitt's return it was necessary for him, as the younger son, to choose a profession. He had at one point been considered likely to join the Church but instead opted for a military career.
George II never forgot the jibes of "the terrible cornet of horse". Alternatively the fee may have been waived by the commanding officer of the regiment , Lord Cobham , who was related to the Pitt brothers by marriage. Pitt was to grow close to Cobham, whom he regarded as almost a surrogate father. He was stationed for much of his service in Northampton , in peace time duties. Pitt was particularly frustrated that, due to Walpole's isolationist policies, Britain had not entered the War of the Polish Succession which broke out in and he had not been given a chance to test himself in battle.
Pitt's military career was destined to be relatively short. His older brother Thomas was returned at the general election of for two separate seats, Okehampton and Old Sarum , and chose to sit for Okehampton, passing the vacant seat to William. He became one of a large number of serving army officers in the House of Commons.
Pitt soon joined a faction of discontented Whigs known as the Patriots who formed part of the opposition. The group commonly met at Stowe House , the country estate of Lord Cobham , who was a leader of the group. Pitt swiftly became one of the faction's most prominent members. Pitt's maiden speech in the Commons was delivered in April , in the debate on the congratulatory address to George II on the marriage of his son Frederick, Prince of Wales.
He used the occasion to pay compliments, and there was nothing striking in the speech as reported but it helped to gain him the attention of the house when he took part on debates on more controversial subjects. He attacked in particular, Britain's non-intervention in the ongoing European war , which he believed was in violation of the Treaty of Vienna and the terms of the Anglo-Austrian Alliance.
He became such a troublesome critic of the government that Walpole moved to punish him by arranging his dismissal from the army in , along with several of his friends and political allies. This provoked a wave of hostility to Walpole because many saw such an act as unconstitutional —that members of Parliament were being dismissed for their freedom of speech in attacking the government, something protected by Parliamentary privilege. None of the men had their commissions reinstated, however, and the incident brought an end to Pitt's military career.
The heir to the throne, Frederick, Prince of Wales was involved in a long-running dispute with his father, George II, and was the patron of the opposition. During the s Britain's relationship with Spain had slowly declined. Repeated cases of reported Spanish mistreatment of British merchants, whom they accused of smuggling, caused public outrage, particularly the incident of Jenkins' Ear.
Pitt spoke out against the Convention of El Pardo which aimed to settle the dispute peacefully.
When trade is at stake, it is your last entrenchment; you must defend it, or perish Sir, Spain knows the consequence of a war in America; whoever gains, it must prove fatal to her Is this any longer an English Parliament, if with more ships in your harbours than in all the navies of Europe; with above two millions of people in your American colonies, you will bear to hear of the expediency of receiving from Spain an insecure, unsatisfactory, dishonourable Convention? Owing to public pressure, the British government was pushed towards declaring war with Spain in Britain began with a success at Porto Bello.
The decision to attack during the rainy season was held as further evidence of the government's incompetence. After this, the colonial war against Spain was almost entirely abandoned as British resources were switched towards fighting France in Europe as the War of the Austrian Succession had broken out. The Spanish had repelled a major invasion intended to conquer Central America and succeeded in maintaining their trans-Atlantic convoys while causing much disruption to British shipping and twice broke a British blockade to land troops in Italy, but the war with Spain was treated as a draw.
Many of the underlying issues remained unresolved by the later peace treaties leaving the potential for future conflicts to occur. Pitt considered the war a missed opportunity to take advantage of a power in decline, although later he became an advocate of warmer relations with the Spanish in an effort to prevent them forming an alliance with France.
Walpole and Newcastle were now giving the war in Europe , which had recently broken out, a much higher priority than the colonial conflict with Spain in the Americas. Prussia and Austria went to war in , with many other European states soon joining in. To avert this Walpole and Newcastle decided to pay a large subsidy to both Austria and to Hanover, in order for them to raise troops and defend themselves.
Pitt now launched an attack on such subsidies, playing to widespread anti-Hanoverian feelings in Britain. This boosted his popularity with the public, but earned him the lifelong hatred of the King, who was emotionally committed to Hanover, where he had spent the first thirty years of his life.
A sizeable Anglo-German army was formed which George II himself led to victory at the Battle of Dettingen in , reducing the immediate threat to Hanover. Many of Pitt's attacks on the government were directed personally at Sir Robert Walpole who had now been Prime Minister for twenty years.
Early political career
He spoke in favour of the motion in for an inquiry into the last ten years of Walpole's administration. In February , following poor election results and the disaster at Cartagena, Walpole was at last forced to succumb to the long-continued attacks of opposition, resigned and took a peerage. Pitt now expected a new government to be formed led by Pulteney and dominated by Tories and Patriot Whigs in which he could expect a junior position.
Walpole had carefully orchestrated this new government as a continuance of his own, and continued to advise it up to his death in Pitt's hopes for a place in the government were thwarted, and he remained in opposition. He was therefore unable to make any personal gain from the downfall of Walpole, to which he had personally contributed a great deal. The administration formed by the Pelhams in , after the dismissal of Carteret, included many of Pitt's former Patriot allies, but Pitt was not granted a position because of continued ill-feeling by the King and leading Whigs about his views on Hanover.
It was with deep reluctance that the King finally agreed to give Pitt a place in the government. Pitt had changed his stance on a number of issues to make himself more acceptable to George, most notably the heated issue of Hanoverian subsidies. To force the matter, the Pelham brothers had to resign on the question whether he should be admitted or not, and it was only after all other arrangements had proved impracticable, that they were reinstated with Pitt appointed as Vice Treasurer of Ireland in February George continued to resent him however. In May of the same year Pitt was promoted to the more important and lucrative office of paymaster-general , which gave him a place in the privy council , though not in the cabinet.
Here he had an opportunity of displaying his public spirit and integrity in a way that deeply impressed both the king and the country. Although there was no strong public sentiment against the practice, Pitt completely refused to profit by it. All advances were lodged by him in the Bank of England until required, and all subsidies were paid over without deduction, even though it was pressed upon him, so that he did not draw a shilling from his office beyond the salary legally attaching to it.
Pitt ostentatiously made this clear to everyone, although he was in fact following what Henry Pelham had done when he had held the post between and This helped to establish Pitt's reputation with the British people for honesty and placing the interests of the nation before his own. The administration formed in lasted without major changes until It would appear from his published correspondence that Pitt had a greater influence in shaping its policy than his comparatively subordinate position would in itself have entitled him to.
His support for measures, such as the Spanish Treaty and the continental subsidies, which he had violently denounced when in opposition was criticised by his enemies as an example of his political opportunism. Between and Pitt worked closely with Newcastle in formulating British military and diplomatic strategy. Pitt was personally saddened when his friend and brother-in-law Thomas Grenville was killed at the naval First Battle of Cape Finisterre in At the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in British colonial conquests were exchanged for a French withdrawal from Brussels.
Many saw this as merely an armistice and awaited an imminent new war. As Newcastle sat in the House of Lords , he required a leading politician to represent the government in the House of Commons. Pitt and Henry Fox were considered the two favourites for the position, but Newcastle instead rejected them both and turned to the less well-known figure of Sir Thomas Robinson , a career diplomat , to fill the post.
William Pitt The Younger by Robin Reilly
It was widely believed that Newcastle had done this because he feared the ambitions of both Pitt and Fox, and believed he would find it easier to dominate the inexperienced Robinson. Despite his disappointment there was no immediate open breach. Pitt continued at his post; and at the general election which took place during the year he even accepted a nomination for the Duke's pocket borough of Aldborough. He had sat for Seaford since The government won a landslide , further strengthening its majority in parliament. When parliament met, however, he made no secret of his feelings.
Ignoring Sir Thomas Robinson, Pitt made frequent and vehement attacks on Newcastle himself, though still continued to serve as Paymaster under him. From Britain was increasingly drawn into conflict with France during this period, despite Newcastle's wish to maintain the peace. The countries clashed in North America, where each had laid claim to the Ohio Country. A British expedition under General Braddock had been despatched and defeated in summer which caused a ratcheting up of tensions.
Similar subsidies had been an issue of past disagreement, and they were widely attacked by Patriot Whigs and Tories. As the government came under increasing attack, Newcastle replaced Robinson with Fox who it was acknowledged carried more political weight and again slighted Pitt. Finally in November , Pitt was dismissed from office as paymaster, having spoken during a debate at great length against the new system of continental subsidies proposed by the government of which he was still a member.
Pitt's relationship with the Duke slumped further in early when he alleged that Newcastle was deliberately leaving the island of Menorca ill-defended so that the French would seize it, and Newcastle could use its loss to prove that Britain was not able to fight a war against France and sue for peace. The loss of Menorca shattered public faith in Newcastle, and forced him to step down as Prime Minister in November Upon entering this coalition, Pitt said to Devonshire: "My Lord, I am sure I can save this country, and no one else can".
He had made it a condition of his joining any administration that Newcastle should be excluded from it, which proved fatal to the lengthened existence of his government. With the king unfriendly, and Newcastle, whose influence was still dominant in the Commons, estranged, it was impossible to carry on a government by the aid of public opinion alone, however emphatically that might have declared itself on his side. The historian Basil Williams has claimed that this is the first time in British history when a "man was called to supreme power by the voice of the people" rather than by the king's appointment or as the choice of Parliament.
Pitt drew up his plans for the campaigning season of in which he hoped to reverse Britain's string of defeats during the war's opening years. In April Pitt was dismissed from office on account of his opposition to the continental policy and the circumstances surrounding the court-martial and execution of Admiral John Byng. He was succeeded by the Duke of Devonshire who formed the Caretaker Ministry. But the power that was insufficient to keep him in office was strong enough to make any arrangement that excluded him impracticable.
The public voice spoke in a way that was not to be mistaken. Probably no English minister ever received in so short a time so many proofs of the confidence and admiration of the public, the capital and all the chief towns voting him addresses and the freedom of their corporations e.
Horace Walpole recorded the freedoms of various cities awarded to Pitt:. Exeter , with singular affection, sent boxes of oak. After some weeks' negotiation, in the course of which the firmness and moderation of " The Great Commoner ", as he had come to be called, contrasted favourably with the characteristic tortuosities of the crafty peer , matters were settled on such a basis that, while Newcastle was the nominal, Pitt was the virtual head of the government.
On his acceptance of office, he was chosen member for Bath. A coalition with Newcastle was formed in June , and held power until October It brought together several various factions and was built around the partnership between Pitt and Newcastle, which a few months earlier had seemed impossible. The two men used Lord Chesterfield as an intermediary and had managed to agree a division of powers that was acceptable to both.
By summer the British war effort over the previous three years had broadly been a failure. Britain's attempts to take the offensive in North America had ended in disaster, Menorca had been lost, and the Duke of Cumberland 's Army of Observation was retreating across Hanover following the Battle of Hastenback. In October Cumberland was forced to conclude the Convention of Klosterzeven , which would take Hanover out of the war.
Although it was late in the campaigning season when he had come to power, Pitt set about trying to initiate a more assertive strategy. He conspired with a number of figures to persuade the Hanoverians to revoke the Convention and re-enter the war on Britain's side, which they did in late He also put into practice a scheme of Naval Descents that would make amphibious landings on the French coast. The first of these, the Raid on Rochefort , took place in September but was not a success. In Pitt began to put into practice a new strategy to win the Seven Years' War, which would involve tying down large numbers of French troops and resources in Germany, while Britain used its naval supremacy to launch expeditions to capture French forces around the globe.
Following the Capture of Emden he ordered the dispatch of the first British troops to the European continent under the Duke of Marlborough , who joined Brunswick 's army. Pitt had been lobbied by an American merchant Thomas Cumming to launch an expedition against the French trading settlements in West Africa.
In North America, a second British attempt to capture Louisbourg succeeded. However, Pitt's pleasure over this was tempered by the subsequent news of a significant British defeat at Battle of Carillon. This gave the British control of the Ohio Country , which had been the principal cause of the war. In Europe, Brunswick's forces enjoyed a mixed year.
Brunswick had crossed the Rhine , but faced with being cut off he had retreated and blocked any potential French move towards Hanover with his victory at the Battle of Krefeld. The year ended with something approaching a stalemate in Germany. Pitt had continued his naval descents during , but the first had enjoyed only limited success and the second ended with near disaster at the Battle of St Cast and no further descents were planned. The scheme of amphibious raids was the only one of Pitt's policies during the war that was broadly a failure, although it did help briefly relieve pressure on the German front by tying down French troops on coastal protection service.
In France a new leader, the Duc de Choiseul , had recently come to power and offered a duel between their rival strategies. Pitt intended to continue with his plan of tying down French forces in Germany while continuing the assault on France's colonies. Choiseul hoped to repel the attacks in the colonies while seeking total victory in Europe.
Pitt's war around the world was largely successful. While a British invasion of Martinique failed, they captured Guadeloupe shortly afterwards. In India, a French attempt to capture Madras was repulsed. After initially failing to penetrate the French defences at the Montmorency Falls , Wolfe later led his men to a victory to the west of the city allowing the British forces to capture Quebec. Choiseul had pinned much of his hopes on a French invasion of Britain , which he hoped would knock Britain out of the war and make it surrender the colonies it had taken from France.
Pitt had stripped the home islands of troops to send on his expeditions, leaving Britain guarded by poorly trained militia and giving an opportunity for the French if they could land in enough force.
William Pitt and family
The French did build a large invasion force. However the French naval defeats at Lagos and Quiberon Bay forced Choiseul to abandon the invasion plans. France's other great hope, that their armies could make a breakthrough in Germany and invade Hanover, was thwarted at the Battle of Minden. Britain ended the year victorious in every theatre of operations in which it was engaged, with Pitt receiving the credit for this. Britain completed the conquest of Canada in by capturing Montreal , which effectively brought the war to an end on mainland North America.
Pitt's power had now reached its peak, but was soon under threat. The domestic political situation was altered dramatically when George II died in October Bute was inclined to support a withdrawal from Germany, and to fight the war with France largely at sea and in the colonies. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions.
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William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham
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