, second son of the preceding, and his legitimate successor in political talents and celebrity,
, second son of the preceding, and his legitimate successor in political talents and celebrity, was born May 28, 1759. He was educated at home under the immediate eye of his father, who, as he found him very early capable of receiving, imparted to him many of the principles which had guided his own political conduct, and in other respects paid so much attention to his education that at the age of fourteen, he was found fully qualified for the university; and accordingly, was then entered of Pembroke-hall, Cambridge, where he was distinguished alike for the closeness of his application, and for the success of his efforts, in attaining those branches of knowledge to which his studies were particularly directed; nor have many young men of rank passed through the probation of an university with a higher character for morals, abilities, industry, and regularity. He was intended by his father for the bar and the senate, and his education was regulated so as to embrace both these objects. Soon after he quitted the university, he went to the continent, and passed a short time at Rheims, the capital of Champagne. The death of his illustrious father, while he was in his 19th year, could not fail to cast a cloud over the prospects of a younger son, but the foundation was laid of those qualities which would enable him to clear the path to eminence by his own exertions. He had already entered himself a student of Lincoln’s Inn, and as soon as he was of age, in 1780, he was called to the bar, went the western circuit once, and appeared in a few causes as a junior counsel. His success during this short experiment was thought to be such as was amply sufficient to encourage him to pursue his legal career, and to render him almost certain of obtaining a high rank in his profession. A seat in parliament, however, seems to have given his ambition its proper direction, and at once placed him where he was best qualified to shine and to excel. At the general election in 1780, he had been persuaded to offer himself as a candidate to represent the university of Cambridge, but finding that his interest would not be equal to carry the election, he declined the contest, and in the following year was, through the influence of sir James Lowther, returned for the borough of Appleby. This was during the most violent period of political opposition to the American war, to which Mr. Pitt, it may be supposed, had an hereditary aversion. He was also, as most young men are, captivated by certain theories on the subject of political reform, which were to operate as a remedy for all national disasters. Among others of the more practical kind, Mr. Burke had, at the commencement of the session, brought forward his bill for making great retrenchments in the civil list. On this occasion Mr. Pitt, on the 26th of February, 1781, made his first speech in the British senate. The attention of the house was naturally fixed on the son of the illustrious Chatham, but in a few moments the regards of the whole audience were directed to the youthful orator on his own account. Unembarrassed by the novelty of the situation in which he had been so lately placed, he delivered himself with an ease, a grace, a richness of expression, a soundness of judgment, a closeness of argument, and a classical accuracy of language, which not only answered, but exceeded, all the expectations which had been formed of him, and drew the applauses of both parties. During the same and the subsequent session, he occasionally rose to give his sentiments on public affairs, and particularly on parliamentary reform. This he urged with an enthusiasm which he had afterwards occasion to repent; for when more mature consideration of the subject, had convinced him that the expedient was neither safe nor useful, he was considered as an apostate from his early professions. As a public speaker, however, it was soon evident that he was destined to act a high part on the political stage; yet, although he seemed to go along generally with the party in opposition to lord North, he had not otherwise much associated with them, and therefore when, on the dissolution of lord North’s, a new one was formed, at the head of which was the marquis of Rockingham, Mr. Pitt’s name did not appear on the list. Some say he was not invited to take a share; others, that he was offered the place of a lord of the treasury, which he declined, either from a consciousness that he was destined for a higher station, or that he discerned the insecurity of the new ministers. Their first misfortune was the death of the marquis of Rockingham, which occasioned a fatal breach of union between them, respecting the choice of a new head. Of this the earl of Shelburne availed himself, and in July 1782, having, with a part of the former members, been appointed first lord of the treasury, associated Mr. Pitt, who had just completed his 23d year, as chancellor of the exchequer. A general peace with America, France, Spain, &c. soon followed, which was made a ground of censure by a very powerful opposition; and in April 1783, the famous coalition ministry took the places of those whom they had expelled. Mr. Pitt, during his continuance in office, had found little opportunity to distinguish himself, otherwise than as an able defender of the measures of administration, and a keen animadverter upon the principles and conduct of his antagonists; but a circumstance occurred which constitutes the first great æra in his life. This, indeed, was the eventual cause not only of his return to office, but of his possession of a degree of authority with the king, and of popularity with the nation, which has rarely been the lot of any minister, and which he preserved, without interruption, to the end of his life, although his character was supposed to vary in many respects from the opinion that had been formed of it, and although he was never known to stoop to the common tricks of popularity. The coalition administration, of which some notice has been taken in our accounts of Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, was, in its formation, most revolting to the opinions of the people. Its composition was such as to afford no hopes of future benefit to the nation, and it was therefore narrowly watched as a combination for self-interest. While the public was indulging such suspicions, Mr. Fox introduced his famous bill for the regulation of the affairs of India, the leading provision of which was to vest the whole management of the affairs of the East India company, in seven commissioners named in the act, and to be appointed by the ministry. It was in vain that this was represented as a measure alike beneficial to the company and to the nation; the public considered it as trenching too much on the prerogative, as creating a mass of ministerial influence which would be irresistible, and as rendering the ministry too strong for the crown. Mr. Pitt, who, in this instance, had rather to follow than to guide the public opinion, unfolded the hidden mystery of the vast mass of patronage which this bill would give, painted in the most glowing colours its danger to the crown and people on one hand, and to the company on the other, whose chartered rights were thus forcibly violated. The alarm thus becoming general, although the bill passed the House of Commons by the influence which the ministers still possessed in that assembly, it was rejected in the House of Lords.