Pitt, William

Pitt, William, English statesman, second son of Lord Chatham, born near Bromley, Kent, grew up a delicate child in a highly-charged political atmosphere, and studied with such diligence under the direction of his father and a tutor that he entered Cambridge at 14; called to the bar in 1780, he speedily threw himself into politics, and contested Cambridge University in the election of 1781; though defeated, he took his seat for the pocket burgh of Appleby, joined the Shelburne Tories in opposition to North's ministry, and was soon a leader in the House; he supported, but refused to join, the Rockingham Ministry of 1782, contracted his long friendship with Dundas, afterwards Viscount Melville, and became an advocate of parliamentary reform; his first office was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Shelburne; his reputation steadily rose, but on Shelburne's resignation he refused the Premiership, and went into opposition against the Portland, Fox, and North coalition; that minority being defeated (1783) on their Indian policy by the direct and unconstitutional interference of the king, he courageously formed a government with a majority of 100 against him; refusing to yield to adverse votes, he gradually won over the House and the country, and the dissolution of 1784 gave a majority of 120 in his favour, and put him in office, one of England's strongest ministers; during his long administration, broken only for one month in 20 years, he greatly raised the importance of the Commons, stamped out direct corruption in the House, and abolished many sinecures; he revised taxation, improved the collection of revenue and the issue of loans, and set the finances in a flourishing condition; he reorganised the government of India, and aimed strenuously to keep England at peace; but his abandonment of parliamentary reform and the abolition of the slave-trade suggests that he loved power rather than principles; his Poor-Law schemes and Sinking Fund were unsound; he failed to appreciate the problems presented by the growth of the factory system, or to manage Ireland with any success; on the outbreak of the French Revolution he failed to understand its significance, did not anticipate a long war, and made bad preparations and bad schemes; his vacillation in Irish policy induced the rebellion of 1798; by corrupt measures he carried the legislative union of 1801, but the king refused to allow the Catholic emancipation he promised as a condition; Viscount Melville was driven from the Admiralty on a charge of malversation, his own health broke down, and the victory of Trafalgar scarcely served to brighten his closing days; given to deep drinking, and culpably careless of his private moneys, he yet lived a pure, simple, amiable life; with an overcharged dignity, he was yet an attractive man and a warm friend; England has had few statesmen equal to him in the handling of financial and commercial problems, and few orators more fluent and persuasive than the great peace minister.

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

Pitt, William * Pitt Diamond
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Pitt, William
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