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PITT, William, ‘the Younger'

‘Chez Fox le coeur échauffait le génie, au lieu que chez Pitt le génie desséchait le coeur', Napoleon to Gougaud, Saint Helena, 1817.

Fact file

Born Hayes (Kent, England), 28 May, 1759- died London, 23 January, 1806.
MP for Appleby from 1781-84
MP for Cambridge University, 1784-1806
Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1782-83
Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer 1783-1801 and 1804-1806 - youngest ever Prime Minister at the age of 24.

With his father as William Pitt ‘the Elder' (the vigorous 18th-century statesman who had brought the Seven Years War with France to a successful conclusion for Britain) and his mother as Lady Hester Grenville (aunt to William Wyndham Grenville), Pitt ‘the Younger' was chosen by the king as Prime Minister as an alternative to the Fox-North coalition, but was to emerge as a powerful leader in the House the Commons. He was the author of sweeping administrative reforms in the 1780s. In 1793 he lead Britain in the war against Revolutionary France, suppressing radicalism and initiating new financial measures such as tax on income. He resigned when George III refused to allow Catholic Emancipation but returned to office in 1804. Two significant victories in his last term as Prime Minister were victory at Trafalgar and the building of the Martello tower defensive ring in Kent and Sussex. Whilst he did not inspire close friendship, was totally uninterested in art and letters and never married, he was renowned for his patriotism (in the manner of his father), rhetorical skills, his remarkable capacity for hard work and his intense shyness. General ill health, combined with a weak constitution and an addiction to port, led to his death in office at the age of 47.

Further reading

Ehrman, J., The Younger Pitt, Stanford University Press, (vol. 1, ‘The Years of Acclaim) 1968, (vol. 2, ‘The Reluctant Transition) 1983, (vol. 3, The Consuming Struggle) 1996.
Sack, J.J., The Grenvillites 1801-1829: Party politics and factionalism in the age of Pitt and Liverpool, Urbana (etc.); London: University of Illinois Press, 1979.
Cook, C., J. Stevenson, The Longman Handbook of Modern British History, London and New York: Longman, 1996, p. 377.
The Encyclopedia Britannica Online, William Pitt the Younger


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