One of the most eminent of all British statesmen, William Pitt the Younger was born in 1759, he went up to Cambridge aged thirteen with a love of classical literature. In fact he went on to hold the Parliament seat for the University of Cambridge.
In his early days in Parliament he sparred with historians, statesmen and ministers, gaining a reputation as a debater and politician who could challenge the coalition between Whigs and Tories.
Pitt watched as France was beset by revolution, but his focus was on domestic affairs, as Lord Rosebery writes of ‘the most strenuous peace-minister…He had, indeed, to restore vital warmth and consistence to the shattered fragments of empire.’ To this end, Pitt pursued neutrality and peace, but was nonetheless drawn into war against his will.
Defeating opponents including Fox and Shelburne, Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister of England for eighteen years, during the reign of King George III. He set in place a regent to rule England while George was mad.
Pitt dealt with Ireland throughout his Prime Ministership, attempting to find a solution to the Catholic question in a way many other statesmen would have shirked from handling. He also attended to British tax affairs, oversaw the famous Sinking Fund, and sent expeditions to Australia.
Lord Rosebery includes Pitt’s letters to friends such as Lord Wellesley, which reveal a kind and generous leader who was forced to resign from his position due to the Irish problem and pained relations with the King.
Soon after he was called back to Prime Ministership in a shorter, more difficult tenure, which is briefly recorded here.
Lord Rosebery’s fine biography truly demonstrates that Pitt was ‘the embodiment and watchword of British determination’.
Archibald Primrose, Lord Rosebery (7 May 1847 – 21 May 1929), was a Liberal British Prime Minister for just over a year (1894-5) and wrote biographies of Napoleon and Lord Randolph Churchill. Rosebery is reputed to have said that he had three aims in life: to win the Derby, to marry an heiress, and to become Prime Minister. He managed all three.
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