William Pitt, the Younger 1759-1806
Bachelor at 10 Downing Street
William Pitt the Younger lived 46
exhausting years — 19 years
of which he was the prime minister of Great Britain.
Pitt the Younger was British prime minister from 1783-1801
and again from
1804-1806, which made the
French Revolution, the
Revolutionary Wars, and the first years of the
Wars something for him to think about.
William Pitt, 1759-1806
Library of Congress
But he didn't have to wait for
the French to cause a national emergency.
Pitt the Younger took office
three months after the end of the
which left Great Britain with the huge problem of national
debt. Fortunately, Pitt was good with money.
At least with the country's
money. His own purse was fleeced by dishonest tradesmen and
This fact is remarkable because
it stands in stark contrast to many other government
officials whose entrusted public funds show irregularities
while their private accounts prosper.
This also explains where Pitt's
priorities lay. On his deathbed, having no wife or kids to
worry about, his last words were,
Oh, my country!
How I leave my country!
William Pitt's father was
William Pitt the Elder,
1st Earl of Chatham, who lived from 1708-1778. Pitt Senior
had been prime minister himself, back in the days.
William Pitt's mother was
Hester Grenville, who
Hester, by the way, was the sister
of George Grenville, who
had been the second prime minister before Pitt the Elder
William Pitt Jr.
was William Sr.'s and Hester's fourth child. He
had three siblings. The four children were, in
order of appearance:
born October 18, 1755
born September 10, 1756
born April 14, 1758
born May 28, 1759
Hester Lucy Stanhope was William's
James Hamilton Stanhope
was William's nephew.
Why should we care?
Stanhope, moved in with her uncle, William Pitt
the Younger, in 1803. Apparently, Pitt was very
happy with this arrangement. She certainly was.
Stanhope was present at his uncle's deathbed.
His written account of this event and other
recollections of Pitt was handed down to J.H. Stanhope's nephew, Philip
Henry Stanhope, who published it.
Niece and nephew in detail:
On December 19,
1774, William's sister, Hester Jr. (1755-1780),
married Charles Stanhope (1753-1816). The couple
had a daughter, Hester Lucy Stanhope (born on
March 12, 1776; died on June 23, 1839).
Hester Jr., died on July 19, 1780. Her widowed
husband Charles Stanhope, William's
brother-in-law, married his second wife on March
12, 1781. Her name was Louisa Grenville, the
daughter of William's maternal uncle, Henry
Grenville. Charles and Louisa had a child, James
Hamilton Stanhope (born on September 7, 1778;
hanged himself on March 5, 1825).
Hamilton Stanhope was Hester Lucy Stanhope's
Engraving by J.K.
Government Art Collection
Early Career 1781-1783 — William Pitt the Orator
Pitt took his seat in the House
of Commons on January 23, 1781, representing the borough of
Appleby, northwestern England. He was 21 years old.
He delivered his unanticipated
maiden speech on February 26, 1781. Unlike other maiden
speeches, his was impromptu. In the middle of a
debate about economic reform Pitt was called
upon to say a few words. The speech was a
Parliamentary History of England describes
William Pitt, son to the late earl of
Chatham, now rose for the first time, and in
a speech directly in answer to matter that
had fallen out in the course of the debate,
displayed great and astonishing powers of
His voice is
rich and striking, full of melody and force;
his manner easy and elegant; his language
beautiful and luxuriant. He gave in this
first essay, a specimen of eloquence, not
unworthy the son of his immortal parent.
Stanhope also remembered
Pitt's pleasant intonation. According to Stanhope's Life of
William Pitt, he had a
"deep tone and
wonderful harmony which characterized his
voice both in public and private."
William Pitt's First Term 1783-1801
Pitt became prime
minister shortly after the
of Paris of September 3, 1783, was
signed and the
1783 Peace of Paris officially ended
On December 19, 1783, he was
made First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the
Exchequer, which in effect made him prime minister. How so? Thomas
Babington Macaulay tells us in his History of England,
When there was
a Lord Treasurer, that great officer was
generally prime minister. [...] It was not
till the time of Walpole that the First Lord
of the Treasury was considered as the head
of the executive administration.
Prime Ministers in Great Britain.
When William Pitt the Younger took office, he was only 24
years old, the youngest British prime minister to this day.
At the time, King George III
ruled Great Britain and Ireland, and had done so since 1760.
George would outlive Pitt the Younger by 14 years.
Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Downing in 1682
Work and home address of Pitt the Younger from 1783
in Great Britain
Since December 1905
Officially, the office of the prime minister didn't exist in
Great Britain until, on December 2, 1905,
King Edward VII
proclaimed in his Royal Warrant:
taking it into Our Royal consideration that
the precedence of Our Prime Minister has not
been declared or defined by due authority,
know ye that in the exercise of our Royal
Prerogative We do hereby declare Our Royal
Will and Pleasure that at all times
hereafter the Prime Minister of Us, Our
Heirs and Successors shall have place and
precedence next after the Archbishop of
On the same day,
became the first formal British prime minister.
:: Before December 1905
Unofficially, Robert Walpole
was the first prime minister, acting as such from 1730-1742.
British National Archives tell us,
official creation in 1905, the title of
'prime minister' was often used when
referring to the First Lords of the
Treasury, or Lords Treasurer, an ancient
title for the principal minister with
control over the Treasury.
Constitutionally, in order of precedence,
the Prime Minister ranks fourth after the
Sovereign, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and
the Lord Chancellor.
Minister is appointed by the sovereign on
the understanding that he or she can command
the confidence of the Commons, a situation
which may change after a General Election is
held on the dissolution of Parliament. The
life of a Parliament must not exceed five
years, but the Prime Minister may advise the
sovereign for an earlier dissolution. The
life of a Parliament can be extended if it
so decides and the sovereign agrees but this
is unlikely to happen unless in exceptional
circumstances, as happened during the Second
And here is the list,
Past Prime Ministers
Back to Pitt the
Younger and the year 1783.
East India Company
Pitt took office
amid hefty debates about the growing power of
East India Company,
which had begun to control not only commerce but
also politics. What was his solution?
In August 1784,
the East India Company Act, or
India Act of 1784, was passed. This
decree kept the East India Company in charge of
all affairs, but required it to accept the
direction of the British government on subjects
of political nature.
Pitt was in favor
of the abolition of the slave trade.
On May 12, 1789,
to the Commons. Pitt himself had helped
Wilberforce with the preparation of the
resolutions that Wilberforce mentioned at the
end of this speech.
However, in Great
Britain slavery would not be outlawed until 1833. (It
would be outlawed in the U.S. in 1808.)
Health, Ireland, and Income Tax
On July 14, 1789,
At around this
time, and seemingly unrelated to the
developments in France, Pitt's health
began to require some attention. It would become
a serious concern by 1793.
On the European mainland, the
War of the First Coalition
(part of the
French Revolutionary Wars)
broke out in 1792. It would last until 1797.
guillotined their king
on January 21, 1793, and his wife
on October 16, 1793. Pitt had met Louis and
Marie-Antoinette on his visit to Paris in
On February 3,
1793, France declared war on Britain and the
On May 23, 1798
the Irish Rebellion
broke out. It ended on September 8, 1798.
This revolt prompted Pitt to support the
Act of Union,
which took effect on January 1, 1801, and
unified Great Britain (Wales, England and Scotland) and
Ireland as a United Kingdom, at least on paper.
War of the Second
Coalition (part of the
French Revolutionary Wars) broke out in November 1798.
This war would last until 1802.
On April 5, 1799,
the Act of 1799
was passed via which Pitt introduced the income
See more under
French Revolutionary Wars
and Income Tax.
Pitt resigned on February 3, 1801.
Why did Pitt
cause for Pitt's resignation was his endorsement
of the so-called Catholic emancipation, which
would allow Irish Roman Catholics to enter
George III was outraged by the very
thought of it. Nevertheless, he held Pitt in high esteem and hoped he would
abandon the issue. But Pitt didn't budge.
the son of Pitt's father's physician,
became the new prime minister. And Pitt wished
him all the best. Sincerely.
King of Great Britain and
1st Viscount Sidmouth
Government Art Collection
Pitt the Younger
In-between Terms 1801-1804
On March 27, 1802, Britain
signed a peace treaty with France, the
Treaty of Amiens.
On May 16, 1803, Great Britain
declared war on France (part of the
Napoleonic Wars). Prime
minister Addington was clearly overwhelmed by the task. This
development drew Pitt back out of semi-retirement.
Having been prime minister since
February 1801, Henry Addington resigned in May 1804.
Second Term 1804-1806
On May 10, 1804, Pitt began his
Worry over French expansion on
the mainland and a possible French invasion of the homeland
caused Britain to join the Third Coalition against
War of the Third Coalition
broke out on September 23, 1805 (part of the
Napoleonic Wars) when
Napoleon declared war on Austria.
On October 21, 1805, Pitt had
much to celebrate on the occasion of Britain's victory at
Battle of Trafalgar,
which destroyed Napoleon's dream of invading Britain.
But Napoleon followed up by
taking Vienna on November 13, 1805, and winning the
Battle of Austerlitz on
December 2, 1805.
In 1862, Earl Stanhope wrote in
his book Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt,
The defeat at
Austerlitz was indeed a most grievous blow
to the English Prime Minister.
last ten days of his residence at Bath Mr.
Pitt was joined by his attached friend and
physician Sir Walter Farquhar. He had also
Mr. Charles Stanhope with him at that time.
The meeting of Parliament had been fixed for
the 21st of January, and on the 9th he set
out with Sir Walter and Charles Stanhope on
his journey homeward.
So much on
leaving Bath was the strength of Pitt
reduced, that it took him three days to
reach his villa at Putney. On seeing him
again. Lady Hester Stanhope was greatly
shocked at his wasted appearance and hollow
tone of voice. There is a little incident of
him at that period which has often been
related, but with some variations as to time
or place, and therefore perhaps not derived
from any direct authority. It is said that
on leaving his carriage, and as he passed
along the passage to his bedroom, he
observed a map of Europe which had been
drawn down from the wall; upon which he
turned to his niece and mournfully said,
"Roll up that map; it will not be wanted
these ten years."
Utterly exhausted, William Pitt
the Younger died on January 23, 1806.
Pitt's cousin, William W. Grenville,
the son of former prime minister George Grenville, became
More Pitt the
Here you can read the
Life of the Right Honourable William
Pitt by Philip Henry Stanhope online.