William Pitt the Younger

British statesman and prime minister (1759–1806) / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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William Pitt the Younger (28 May 1759  23 January 1806) was a British statesman, the youngest and last prime minister of Great Britain (before the Acts of Union 1800) and then first prime minister of the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Ireland) as of January 1801. He left office in March 1801, but served as prime minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806. He was also Chancellor of the Exchequer for all of his time as prime minister. He is known as "Pitt the Younger" to distinguish him from his father, William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who had previously served as prime minister and is referred to as "William Pitt the Elder" (or "Chatham" by historians).

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William Pitt
Portrait by John Hoppner
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom[lower-alpha 1]
In office
10 May 1804  23 January 1806
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byHenry Addington
Succeeded byThe Lord Grenville
In office
1 January 1801  14 March 1801
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byOffice established
Himself as Prime Minister of Great Britain
Succeeded byHenry Addington
Prime Minister of Great Britain
In office
19 December 1783  1 January 1801
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byThe Duke of Portland
Succeeded by Office abolished
Himself as 1st Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
10 May 1804  23 January 1806
Preceded byHenry Addington
Succeeded byLord Henry Petty
In office
19 December 1783  1 January 1801
Preceded byLord John Cavendish
Succeeded byHenry Addington
In office
10 July 1782  31 March 1783
Preceded byLord John Cavendish
Succeeded byLord John Cavendish
Parliamentary offices
Member of Parliament
for Cambridge University
In office
18 May 1784  23 January 1806
Preceded byLord John Townshend
Succeeded byLord Henry Petty
Member of Parliament
for Appleby
In office
8 January 1781  30 March 1784
Preceded byWilliam Lowther
Succeeded byJohn Leveson-Gower
Personal details
Born(1759-05-28)28 May 1759
Hayes, Kent, England
Died23 January 1806(1806-01-23) (aged 46)
Putney, England
Resting placeWestminster Abbey, England
Political partyTory[lower-alpha 2]
Parent(s)William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham
Lady Hester Grenville
Alma materPembroke College, Cambridge
Signature
  1. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from the Act of Union in January 1801.
  2. His politics largely aligned to the Tories, though he considered himself an "Independent Whig" and was opposed to development of partisan politics.
Close
William Pitt by Joseph Nollekens, 1808
Statue of Pitt at Pembroke College, Cambridge, his alma mater
The huge monument to William Pitt the Younger by J. G. Bubb in the Guildhall, London, faces an equally huge monument to his father, William Pitt the Elder, in a balanced composition

Pitt's prime ministerial tenure, which came during the reign of King George III, was dominated by major political events in Europe, including the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Pitt, although often referred to as a Tory, or "new Tory", called himself an "independent Whig" and was generally opposed to the development of a strict partisan political system.

Pitt was regarded as an outstanding administrator who worked for efficiency and reform, bringing in a new generation of competent administrators. He increased taxes to pay for the great war against France and cracked down on radicalism. To engage the threat of Irish support for France, he engineered the Acts of Union 1800 and tried (but failed) to secure Catholic emancipation as part of the Union. He created the "new Toryism", which revived the Tory Party and enabled it to stay in power for the next quarter-century.

The historian Asa Briggs argues that his personality did not endear itself to the British mind, for Pitt was too solitary and too colourless, and too often exuded an attitude of superiority. His greatness came in the war with France. Pitt reacted to become what Lord Minto called "the Atlas of our reeling globe". William Wilberforce said, "For personal purity, disinterestedness and love of this country, I have never known his equal."[1] Historian Charles Petrie concludes that he was one of the greatest Prime Ministers "if on no other ground than that he enabled the country to pass from the old order to the new without any violent upheaval ... He understood the new Britain."[2] For this he is ranked highly amongst all British Prime Ministers in multiple surveys.[3][4]

Pitt served as prime minister for a total of eighteen years, 343 days, making him the second-longest serving British prime minister of all time, after Robert Walpole.