William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham Biography

William Pitt, the Elder was a distinguished statesman of the eighteenth century England. Are you anxious to know the profile, childhood, life, and timeline of this eminent British Whig? Kindly stop by to read his biography sketched below.

William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham

Quick Facts

Gender: Male
Birthday: 15 November 1708
Died: 11 May 1778
Nationality: British
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Spouse/Ex-: Hester Pitt, Countess of Chatham
Father: Robert Pitt
Siblings: Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc
Children: William Pitt the Younger, John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham
Education: Trinity College, Eton College
Awards: Fellow of the Royal Society

William Pitt was the First Earl of Chatham who dominated the political history of Britain both while he was in power and out of power. He was the grandson of Thomas Pitt, who served as the governor of Madras during the East India Company rule in India. Thomas Pitt used his power and earned a good fortune for himself and his family in Britain while he was in service with the East India Company. This had also helped the Pitts in gaining political influence. William Pitt started his political career under Cobham, who was his uncle and the leader of the rebel faction of the Whigs. He criticized Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole for his non-involvement in the European War, which he felt to be against the Treaty signed at Vienna. He was honest and very open in his criticism and remained stubborn in his political views without getting compromised for wealth or power. He was hailed “The Great Commoner” for his refusal to take any credit for him with a title and for his integrity and seriousness for fighting for a common cause. His education at Eton and Trinity College opened his interest in classical literature. The golden-tongued speech of Cicero, the Roman orator turned out to be an influence for his political speech.

Childhood & Early Life

He was born as the fourth of the seven children of Robert Pitt and Lady Harriet Villiers. His siblings include Thomas Pitt, Harriet, Catherine, Ann, Elizabeth, and Mary.
His father was an MP and son of Thomas Pitt, the elder who served as the governor of Madras, India. His mother hailed from Anglo-Irish nobility and was the daughter of Viscount Grandison.
He was educated at Eton and Trinity College. He suffered due to gout while he was at the Eton school.
He left the Trinity College without completing his degree. He studied law at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Career

In 1731, he joined the military and was enlisted in Cobham’s Regiment. He entered politics at the age of 27 as a Tory MP for Old Sarum.
He was unhappy with the way Prime Minister Robert Walpole handled the War of Austrian Succession. He gave a cynical speech against the government and this resulted in his dismissal from military in 1736.
In 1737, he became the Groom of Bedchamber to Prince of Wales. During this time, he formed a Committee of Enquiry and probed into the use of Civil List money used by Walpole’s government.
In 1746, King George II made him the Paymaster General and this gave him a Cabinet rank. Pitt discharged his duties effectively and honestly impressing both the public and the Crown.
When Pelham died unexpectedly, his brother New Castle became the Prime Minister who failed to reward Pitt’s services. When Pitt wrote a letter of objection, New Castle made him the borough of Aldborough in 1754.
New Castle formulated a series of treaties to avoid a war between Britain and France. When Pitt raised his objection over it, he was dismissed from his position as the Paymaster General in 1755.
In 1756, he formed a government with the Duke of Devonshire and George Grenville after Newcastle had resigned his position due to the growing public animosity. He took charge as the Secretary of State.
In 1759 Britain occupied Quebec, the French colony in Canada and established its rule. Pitt became highly popular and powerful but fortune turned against him when George III ascended the throne.
George III disapproved many of Pitt’s policies especially when he raised a demand to declare a war against Spain. This resulted in a dispute and Pitt tendered his resignation in 1761.
In 1766, he was made the Earl of Chatham by King George III who felt the need for a coalition government. Unable to battle against the growing issues, he resigned two year later.
After his resignation, he spent time to curtail the struggle for American Independence. He urged the Crown to reduce the levies imposed on the colonies rather than declaring independence
He attended a debate in the House of Commons over the issue of declaring independence to America. He collapsed and fell dead when he rose to give his speech.

Major Battles

He served as the Secretary of State during the Seven Year War declared in 1756. His able statesmanship was instrumental for the victory of Britain and the establishment of British Empire in North America.
During the American Revolutionary War, he played a considerable role in subduing the revolution. He urged the Crown to reduce the levies against the British Colonies in America but of no use.

Awards & Achievements

In 1735, he became the Member of Parliament of Old Sarum. He was one of the influential persons in “Cobhum’s cubs,” who were intent on bringing down the rule of Sir Robert Walpole.
He brought out great reform in the foreign policy of Britain. Even during war time, he increased national trade through his military campaigns.
In 1766, King Charles III bestowed him with the title, Earl of Chatham.” This made him enter the House of Lords.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1754, he married Hester Grenville, sister of Earl Temple and George Grenville. Though she was 23 years junior to him, she loved him truly. She was an intelligent woman who was sympathetic.
The couple had three sons and two daughters. Their second son William Pitt, the Younger later became the Prime Minister of United Kingdom.
He was an able administrator who was able to handle the political situation even during the Seven Years’ War. He strongly opposed the severe tax imposed on the American colonies.
In recognition of his services, the city of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania is named after him. Even many other cities and towns in Canada, United States, and Australia are named after him.

Trivia

This eminent British politician of the eighteenth century had to battle throughout his life with hereditary diseases and maniac depression. He was infected with gout even during his school days.
This “Great Commoner” of United Kingdom was the grandson of Thomas “Diamond” Pitt. Thomas Pitt served as the governor of Madras during the East India rule in India.

Citation Information

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William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham Biography

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Last Updated

June 17, 2019

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