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Portrait by Hoare in the National Portrait

Gallery ....... Frontispiece

SIR ROBERT WALPOLE. After the Portrait by

Kneller ...... Facing page j

FREDERICK THE GREAT. After the Portrait by

George Van der Myn .....,, 24
THE DUKE or NEWCASTLE. After the Portrait

by Hoare . . . . . . . ,,40

SIR EDWARD HAWKE. After the Portrait by

G. Knapton. . . . . . . ,, 50

WOLFE. From the Portrait by Schaak in the

National Portrait Gallery . . . . ,,66

Painting by B. West ,,72

GEORGE in. After the Portrait by Ramsay . ,, 82
LORD HOLLAND. . . . . . . ,, 101


CHARLES TOWNSHEND. After the Portrait by

Reynolds ,, 148


ABBEY . . . . . . . . ,, i6z

JOHN WILKES. From the Portrait by E. Pine

in the Guildhall ,, 168

EDMUND BURKE. After the Portrait by Reynolds

in the National Portrait Gallery . . . ,,191

the Painting by Copley in the National

Gallery ,, 201

LORD CHATHAM. Wax Effigy in Westminster

Abbey ........,, 214


Page 109, line 22, for "of heresy
read "for heresy."




Pitt's birth and parentage At Eton and Oxford Holds a
commission in the Blues Enters Parliament The
position of parties Pitt joins the Opposition Whigs
His early speeches Deprived of his commission by
Walpole Pitt's intimacy with the Prince of Wales.

" 1\ /T R<

Autobiography, " was a younger brother
of no great family, as I believe the founder of
it was Governor Pitt, his grandfather, commonly
known by the name of Diamond Pitt, on account
of a vast large diamond which he obtained I know
not how in the East Indies." l The quotation is
in the characteristic manner of the very human
document from which it is taken, but justice to
our subject demands its amplification here. It

1 Fitzmaurlce's Shelburne, i. 71.


was Governor Pitt, indeed, who conferred wealth,
and' .with it a pleasure >of celebrity, upon the
family. Bui they traced their origin farther
b/ick intc- jthe 'f>aE. The first authentic date for
the foundation of their fortunes seems to be in
the reign of Elizabeth, when a certain John Pitt,
their progenitor, was Clerk of the Exchequer.
His son settled at Blandford in 1662, and his
grandson was rector of Blandford. The rector's
son Thomas was the " Diamond " Pitt above
referred to, who brought the family into promi-
nence and gave them influence and means. His
virile and masterful personality found scope in a
varied career of commerce and administration in
the Indies. Beginning as an "interloping" mer-
chant, he became finally Governor of Madras ; and
in India he purchased the famous Pitt diamond,
which he sold to the Regent Orleans in 1717,
making probably over l 00,000 by the transaction.
At home he utilised his accumulated riches
according to the spirit of the times. He bought
among other property the borough of Old Sarum,
and himself sat in Parliament as its representative.
Robert, his eldest son, married Harriet, sister of
the Irish Earl of Grandison, and their second son
was William Pitt, the future Lord Chatham.

Pitt was born on November 15, 1708, in the
parish of St. James's, Westminster. Little is
known of his parents, and singularly few details


survive of his own boyhood and youth. Like
Walpole before him and Charles James Fox after
him, he went to Eton. George Lyttelton, with
whom he formed a close friendship, Henry Fox,
his political rival during the greater part of his
career, and Fielding were among his schoolfellows.
In after-years Pitt confided to Shelburne a re-
trospective view of Eton, which the latter em-
bodied in one of those mordant sentences that
make his portrait of Pitt, however palpably dis-
torted, the most readable of all the engrossing
passages in his fragment of autobiography.
" Mr. William Pitt," Shelburne said, "was by all
accounts a very singular character from the time
he went to Eton, where he was distinguished,
and must have had a very early turn of observa-
tion, by his telling me, that his reason for pre-
ferring private to publick education was, that he
scarce observed a boy who was not cowed for
life at Eton ; that a publick school might suit a
boy of a turbulent disposition, but would not do
where there was any gentleness." l Whatever
may have been the effect of eighteenth-century
Eton upon others, it can scarcely be said to have
cowed Pitt. But we may question whether his
early training exercised much formative influence
on a character that was soon strongly marked
and exceptional. It may possibly have ac-

1 Fitzmaurice's Shelburne, 1. jz.


centuated, by repulsion rather than attraction,
certain traits which were always noticeable in
Pitt, but which in normal cases a public school
education is supposed to modify or eradicate.
An intense self -consciousness, a lofty and
exasperating reserve, and an elaboration of
manner unusual even in the eighteenth century,
were characteristics that accompanied him
throughout his life.

From Eton Pitt went in 1727 to Trinity
College, Oxford, where by a curious irony of
circumstance Lord North, who was to be the
chief agent in carrying out that coercive
American policy which Pitt spent his last years
in denouncing, followed him some twenty years
later. About Pitt's life at college the records
are unfortunately silent ; and for the Oxford
period, as for that spent at Eton, we can in the
main only fall back upon conjecture. The chief
surviving trace of his industry is the Latin poem
which he wrote in his second year on the occasion
of the death of George the First. Lord Macaulay
makes merry over it in the first of his two
celebrated essays on Chatham ; but, though
conceived according to the spirit of the age in
strains of extravagant eulogy, and containing
one false quantity, which we may hope, with
Macaulay, was the error of his printer or
biographer rather than of himself, it is on the


whole not perhaps quite so worthless as the
great historian would have us believe. But Pitt
never attained to a true appreciation of the
beauty of classical poetry. When he discusses
matters of scholarship and taste he is invariably
pedantic ; and though his letters to his nephew,
Lord Camelford, contain repeated exhortations to
study Homer and Virgil, he fixes his attention
almost exclusively upon their moral aspect,
regarding them as essentially teachers of virtue.
History, ethics, and politics were subjects more
really congenial to him. When he was himself
arranging for the education of his son William,
he expressed a special desire that Thucydides
should be the first Greek book read by the latter
on going up to Cambridge. And long after his
own studies were finished, in the late evening of
his life, his thoughts went back at a great crisis
to the Athenian who has been finely called " the
historian of our common humanity, the teacher
of abstract political wisdom," and in one of his
American speeches he paid the first Congress at
Philadelphia the splendid compliment of setting
it side by side with the statesmen of antiquity
whom Thucydides imperishably depicts. 1 At
Oxford Pitt also imbibed the philosophy of
Locke, and with it the principles of Whiggism.
But his university career was never carried to

1 Fide p. 1 88.


completion. Gout, which had already made
itself felt at Eton, again attacked him, and he
left Oxford, without taking a degree, to make a
tour for his health in France and Italy.

He was, it must be remembered, a younger
son, and when he returned from the Continent
his father was dead and his own means were but
scanty. He decided to enter the army, and
secured a cornet's commission in the Blues. It
is not easy to conceive of Pitt as a soldier, but
during his brief career of arms he took pains
with his profession as he did with everything.
He afterwards told Shelburne that while he was
a cornet of horse there was no military book
which he did not read through. The real path
of his ambition was now, however, opening before
him. His elder brother, who had inherited
wealth and much Parliamentary interest, was
elected simultaneously for Okehampton and
Old Sarum. He took his seat for the former
borough, and got Pitt returned as junior
member for Old Sarum in 1735. Pitt's colleague
in its representation was Robert Needham, who
had married his sister Catherine.

When Pitt entered Parliament, Walpole was
drawing towards the close of his long period of
supremacy. Few epochs in English history are
superficially less attractive than the Walpolean
era. Looking back upon it, our eyes are fixed

After the portrait by Kneller


mainly on Parliament, where we see a vista of
government by corruption. Though Walpole
did not originate Parliamentary corruption, he
systematised it ; and to his unconcealed disbelief
in principle, and his avowed preference for retain-
ing power by bribery and patronage rather than
by the concentration of all available administra-
tive ability in the service of the Crown, the low
political tone of his time was largely due. Its
traces were seen in the want of public spirit
which was so apparent throughout the country
during the Forty-five. It was reflected in a
latitudinarian and lethargic Church, and in a
literature which, though polished, lacked inspira-
tion. Yet, in spite of Walpole's obvious short-
comings, few who watch the course of English
history during the period that succeeded his fall
can feel much doubt as to the supreme usefulness
of his career. He restored the financial equili-
brium of England, and with light taxation and
sound credit commerce and industries steadily
grew. Above all, his maintenance of the
Hanoverian dynasty saved the country from the
turmoil attendant on a disputed succession, and
ensured the tranquil development of the Parlia-
mentary system. Pitt's era of conquest represents
a reaction from the pacific policy of Walpole, but
it may be said with justice that it would scarcely
have been possible if Pitt had not been able to


build on the foundations which the great peace
Minister had laid.

But Pitt, when he came into the House of
Commons a young man of twenty-seven, could
hardly be expected to appraise Walpole's ad-
ministration with the judicial equability which
is now possible for us after a lapse of nearly two
centuries since the time in question. If he was
full of ambition, he was inspired also by lofty
principles uncommon in his age. Neither his
ambition nor his principles were of the kind
which Walpole was accustomed to conciliate.
Nor was Pitt likely to make advances. The
immense material progress of England under
Walpole would have been obscured in his eyes
by the aspect of Parliament immediately before
him. He found a Ministry intrenched in borough
influence and Crown patronage, and an Opposition
which comprised a much greater abundance of
talent than was to be found in the Government,
and was made up of men who, amid wide differ-
ences of political conviction, were united in one
common feeling of resentment at their exclusion
from the activities and the fruits of office. Its
most formidable group consisted of the dis-
contented Whigs. They were led in the House
of Commons by Pulteney, a man of property, a
brilliant and attractive speaker, and a great
master of debate. Few politicians of the


eighteenth century showed more early promise
than he, and few had a career which was so
lamentably ineffective. Faults of temper he
certainly had, and he lacked the judgment
and balance essential to a statesman ; but, like
many of his fellows, he suffered from the fact
that his lot was cast in the time of Wai pole,
whose neglect drove him into opposition, where
his policy henceforward was guided by little
more than pique. In the Lords the leader of the
Whig Opposition was Carteret, "a fine person of
commanding beauty," said his critical son-in-law,
"the best Greek scholar of his age, overflowing
with wit, not so much a diseur de bans mots, like
Lord Chesterfield, as a man of true, comprehensive,
ready wit, which at once saw to the bottom, and
whose imagination never failed him, and was
joined to great natural elegance." l His close
acquaintance with foreign politics, above all his
knowledge of Germany and the German language,
gave him a unique place among his contem-
poraries and an immense influence with the King.
Another prominent figure among the Opposition
Whigs was Chesterfield, remembered now chiefly
for his letters and his traditional position at the
head of ton ; a courtier rather than a statesman,
though as a diplomatist abroad and an adminis-
trator in Ireland he showed conspicuous ability.

1 Fitzmaurice's Shelburne, i. 38.


The other great section of the Opposition was
made up of the Tories, "rows of ponderous fox-
hunters, fat with Staffordshire or Devonshire ale."
But two of them at least rose above mediocrity
Shippen, the able and incorruptible Jacobite
leader, and Sir William Wyndham, titular head
of the Tories for many years, whose eloquence
and personal charm won for him a considerable
position. How far the Tories were leavened
with Jacobitism it is difficult to say. Shippen's
group was confessedly Jacobite ; but most of the
remainder accepted the dynasty while they pro-
tested against its policy. The Ministry en-
deavoured to stultify them by proclaiming them
all Jacobites without discrimination. But their
most serious disability was, that long exclusion
from office had robbed them of administrative
experience and capacity ; and though in integrity
they compared favourably at this time with the
Whigs, it might be said without unfairness that
they were scarcely exposed to temptation, for
there seemed but little prospect of either a Tory
or a Coalition Ministry.

Pitt's place in this miscellaneous host was
settled for him by his strong Whig proclivities,
his antipathy to Walpole, and his intimacy with
one of those small groups of politicians united by
ties of friendship, family, or interest, which, under
the name of" connections," were unspeakably dear


to the heart of the eighteenth century. The
" Cobham cousinhood," or " Cobham's cubs " as
they were irreverently called, included besides
Lord Cobham, who had been deprived of his
regiment by Walpole, Sir George Lyttelton,
Richard Grenville, and, soon afterwards, George
Grenville. Lyttelton owed his return for Oke-
hampton to the Pitt interest, and was in early
life Pitt's most intimate associate. His was a
moderating influence upon his greater but im-
petuous friend an influence contrasting strongly
with that exercised by the factious and overbear-
ing spirit of Richard Grenville. But the latter,
who is known to history by his later title of Earl
Temple, played a more considerable part than
Lyttelton in the politics of his time, and, becoming
afterwards Pitt's brother-in-law, took Lyttelton's
place in his counsels, with results that were more
than once attended with disaster. As of him, so
of George Grenville, much more will be heard in
the course of this short history. Of George
Grenville it is sufficient now to say that, despite
his probity, his great business powers, and the
orthodoxy of his Whiggism, there never was, and
never could have been, any real union between
him and Pitt. Grenville was a precisian ; and the
rigidity of his point of view, always that of a Parlia-
mentarian and a lawyer, made him an impossible
colleague for a man who, like Pitt, was at once


intensely proud, elastic in his sympathies, and ever
ready to sacrifice the letter to the spirit of the law.

Pitt made his first speech in support of an
address to the Crown, moved by Pulteney, on the
marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Princess
of Saxe-Gotha. It was "as empty and wordy,"
says Macaulay, "as a maiden speech on such an
occasion might be expected to be." l Certainly
there is nothing in the report of it which has come
down to us that could excite enthusiasm. How-
ever, it received high contemporary praise, and
the impression which Pitt made was deepened
by his subsequent performances. He had not
yet attained, by any means, the maturity of elo-
quence which astonishes us in his later speeches.
But his personal attractions were great, and
instantly drew the attention of Parliament upon
him. His graceful and commanding figure and
his piercing eye, together with that strange
fascination of gesture and delivery in which no
English orator seems ever to have approached
him, can never have been seen to more advantage
than in these early years of opposition. Above all,
he possessed as yet unimpaired a voice of wonder-
ful melody and resonance, which in his later life,
when the substance of what he said showed far
more real beauty and power, sank too often
through exhaustion into an inaudible whisper.

1 Macaulay's Essays : " William Pitt, Earl of Chatham."


He soon attracted the notice of Walpole, who
lost no time in manifesting his disapproval. It
was time to "muzzle this terrible cornet," and
Pitt was accordingly dismissed from the army.
The only result was that he plunged with fresh
hostility into the fiercest of opposition, the chief
rallying point for which was now furnished by
the Prince of Wales. Prince Frederick had
quarrelled with the King because he had not
been allowed to wed a Prussian princess, and
after his marriage with the Princess of Saxe-
Gotha he cherished a still more bitter grievance
on account of the inadequacy and insecurity of
the allowance which he received from his father.
He was himself a man of straw, but under the
able tuition of Bolingbroke, who, though excluded
from Parliament, inspired the Opposition as a
plotter and a pamphleteer, he made himself its
instrument, and his personal feud against the
King and Queen lent its attack upon the Govern-
ment a peculiarly factious tone. The Cobham
party gathered round him, and Pitt duly supported
Pulteney's motion for an address praying the
King to settle 100,000 a year on the Prince
of Wales. Then, when in the summer of 1737
the rupture within the Royal Family was com-
plete, and the Prince, driven from Court, set
up a separate establishment at Norfolk House,
Pitt obtained compensation for his dismissal by


Walpole in a post in Frederick's household. The
Prince selected the little Cobham group as the
special object of his favours, and Pitt was ap-
pointed his Groom of the Bedchamber, Lyttelton
his private secretary. In this rival Court circle
Pitt lived on terms of great intimacy. Charles
Butler tells how the Prince and Pitt were walking
one day in Lord Cobham's gardens at Stowe, apart
from the other guests and deep in conversation.
Cobham thought that Pitt was trying to lead the
Prince into some incautious project, and he said
as much to one of the company. The latter
observed that at all events their tete-a-tete could
not last long. " Sir," said Lord Cobham eagerly,
"you don't know Mr. Pitt's talent of insinuation ;
in a very short quarter of an hour he can persuade
any man of anything." Pitt at this time was
constantly to be found at Stowe ; and the poet
Thomson, when he wrote of its "fair majestic
paradise," left a pleasant reminiscence of him in
the very characteristic lines

" And there, O Pitt, thy country's early boast,
There let me sit beneath the sheltered slopes ;
Or in that temple, where in future times,
Thou well shalt merit a distinguished name,
And with thy converse blest, catch the last smile
Of Autumn beaming o'er the yellow woods." 1

1 Thomson's " Autumn."


A still surer testimony to his increasing importance
was that the organs of the Government began to
assail him. " A young man of my acquaintance,"
said the Gazetteer in the quaint language of the
time, "though an overbearing disposition and
a weak judgment, assuming the character of a
great man, which he is no way able to support,
is become the object of ridicule, instead of praise.
My young man has the vanity to put himself in
the place of Tully. But let him consider that
everyone who has the same natural imperfections
with Tully, has not therefore the same natural
perfections ; though his neck should be as long,
his body as slender, yet his voice may not be as
sonorous, his action may not be as just." 1

1 Almon's Anecdotes of Chatham, \. 33.



Jenkins's Ear and the Spanish War War of the Austrian
Succession Fall of Walpole Ascendency of Carteret
Pitt's vehement attacks on him Carteret resigns
Pitt supports the Pelhams His change of policy
discussed Pitt and Carteret contrasted Carteret's
momentary return to power Pitt given office by the
Pelhams His attitude as Paymaster of the Forces.

IN the present chapter it is proposed to trace
the outline of Pitt's political career up to
the moment when, in 1746, he first attained
office. Both in the history of Europe and in his
own this was a period of transition. In British
annals it was ushered in by the " colony quarrel "
of the Spanish War, which merged itself eventu-
ally in the Continental War of Succession, and
led directly up to the beginning of the world-
wide struggle between England and France for
colonial supremacy over which Pitt presided. In
the sphere of Continental politics it witnessed
the rise of Prussia to the rank of a first-class



power, and the commencement of the long
Austro-Prussian rivalry within Germany which,
though desperately fought out again in the
Seven Years' War, can only be said to have
closed in the nineteenth century on the field of
Koniggratz. And, finally, in the life of Pitt it
covered alike his growing prominence as a leader
of Opposition and his undisguised change of front
upon adhesion to the Government.

The Spanish War was in the nature of things
inevitable, but it was an accident, and almost,
it may be said, a phrase, which set it aflame.
When Captain Jenkins, in a sentence too
epigrammatic to have been original, declared at
the bar of the House of Commons that he had
commended his soul to God and his cause to
his country on being taken and tortured by
a Spanish guarda-costa, an electric thrill of
sympathy and indignation ran through the
country, which made it certain that Walpole
would not be able to resist the call for war.
Whatever may have been the merits of the case
of Jenkins, his story represented not unfaithfully
the precarious state of things in the New World.
Spain still claimed a monopoly of trade with South
America, and England in theory still recognised
the claim. By the Treaty of Utrecht British
rights were limited to the concession then
granted by Spain, of trading with a single vessel


and trafficking in negroes; but in practice
England carried on a vast illicit trade which had
long outrun these dimensions. Spain retaliated
by stringently exercising the right of search on
the high seas ; and the Spanish officials, who
seized British ships and maltreated British
sailors, undoubtedly behaved with cruelty and
insolence in their repression of encroachments
on a monopoly which was really indefensible.
Beneath the question of treaty stipulations lay
other problems of incalculable importance, to
which Carlyle has given trenchant expression in
his Frederick the Great. " Shall there be a
Yankee nation, shall there not be ; shall the New
World be of Spanish type, shall it be of English ?
Issues which we may call immense. Among the
then extant sons of Adam, where was he who
could in the faintest degree surmise what issues
lay hidden in the Jenkins Ear Question ? " l

A further significance was given to the struggle
by the existence of the Family Compact between
the Crowns of France and Spain. This had been
signed in 1733, and it linked the two Bourbon
Powers together in a league to check England's
commercial development. Viewed in the light
of this menacing alliance, the Spanish War is
seen to be only an initial stage in the fight for
the expansion of England's colonial empire,

1 Frederick the Great, bk. xii. ch. 12 ; 3.


which rapidly resolved itself into a duel with
France lasting for the rest of the century. So
regarded, it seems almost superfluous to debate

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