The Portland Whigs, 1792-4
From 1792, as the French revolution took an increasingly violent course, posing a threat to monarchical Europe and raising the prospect of war, the more conservative section of the opposition Whig party, under the leadership of the 3rd duke of Portland, gradually moved closer to Pitt’s ministry and away from the more liberal wing of the party led by Fox. However, Portland’s reluctance to destroy the party by breaking irrevocably with Fox ensured that the final rupture did not take place until January 1794. The Portland Whigs’ official junction with the government (by which they did handsomely) was concluded in the following July.
William Henry Cavendish Bentinck (1738-1809) was Member for Weobley (as marquess of Titchfield) from 28 Mar. 1761 until he succeeded his father as 3rd duke of Portland on 1 May 1762. He became a prominent member of the Rockingham Whig group and was appointed lord chamberlain in the 2nd marquess of Rockingham’s administration in July 1765. The ministry fell in July 1766, but Portland was pressured into remaining in office as a possible link with the new Chatham government. After an unhappy five months he resigned, having conceived a lasting hostility to Chatham, and strengthened in his attachment to Rockingham. He took office as lord lieutenant of Ireland when Rockingham returned to power in April 1782, but resigned in August on Lord Shelburne’s appointment as prime minister following the death of Rockingham, whom he succeeded as head of the Whig party. As such, he was the titular premier in the Fox-North coalition of April to December 1783, and on its dismissal continued as leader of the Whig opposition to the ministry of Chatham’s son William Pitt.