Wilkes, America and Reform
When this period opens George II had been on the throne for nearly 27 years; and Henry Pelham, first lord of the Treasury and leader of the House of Commons, had held these offices for nearly 11 years. The nation was at peace; Jacobitism no longer menaced the Hanoverian dynasty; and no deep-seated party divisions disturbed the House of Commons.
On 6 March 1754, a month before the fourth Parliament of the reign was due to be dissolved, Henry Pelham died; and a new era opened. Pelham was immediately succeeded as head of the Treasury by his brother, the Duke of Newcastle, but the question of who was to hold the key office of leader of the House of Commons remained unsettled and occupied the attention of politicians for the next three years. Connected with this were problems of foreign policy. In 1755 fighting broke out between the British and the French, on the seas and in North America, an