PITT, Thomas (1653-1726), of Mawarden Court, Stratford sub Castle, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 5 July 1653, 2nd surv. s. of John Pitt, rector of Blandford St. Mary, Dorset 1645-72, by Sarah, da. and h. of John Jay of West Hemsworth, Witchampton, Dorset. m. c.1679, Jane, da. of James Innes of Reid Hall, Moray, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.
Commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1689-90, Salisbury 1690, capt. of militia ft. Wilts. 1689-?97; pres. of Fort St. George, India 1697-1709; j.p. Wilts. by 1701-at least 1702, Dorset and Wilts. 1712-?d.; commr. for 50 new churches 1715; gov. Jamaica 1716-17.1
Pitt was the second cousin of George Pitt. His family had been prominent tradesmen and professional men in Blandford for five generations. His father was presented to the family living at the height of the Civil War, and left undisturbed by the triers and ejectors during the Interregnum and by the Act of Uniformity. Pitt went out to India on board the East Indiaman Lancaster in 1673, deserted at Balasore, the chief port of Orissa, and as an ‘interloper’ became a thorn in the Company’s flesh, especially after marrying the niece of their ‘false servant’ Matthias Vincent. On his return to England in 1683, he was fined £1,000, of which £600 was abated by the Company; but a more serious blow was the decision of Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys in Sandys’s case, which effectually killed interloping for the time being. There can be no doubt, however, that he had already acquired a comfortable fortune. In 1686 he leased Mawarden Court, adjacent to Old Sarum, from the dean and chapter of Salisbury. The King’s agents reported of the borough that ‘Mr Pitt, interloper, has the making’, and they were confident that two fit persons would be returned. But although Pitt took his seat in the Convention, and was appointed to the committee to consider the unfavourable balance of trade with France, his election was declared void. He stood unsuccessfully at the by-election and petitioned against the result, but withdrew it, presumably in anticipation of a vacancy at Salisbury, where he was duly returned after a contested election. On re-entering the House, he re-activated the committee to hear petitions against the East India Company, his name standing first on the list. In the second session he was appointed to the inquiries into the expenses and miscarriages of the war. On 6 Nov. 1689, the Privy Councillors ‘and Captain Pitts’ were ordered to present an address regarding the imposition by the Company of martial law in St. Helena, and he was among those to inquire into the circumstances in which the commission was granted. He was appointed to the committee on the bill for restoring corporations, in which he supported the disabling clause. Altogether he was an active Member, serving on 25 committees, but making no recorded speeches.2
Pitt was re-elected in 1690, but soon returned to India, where interloping was now safe. On his return he seems to have become a Tory, though he signed the Association in 1696, and he was reconciled to the East India Company, which appointed him president at Madras. It was at this time that he acquired the famous diamond. Returning to England for the last time in 1709, he was still regarded as a Tory until the closing years of Queen Anne, when he reverted to his earlier opinions and became a warm partisan of the Hanoverian succession. He died on 28 Apr. 1726, on the worst of terms with his entire family, except one grandson, ‘a hopeful lad’, who became prime minister and Earl of Chatham.
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
This biography is based on C. A. Dalton, Life of Thomas Pitt.