PITT, Hon. William (1759-1806), of Holwood and Walmer Castle, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



8 Jan. 1781 - 1784
1784 - 23 Jan. 1806

Family and Education

b. 28 May 1759, 2nd s. of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham by Lady Hester Grenville, da. of Richard Grenville of Wotton, Bucks. educ. privately by Rev. Edward Wilson; Pembroke, Camb. 1771; L. Inn 1778, called 1780. umn.

Offices Held

PC 10 July 1782; chancellor of Exchequer July 1782-Apr. 1783; first ld. of Treasury and chancellor of Exchequer 19 Dec. 1783-14 Mar. 1801, 10 May 1804-d.; member of Board of Trade Jan. 1786.

High steward, Camb. Univ. 1790; masster, Trinity House 1790-d.; ld. warden, Cinque Ports Aug. 1792-d.; col. Cinque Port vols. and Trinity House R. vol. artillery 1803-d.


William Pitt was in 1790 only 31 years of age, and at the height of his power. He had concluded triumphantly his first full Parliament as prime minister, was the dominant orator in the House of Commons, and enjoyed ascendancy in his cabinet and the favour of a grateful and subdued monarch. After riding the Regency crisis, the only real threat to his ministry once it had so surprisingly survived its first week, he had become ‘the only object the nation can perceive’.1 His position was indeed a special one: he believed that there was ‘no wisdom in establishing general rules or principles in government or policy’,2 and in his chosen task of restoring national finances and checking abuses in government he lent his authority to inspired expedients of the kind he had learnt in pupillage to Lord Shelburne. He would in some respects have been content to see these develop into a system, particularly so in the case of the sinking fund scheme for the redemption of the national debt, but the war with revolutionary France, which he was unable to obviate, demanded fresh devices.

Pitt relied on convincing the House of the expediency of his measures without formal party organization. He was ‘professor of oratory’ and not party leader.3 He did not cultivate men and would ‘scarcely acknowledge a bow’: although he had a personal following of friends and admirers, it was far from sufficient to maintain him. Aloof, like his father, in public life, he expected his measures to be carried by merits visible to an independent majority disposed to support government, but where they were rejected or ill supported, did not attempt to push through even his favourite projects. He pleaded, and left others to muster the support that pleading could not sway. Sanguine in all things, he never contemplated defeat and scorned all ‘stage effect’; in defence of his measures, to quote William Windham, he ‘always spoke in so clear a way, and so directly to the point that it appeared to be his only object to explain to the people through the medium of the reporters, the matter on which he spoke’.4 His speeches were ‘miserably reported’ and he allegedly corrected only two (the budget of 17 Feb. 1792 and that in favour of the Irish union) for the press, but Fox remarked in 1806 that Pitt’s absence would ‘render every debate flat and uninteresting ... one feels as if there was something missing in the world’.5

The King’s recovery after the Regency crisis early in 1789, at a time when opposition looked forward to power, dashed Fox’s hopes of displacing Pitt, who had been obliged to contemplate returning to the bar. Henceforward Pitt always had the upper hand in the parliamentary duel with Fox, who complained that Pitt had arrived ‘much nearer to that independent and unconstitutional situation which I was falsely accused of aiming at, than the India Bill ... could ever have placed me’. Of the general election of 1790, in which he headed the poll for his university against token opposition, the last he ever faced there, Pitt remarked:

There have not been above three or four instances of disappointment, which are counter-balanced by success in other quarters which we hardly expected and upon the whole I have no doubt of our being considerably stronger than in the last Parliament.6

It was true that opposition never reached the same voting potential as in the previous Parliament. This became clear at the opening of the new Parliament when the conclusion of a convention with Spain over the Nootka Sound dispute guaranteed the future of British Columbia and Pitt was able to obtain approval for it, and for the additional armament required to frighten Spain, by majorities of 258 to 134 and 247 to 123 (13 and 14 Dec. 1790). By raiding the unpaid dividends of the Bank to the tune of £500,000 p.a. and raising additional taxes, Pitt proposed paying off the £3 millions spent on rearmament in four years. The King’s reward of the Garter, declined by Pitt for himself, 13 Dec., was bestowed on his brother Lord Chatham.7 A week later the King was less pleased when, after an ‘amicable’ meeting with Fox and Burke, Pitt with them upheld the continuation, despite the dissolution, of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, which he treated with the impartiality of a juryman. This was in one of his finest speeches, which Wilberforce remarked ‘he never could have delivered, if he had not been a mathematician. He put things by as he proceeded, and then returned to the very point from which he had started, with the most astonishing clearness.’8 While it ‘dulcified’ Burke, it was in defiance of the crown law officers and was delivered at a time when Pitt was so much at loggerheads with Lord Chancellor Thurlow that he had promoted his cousin William Wyndham Grenville to the Lords to manage government business there, at the risk of ‘engrossing too much in one family’, according to the disgruntled Duke of Richmond.9

The only issue on which opposition shook Pitt in this Parliament was the Oczakov question.10 This came to a head on 27 Mar. 1791 when, despite division in the cabinet, Pitt sent an ultimatum to Russia to cease warfare with Turkey and evacuate Oczakov, the occupation of which was regarded as an obstacle to the provision of British naval stores from Poland. In the next two days, Pitt’s demand for naval armament was keenly contested by opposition and he had to count his votes. On 12 and 15 Apr. he defeated censure motions by 253 votes to 173 (the largest minority of the Parliament) and by 254 to 162. The Duke of Leeds resigned the Foreign Office and Pitt, prompted by Lord Grenville, climbed down, averting war with Russia; but a bad impression was made.11 It was counteracted almost at once by the division among the opposition, ostensibly on the Quebec bill by which Pitt divided the two Canadian provinces, but really on the issue of the French revolution, on which Pitt himself had resolutely turned his back and which was a source of contention between Burke and Fox. In a bland adjudication between them, 6 May, Pitt stated that ‘although he was of opinion that our constitution was capable of gradual and temperate melioration and amendment in some few of its principles’, he thought it the best in the world; as far as Quebec was concerned, he could not therefore commend a more democratic constitution, 11 May. Whatever amendments Pitt may have thought advisable to the constitution, the repeal of the Test Act against dissenters was no longer one of them, 10 May, and, while he had supported Mitford’s motion for a committee on English Catholic relief, 21 Feb., he objected to the grounds of Fox’s support for it and hedged it about with restrictions. Later that year he toyed with a tithe commutation bill, but gave it up. The abolition of the slave trade remained his favourite cause, though he had no thought of taking the initiative in it. He was also disposed to support Fox’s libel bill that session. On 25 May, when Thomas Grenville’s alarmist motion against war with Russia was defeated by 208 votes to 114, Pitt regained his equilibrium and wound up the session with ease in defending his finance policy of the last five years. James Bland Burges, under-secretary at the Foreign Office, reported, 7 July 1791:

Mr Pitt daily gains a more and more decided influence in the cabinet. The Duke of Leeds’ resignation, by placing Lord Grenville there, has absolutely given him all foreign affairs; that is, these two friends are so inseparably connected that there is but one sentiment between them; and, in addition, by Dundas’s nomination, they have complete possession of the Home Department, as he is guided by them in everything, as owing his appointment solely to them, and as he holds it... without any share in the patronage, which, added to that of this office and of the Treasury, gives them nearly all his Majesty’s dominions produce.12

On 17 Feb. 1792, in defence of his last peacetime budget, described by George Rose as ‘the most worthy to be preserved of any of his financial speeches’,13 Pitt made his desperate prophecy of ‘fifteen years of peace’. On 1 Mar., when Whitbread moved a censure on the armament against Russia the year before, he justified his retreat from war on the grounds that the price was too high: it was ‘worth the going to a certain specific length, but was not worth the going further’. The censure was defeated by 244 votes to 116 and Pitt made no attempt to pillory Fox over the activities of his unofficial ambassador to St. Petersburg, Robert Adair*. While the clouds gathered in France, he was preoccupied with the defence of his sinking fund scheme and even more with the immediate abolition of the slave trade, on which he made five rousing speeches in April and May 1792, combating the gradualist views of Henry Dundas and concluding, when the issue was shelved on 27 Apr., ‘I am ashamed I have not been able to convince the House to abandon it altogether at an instant’. In other respects, his change of heart was confirmed: he opposed Scottish burgh reform, 18 Apr., and, at Dundas’s urging, Grey’s motion for parliamentary reform, 30 Apr., as well as the removal of Unitarian dissenters’ disabilities, 11 May.14 A riposte to the proceedings of the Friends of the People was his next step and it appeared in the form of a royal proclamation against sedition on 21 May, for which he contrived to obtain the support of the Duke of Portland and the conservative wing of the Whig party. If he hoped that opposition would fall apart on the issue he was too sanguine, for Portland refused privy councillorships for his friends, but he had driven a wedge between Portland and Fox, who disapproved the proclamation. At the same time Pitt had a showdown with Thurlow, who was dismissed; his office was put in commission as a standing temptation to Lord Loughborough, the Whig supposed most eager for office and therefore the intermediary in the protracted negotiatons that ensued to induce the Portland Whigs to join government. These were suspended in June 1792, when Portland stipulated for Fox’s inclusion, to which Pitt claimed to have no personal objection, but which he knew his friends and the King (who was not informed) would not stomach; nor was it likely that he himself, or ‘John Bull’, would accept the corollary of Pitt’s stepping down in favour of the Duke of Leeds as nominal premier, with himself and Fox on an equal footing as secretaries of state. Of Pitt’s confidants, Dundas favoured a junction to take the burden off Pitt and himself in debate, but Lord Grenville, on the supposition that Fox would be given the Foreign Office, was thought to demur. In any case when the Duke of Leeds himself volunteered to make the attempt in August 1792 he was snubbed by the King, who had just bestowed on his prime minister the wardenship of the Cinque Ports, and by Pitt, enabling Fox to question his sincerity and insist that Pitt merely wished to exploit the division of opposition by annexing what he could get of it.15

The aggressive posture of the French revolutionary government in the autumn of 1792 threatened Pitt’s hopes that France would set her house in order. He was now prepared to publicize his disapproval of the French regime. He always looked back to 1792 as to a golden age of financial soundness and commercial expansion, ‘a career the most promising that was ever offered to any country’. He insisted that ‘though of late there has been a disposition to a good deal of alarm, I believe the bulk of the people here, and certainly the higher and middling classes are still sensible of their happiness and eager to preserve it’. The alarmism of Burke and Windham goaded them in November to assure him of support in a contest with Jacobinism, ‘without looking to any arrangement of office’, which suited Pitt well. He had the King’s consent ‘almost without reluctance’ to make Loughborough lord chancellor (which he did in January 1793) and, on learning that the alarmists were unable to promise a party of recruits, 25 Nov., his comment was, ‘we must endeavour to turn it to as much advantage as we can’. On 1 Dec. he promulgated a royal proclamation to encourage loyal associations to muster a national militia, playing on alarmist fears that sedition had grown. He had not planned to meet Parliament till January 1793 and his re-election for the wardenship caused him to miss the opening.16 He justified the King’s speech a week later, 20 Dec., insisting that he wished to avert war but that, if inevitable, it must be pursued with vigour. When France declared war on 1 Feb. 1793, opposition were demoralized. In carrying the aliens bill on 4 Jan., Pitt had assured the King that ‘it was evident that not above ten or twelve persons would have voted with Mr Fox in case of a division’. The augmentation of the forces in anticipation of war, prefaced by a manifesto against French revolutionary principles, 28 Jan., was carried without a division on 1 Feb., as was the address in which Pitt reluctantly vindicated a ‘just and necessary war’, 12 Feb. Thanks to the splintering of opposition into hostile Foxites, vacillating Portland Whigs and an acquiescent ‘third party’ led by Windham and Burke, Fox could only muster 44 supporters for peace on 18 Feb. Pitt was thus given a free hand to budget for extended operations with a coalition of subsidized continental allies in what he hoped would be a short war, 11 Mar., raising funds by competitive loan, lottery and the funding of Exchequer bills, the latter expedient being also applied to the relief of commercial credit.17

In the debate on the traitorous correspondence bill, 21 Mar. 1793, on behalf of which he had engaged the support of leading members of the ‘third party’, Pitt denied Sheridan’s allegation that he was a Tory: ‘he held not the principles of some persons who had lately called themselves Whigs, but the principles of liberty settled at the Revolution’. His hostility to domestic reform was confirmed when he opposed the reception of petitions for parliamentary reform on 21 Feb. and 2 May 1793, and on 7 May, opposing Grey’s motion, identified reform with Jacobinism. Despite this, he could still deplore the frustration of abolition of the slave trade, 26 Feb., 14 May. Defending Auckland’s conduct at The Hague, 25 Apr., he defined the war aims as indemnification for unjust aggression and future security, refusing then and subsequently to subscribe, like some of the ‘third party’, to an out-and-out restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. On 17 June, opposing Fox’s peace motion, he pointed out that as long as naval supremacy was maintained, British commerce could only benefit from war. Lord Wycombe remarked next day:

Nobody else seemed worth attending to excepting Pitt who seems to have made up his mind to going all lengths; he was at least abundantly warlike. It seems to me that Pitt is daily adding to the superiority he has acquired over Fox whom he treated last night with something very much resembling flippancy.

Meanwhile he was able to suspend any arrangement with the ‘third party’, and Portland, convinced that Pitt was an autocrat who would only admit his creatures to power, had no thought of serving under him. In August the French convention declared him ‘l’ennemi du genre humain’, though even they could not agree that every man had the right to assassinate him. It was left to some of the extreme radicals at home, like Redhead Yorke, to clamour for his head.18

Pitt contrived to postpone the next meeting of Parliament until January 1794. On 7 Dec. he had been lectured by Burke and Windham on the need for commitment to French royalism and for an expedition to France, in preference to playing Austria’s game in Flanders and to his father’s buccaneering policy of capturing West Indian islands, but neither this, nor some awkward overtures to Lord Spencer in the preceding month to go to Ireland, brought the two parties together: Loughborough was ignored and Pitt, Grenville and Dundas remained the effective ministry. Even so Pitt submitted the King’s speech to the ‘third party’ for discussion and it was also publicly endorsed by Portland on the eve of the session.19 When Pitt went on to concede in the debate on the address, 21 Jan., that even if the war was a defensive one there was no treating with the present regime in France, and a restored monarchy, though not a sine qua non, was the most likely basis for an armistice, the parties were drawing appreciably nearer. The address was carried by 277 votes to 59. The failure to hold Dunkirk and Toulon were glossed over as the consequence of war against an ‘armed nation’, 3 Feb.: not being one, Britain must make do with German troops and subsidized allied forces, which in his budget of 5 Feb. Pitt felt confident the nation could afford. The priority for Britain was the maintenance of sea power, which did not prove difficult; continental alliances were a commitment ‘only so far as relates to its own defence’. Voluntary subscription and the embodiment of a national militia for home defence were a corollary of this and were proposed on 26 Mar. 1794, as was the enlistment of an émigré corps in April. This was the gist of Pitt’s riposte to a series of critical opposition motions in the spring of 1794, when they could seldom muster 50 votes in their support.

The curtailment of disaffection at home followed; habeas corpus was suspended on 17 May and carried after 16 divisions, in which the minority never exceeded 39. Pitt remained unmoved by opposition taunts about his former reformist opinions and insisted that there was sufficient evidence of sedition to warrant repression. He had meanwhile reopened negotiations with Windham and Portland, urging the latter that they should act together ‘as one great family’ to combat Jacobinism at home and abroad, 24 May; on 13 June Portland and his friends accepted a junction with a preliminary offer of three major offices. Pitt in turn went further towards accepting the restoration of monarchy as a war aim than his own inclination prompted. After some manoeuvring, Portland accepted the Home Office, Earl Fitzwilliam was promised Ireland and Windham became secretary at war, in enforced subordination to Dundas, who Pitt insisted should remain secretary of state for war. Several of Portland’s followers received douceurs.20

In his first speech after the junction, 10 July 1794, Pitt was able to deny Sheridan’s insinuation that the junction implied bellum ad internecionem. Privately, he hoped the junction would preserve his authority: ‘he placed much dependence on his new colleagues, and still more on himself’. At least one observer, however, commented that whereas hitherto only Lord Grenville, who was reported to dislike the junction, could stand up to Pitt in cabinet, there was now another potential source of friction, and that the King might now shake off his dependence on Pitt, without having to look to Fox, by turning to Windham—a move George III did indeed contemplate later; but for the moment, Windham was obliged by Pitt to display the courage of his convictions by going to Flanders to prepare the Duke of York for his recall. Two other heads fell: Pitt’s scapegrace brother Chatham was obliged to vacate the Admiralty for Earl Spencer, and Lord Westmorland Ireland for Fitzwilliam. The latter reshuffle strained the new arrangement in October 1794, when Pitt’s new allies pressed for a new system in Ireland under Fitzwilliam’s aegis. Although Pitt had cautiously encouraged the enfranchisement of the Irish Catholics in 1793 and hoped for the removal of their remaining disabilities, as well as for a commercial treaty with Ireland of the kind he had tried but failed to carry in 1785, he could not consent to forcing measures with the aid of a new ‘Castle Gang’ in Dublin. Fitzwilliam was given to understand before going to Dublin that this would not be tolerated, though he did not really believe it. When he ignored his instructions, he was recalled in February 1795, without undue strain to the junction of his friends with Pitt (because they appreciated that Fitzwilliam had exceeded his brief and did not back him) but not without dismay among Pitt’s older friends, who saw him as fettered and isolated by his new allies. Pitt replaced Fitzwilliam by a reliable personal friend originally intended to succeed Westmorland, Lord Camden.21

The speech from the throne, 30 Dec. 1794, called for a renewal of the war effort, as the King himself had wished. Pitt was challenged by a critical amendment from his friend Wilberforce, which though defeated by 246 votes to 73, was supported by about 18 deserters, including four county Members. He himself was ‘very little cheered or encouraged’. His majority increased over the next few weeks when opposition assailed him over the continued suspension of habeas corpus and the subsidies to the allies, but Grey’s motion to promote peace negotiations obtained 86 votes against 269, 26 Jan. Grey did not do as well on 6 Feb. on the same question, when the voting was 190 to 60, as compared with 173 to 58 for the Austrian loan the day before. On 23 Feb. Pitt’s budget passed ‘without much animadversion’ despite additional indirect taxation, and three days later Wilberforce and Pitt were reunited on the slave trade question, on which Pitt spurned a compromise with the gradualists, even when Dundas led them. This did not prevent Wilberforce from renewing his plea for peace on 27 May, when the voting was 201 to 86, a more formidable minority than Fox could muster in his censure motion of 24 Mar., lost by 219 to 63. Pitt was able to cement the King’s confidence, however, by a reshuffle which dismissed the Duke of Richmond from the Ordnance and placed the Duke of York in command of the army, and by his undertaking to obtain parliamentary support for the settlement of the Prince of Wales’s debts on the occasion of his marriage, April 1795. Wilberforce, with Grey, again led the opposition in favour of a smaller grant to the Prince, but while there was no enthusiasm for the larger grant and Pitt warned the King that he might have to give it up for want of support, 29 May, the division against the smaller one was 141 votes to 38 on 8 June. Wilberforce commented that Pitt was, after all,

more deeply devoted to his country’s welfare than any other political man. He has had a very awkward business in this Prince of Wales’s affair, in which I fear the Old Boy has been not a little impracticable and forgetful of what he owes to Pitt.22

In the summer of 1795, after the failure of the Quiberon Bay expedition for which the King had refused to release Hanoverian troops, Pitt was disposed to contemplate peace and it was with renewed confidence that he met Parliament on 29 Oct. Despite the hisses of the mob en route, he made one of his most admired speeches, as George Canning reported:

Pitt’s speech was magnificent, and the impression of it upon the House beyond anything that I ever witnessed. His declaration respecting the possibility of treating with the new government seemed to take a weight off people’s minds and set them a shouting with approbation—and the necessity of stipulating vigorously for good terms of treaty was heard, and felt apparently, with but one heart throughout the House (the 59 gentlemen in opposition excepted).

The attempt on the King’s life was the pretext for the bills for the safety of his person and government and for the prevention of seditious meetings that Pitt ushered through the House in November 1795. Having presented his budget and moved an address in favour of flexible relations with the French Directory on 9 Dec., carrying a vote of credit as a security to ‘remove any cavils on the question of the readiness to treat for peace whenever it shall appear attainable on just and suitable terms’, he adjourned.23 On the resumption in February 1796 he cautiously brushed aside Grey’s peace motion—it was supported by only 50 votes to 189—and appeared in the new guise of a promoter of a Poor Law amendment bill inspired by the food scarcity of that winter, which sought with ‘more zeal than knowledge’ to outdo Whitbread’s; as well as in the old one of a champion of the abolition of the slave trade. The refusal of the French Directory to treat vindicated him and opposition failed to shake him in their attacks on his loans and subsidies; Fox’s motion of no confidence before the dissolution on 10 May was lost by 216 to 42. Pitt’s only setback was on the real succession tax proposal. One of his supporters remarked on 20 Apr. ‘He has been met with a degree of personal confidence and attachment more satisfactory and more decidedly marked than any thing I remember in Parliament’, and the Speaker agreed (30 July): ‘Pitt supports himself wonderfully amidst the various and increasing difficulties, by which he is surrounded’.24

The ‘insolent and evasive’ answer returned by the Directory to Pitt’s peace bid of September 1796 enabled him to provide for home defence against invasion and promote a loyalty loan in the ensuing session with a clear conscience and with virtually no opposition. Not only had the general election returned a Parliament that Lord Mornington described as ‘the most zealously attached to Pitt of any I ever remember’, but Pitt had ‘surpassed every former effort of his transcendent eloquence ... His victories over Fox have been more brilliant in debate, than in the divisions, powerful as they have been.’ On 7 Dec., when he introduced his budget, there was, however, a bad omen when a leading independent, Sir William Pulteney, defected over the advance loan to the Emperor of Austria without parliamentary consent. Fox tried to make a constitutional issue of it a week later and was supported by Pulteney’s friends and Fitzwilliam’s, but after Pitt had ‘explained the whole matter’ to his friends at large they could muster only 81 to Pitt’s 285. Pitt’s case in debate was cogently argued, but he conceded that he would sin no more in this respect. On 30 Dec. 1796, he defended the abortive peace negotiation ‘with great energy and vehemence for more than three hours, giving a complete and minute detail of everything that had passed’, and carried the day by 212 votes to 37.25

It was in January 1797 that Pitt decided not to marry Lord Auckland’s daughter Eleanor, his only known matrimonial flutter. He had courted her on the pretext of talking national finances with her father and abdicated her on the pretext of his unsound private finances, of which, in contrast to the former, his neglect was a by-word. In fact at this very time there were hints that Pitt would be content to relieve himself of the Exchequer; the pressure of business was affecting his health and his habits were becoming reclusive. The critical events of that year did not improve matters. At the time of the stoppage of cash payments by the Bank, 26 Feb., complaints of government lethargy were general and Pitt, for the first time, ‘lost his hold on the monied men’. On 28 Feb. he carried a secret committee on the Bank by 244 votes to 86 and was inclined to concede an inquiry into the stoppage, but, prodded by the King, resisted it on alarmist grounds on 1 Mar.: it was rejected by 161 votes to 67. He conceded it a week later, but would admit no change in the committee. Burke pointed out that Pitt must ‘much more distinctly avow his cause, his principles and his allies’, or the desertion by ‘the shabby part of his friends’ would continue: his difficulty was that he ‘cannot make peace and he will not make war’. While he favoured the scrutiny of public expenditure by select committee, 10 Mar. 1797, he resisted an attack on sinecures three days later as infringing on freehold property ‘interwoven in our constitution’. He also, on 22 Mar., resisted Fox’s plea for Irish Catholic relief on the grounds that further concessions would be inconsistent with the existence of an Irish parliament. The passage of the Bank indemnity bill in April strained all his resources. On 23 Apr., a meeting of common hall in London had resolved to petition the King to dismiss ministers, and in the House itself a ‘third party’, whose spokesman was Sir William Pulteney, obstructed him and tried to promote a government from which he was excluded. But Pitt had no intention of resigning: the King was behind him; his health began to recover and, with it, his vigour in debate; the extremism of Fox discouraged desertions to opposition and the ‘third party’ failed to make any mark in the House.26

Although he brushed aside Pollen’s peace motion of 10 Apr. 1797 as of no practical benefit, Pitt was now convinced that Austria would make a separate peace with France, unless Britain concurred in a peace bid. He continued to promote subsidies to Austria, but secured the King’s reluctant consent to negotiate. Naval victories had been his only source of strength in the conduct of the war and the mutinies in the fleet now threatened that asset; but Pitt lost no sleep over them and his parliamentary measures to meet the crisis were generally supported. Combe’s motion for his dismissal on 19 May was defeated by 242 votes to 59. When he denounced Grey’s motion for parliamentary reform on 26 May as a French experiment and was supported by 256 votes to 91, he brought opposition to the point of secession; although they did not consistently secede, they were never a threat to him again in point of numbers while he remained at the helm.27

The failure to purchase peace from the French at or after the Lille negotiation in the summer of 1797 was a blow to Pitt, the most pacific member of his cabinet. To this was added his private grief at the death of his brother-in-law Edward James Eliot* and a further bout of ill-health. Henry Addington always maintained that it was at this time that Pitt told him he must be prepared to take his place. When Parliament met in November, however, Pitt was able to justify the failure of the peace negotiation in detail, and his war budget of 24 Nov. which tripled the assessed taxes was its corollary, as was his insistence that the Bank could not resume cash payments during war. His theme was that there could be no peace without security and that the country was under threat of invasion. Pitt had ‘many more applauses than hisses’ on his way to the thanksgiving at St. Paul’s for the naval victories, 19 Dec., although the orthodoxy of his evident belief that ‘God, who governs the world by his Providence, never interposes for the preservation of men or nations without their own exertions’ was questionable.28 His triple assessment had a difficult passage, as did his scheme, introduced on 2 Apr. 1798, to raise funds by land tax redemption. Nor did loyalty loans and voluntary contributions meet his needs.

During the secession of the Whig leaders, apart from the sporadic efforts of the frustrated ‘third party’ and the boisterous efforts of John Nicholls and Thomas Jones to discomfit him, Pitt’s chief critic in the House was George Tierney. Their clashes culminated in a stalemate duel on 27 May 1798. The long parliamentary campaigns were taking their toll on Pitt’s nerves and sharpening his irritation against the rump in opposition. He had recently secured the dismissal of the Duke of Norfolk from his lord lieutenancy and, more reluctantly, of Fox from the Privy Council for toasting the sovereignty of the people: he at first thought a spell in the Tower would silence Fox. The duel with Tierney was deplored by Pitt’s most respectable supporters: Lord Camden believed that ‘the fate of Europe really depended upon Mr Tierney’s want of adroitness’. The whole effect of Pitt’s staunch advocacy of slave trade abolition the month before was blotted out in Wilberforce’s mind by the fact that the duel took place on Whit Sunday: and Pitt was hard put to it to prevent a motion against duelling. What Wilberforce never doubted was Pitt’s ‘disinterested patriotism, and a purer mind than almost ... any man, not under the influence of Christian principles’. For the rest of the session he was absent from the House because of illness and not from pique, as was readily supposed. He was advised that his delicate constitution would require constant care and that ‘the fatigues of repeated and long debates’ were to be avoided.29

The Irish rebellion of 1798, during which Pitt replaced Camden with Cornwallis as lord lieutenant, led him to project a legislative union, as yet ‘on a Protestant basis’; but for fear of stirring up that country and squabbling with Cornwallis who leaned to the Catholic claims, he omitted the project from the King’s speech, 20 Nov. He took no part in the debate on the address, which was carried unanimously, but his health was by now restored and on 3 Dec. he introduced his proposal for a ten per cent income tax to supersede former fiscal expedients: he carried it without difficulty within a month. His resilience was undeniable: one Member, Sir Robert Clayton, complained, 5 Dec., ‘Indeed the present minister reminded him of a cat; for toss and throw him as you will, he always lights upon his feet’. The naval victory of the Nile, 1 Aug. 1798, had encouraged a new allied coalition; commercial confidence in his government had completely revived.30 On 22 Jan. 1799, the Irish union was promulgated, and next day defended by Pitt on principle. In one of his most eloquent policy speeches he pledged his ‘remaining’ strength to the project. Introducing the Union resolutions, 31 Jan., he refused to be discouraged by the Irish parliament’s negative on the measure and appealed, on Sheridan’s hostile motion a week later, from the Irish parliament to the Irish people. His majority at Westminster, where the measure was endorsed as a matter of national security against Jacobinism, was decisive and he brushed aside any suggestion of parliamentary reform, waiting for a change of heart at St. Stephen’s Green, which Castlereagh worked to secure. The urgency of the measure as a blow against Irish jacobinism was underlined by Pitt’s promotion of the suspension of habeas corpus following the report of the secret committee on Irish disaffection, 18 Apr. 1799.31

Lack of cabinet solidarity rather than his health plagued Pitt henceforward. He had again taken up the abolition of the slave trade and, induced by Canning to believe that he must make it a government question next session, gave notice of a preventive measure, 11 July 1799. In the cabinet, however, Westmorland, Portland and Dundas refused to co-operate. On the failure of the second allied coalition against France and of Britain’s venture in Holland that autumn, Dundas, whose deteriorating relations with the Duke of York and the King Pitt had been trying to patch up, tried to resign the War Office. He yielded to Pitt’s ‘insuperable objections’, only to raise the question again. Nor could Lord Grenville share Pitt’s confidence in the cause of allied co-operation. The early meeting of Parliament in September 1799, at which Pitt had hoped to announce a decisive victory in Holland, was a fiasco and on the resumption, 3 Feb. 1800, after Buonaparte’s peace offer, Pitt was obliged, in an unusually crowded House, to reaffirm his justification of the continuation of war on security grounds against an argumentative opposition. The notion of a French royalist restoration aided by a British expeditionary force, never a priority in Pitt’s mind, receded all the more as he feared it might ‘preclude us from treating even with the present government if it should prevail and be able to establish itself firmly’.32

On 21 Apr. 1800 Pitt introduced and defended, ‘in a most masterly manner’, the Irish union articles. Avoiding pressure to declare himself on Catholic relief, he carried them with ease by June. Opposition never mustered more than 58 votes, and on 8 May Jones’s motion for the dismissal of ministers was lost by 59 votes to 8. That summer Pitt was again prostrate from over-exertion in the House and convalesced at Speaker Addington’s house. The Ferrol expedition, which the King had agreed to with reluctance, was doomed to failure and Buonaparte’s defeat of the Emperor of Austria, for whom Pitt had recently been begging fresh subsidies, brought the question of an armistice, repeatedly pressed for during the session by opposition, again to the fore. Pitt had hopes of a joint one, but the occupation of Egypt and the threat of the armed neutrality of Northern Europe to Britain’s maritime security proved serious obstacles and Austria made a separate peace. As Dundas recorded in a memo of 22 Sept. 1800, the cabinet were hopelessly divided as to their next move. Once more, it seemed, Pitt could not make war or peace and his health was such that Dundas informed the King on 12 Oct. that it would ‘require very great attention to enable him to go through the winter with any degree of energy’; nor was he alone in hinting privately that Pitt’s mind was ‘quite gone’.33

The popular distress caused by food shortage led to an early meeting of Parliament in November 1800. The measures announced to deal with it, although Pitt had pepped up Lord Grenville’s draft of them, were thought too languid. The inability of government to offer prospects of peace in the ‘trimming’ speech devised by Grenville while Pitt recovered his strength also incurred a cool reception on 2 Feb. 1801. Opposition teased government, but remained as nugatory in division as they had ever been since their secession. In anticipation of this, the speech had not even been read at the Cockpit on the eve of the session. The secession had rendered Pitt secure in the House and had encouraged him, never a courtier at the best of times, to see less and less of the King, who had grown to resent Pitt’s and Lord Grenville’s ‘authoritative manners’ and become amenable to more attentive courtiers. Pitt was not obliged to take this secret influence seriously until he got the leading members of the cabinet to agree in principle to the necessity of proposals for Irish Catholic relief, 25 Jan. 1801, which they had (without the King’s knowledge) already assented to in November 1799. In Pitt’s view, perhaps influenced by the threat of a concordat between Buonaparte and the Irish hierarchy, the time had come to implement them. When the King, egged on by Lord Chancellor Loughborough, the Irish lord chancellor Clare and Lord Auckland, would not swallow them, Pitt would not retract and resigned in tears. Whatever other difficulties, hinted at above, may have contributed to Pitt’s frame of mind, this issue was the sole assigned cause of his resignation. It was not so much the issue itself—witness Pitt’s subsequent willingness to waive it without provoking a Catholic outcry and the widespread disbelief of contemporaries that it justified resignation—as the undermining of the King’s confidence in him and the manner in which the King frustrated his intentions, that made his resignation as a prerogative minister inevitable. Canning maintained, on Pitt’s authority,

that for several years (three years back) so many concessions ... had been made, and so many important measures overruled, from the King’s opposition to them, that government had been weakened exceedingly, and if on this particular occasion a stand was not made, Pitt would retain only a nominal power, while the real one would pass into the hands of those who influenced the King’s mind and opinion out of sight.

Pitt’s spell over George III was exorcised and he was never able to cast it again.34

While Pitt chose to make a stand against the storming of the closet by a secret phalanx, his undoubted neglect of the King made it easier for the latter to part company with him—and they did not see each other afterwards for three years—to safeguard a principle on which Pitt had not deigned to sound the King, though he had prior knowledge of the King’s prejudice on the subject.35 Pitt never treated the House of Commons or even a trade delegation in such a manner:36 he had become a bad courtier and the character of his government made this inevitable. His own inner cabinet was a triumvirate of himself, Lord Grenville and Dundas and these two colleagues were more disposed to quarrel with the King and with each other than he with either of them; both had threatened resignation before and both were obstinate on the issue on which Pitt resigned. Moreover, both had a great hold on Pitt, of whom it was often remarked that his better judgment was swayed by favourite but inferior advisers. Addington, for instance, believed that they ‘had contrived to fix Pitt on the Catholic question so as to pique his honour or his pride not to yield to the King’, while Lord Liverpool believed that Pitt was as glad of a pretext to free himself from Grenville as the King was to emancipate himself from Pitt. The impression given to the world was summed up by Ewan Law*:

Mr Pitt was professor of oratory in the House of Commons, and financier but all the other parts of the business were directed and managed by underlings—George Rose, Sir Evan Nepean and others. Pitt was never minister beyond what I have first mentioned—Scotland and India, Dundas ruled and fed the one with the other.

Windham, too, thought the government was ‘a Scotch one’ in which ‘Dundas ruled despotically’ while Lord Malmesbury thought Pitt was ruled by Grenville. Charles Abbot stated in 1796; ‘Pitt transacts the business of all departments except Lord Grenville’s and Dundas’s’; though, according to Sir Gilbert Elliot, he knew nothing of what passed through the Home Office under the Duke of Portland.37

Pitt’s own business capacity was undoubted. Wilberforce said:

Pitt had the largest understanding of any man he had ever known. He could anatomize any subject that came under his consideration and see all its parts; and so completely comprehend and retain in his mind, a just view of it, as to be able to return again to it without requiring a second consideration.

At the Treasury board his manner was ‘awkward and not judicial, but his questions and observations were those so able a man might be expected to make. He seemed to have read the memorials with more attention than Rose, and [was] not unwilling to show that he had.’ The King observed that Pitt was apt to leave disagreeable business to the last but, when forced, got through it with extraordinary rapidity, a mixture of delay and hurry that did his health no good. He noted Pitt’s ‘peculiar talent’ for reducing reports, clauses of statutes, etc. ‘into the best and most precise, short, elegant words, and that he excelled any special pleader in that respect’, but added that ‘as people generally take pleasure in doing what they do well, he was apt to pass time at boards, committees, etc., on business he might entrust to others, and which time he might employ to more advantage elsewhere’. He also allowed himself to be drawn into tedious wrangles over procedure in debate, on which he was an undoubted authority. Dundas maintained that Pitt was

by disposition extremely indolent, as much so as C. Fox. He would sleep for 10 or 12 hours. He did not begin business till 12 or 1 o’clock in the day. In business he never attended to details, other persons went through that part, and he only took the results. But his mind was so quick that he saw through everything ... we discussed and settled [affairs of State] either in our morning rides at Wimbledon, or in our evening walks at that place.

He was credited with being able to dash off a King’s speech or a budget extempore: Lord Mulgrave asserted that ‘it would be less exertion to him to make the finest speech of three hours upon the most difficult point of policy, than it would be to write the most simple letter of ten lines’. More often than not, he wrote to tell people he would rather speak to them: Sheridan gibed that Pitt’s brain only worked when his tongue was in motion. Such informality distressed those who believed that every administration should be ‘grande noircisseuse de papier’: Lord Glenbervie complained, about the Irish union articles, ‘of Pitt’s having prevented any minutes being made of the proceedings, or any nomination even of the persons who formed the meeting to be a committee of council, and of his having avoided even mentioning them or their proceedings directly, or indirectly, in Parliament’.38

Despite his reputation for hauteur, Pitt thought patience the prerequisite of his office and was extraordinarily candid in Council. He had, thought Lord Harrowby, ‘a peculiar talent of making persons with whom he conversed pleased with themselves by taking up their ideas—and enlarging upon them and improving them’. The King thought him ‘very candid and open to conviction in private discussion’. The same quality made for his ‘manly manner of proceeding as a minister always coming forward to avow his measures and not seeking to shelter himself under the cover of others’. It turned to disadvantage, in the King’s view, when he took too much notice of loud-mouthed opponents in debate; not from magnanimity, but from a disposition to do justice to the arguments of others. He had in general ‘a favourable view of mankind’ and was of a trustful, unsuspicious nature, and not a severe judge of character, but where he suspected hypocritical malice, as in Tierney’s case in 1798, he was implacable. His moral indignation could also be formidable: Sir Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis roused it by their levy on Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1794 and they were summarily recalled; Lord Clare roused it by glossing over the atrocities committed during the Irish rebellion of 1798, and, recalled Wilberforce, with ‘that high indignant stare which sometimes marked his countenance’, Pitt ‘stalked out of the house’. His displeasure found expression in ‘a grave, sarcastic, cutting sort’ of wit and so he made enemies of those he despised, but was proof against their hatred. He was never impulsive in utterance: his ‘splendid declamatory eloqence’ was considered and composed and the ‘deep bell-toned voice’ flowed regularly, never hesitating for the right word. ‘In statement,’ according to Lord Holland, ‘he was superior to all his contemporaries.’39

Pitt’s single-minded devotion to the public welfare, his veracity and personal integrity made him a charismatic figure: when speaking of public business, his expression ‘had more of spirit than flesh in it’. This tall, gawky, severe figure made no concessions to fashion and, though an accomplished classicist, ‘possessed everything but taste’. He had no vanity beyond self-conscious worth and bestowed peerages and ribbands like baubles, with no regard for caste. His contempt for the Prince of Wales and his brothers was ill-concealed. Though shy and gauche and unassuming in any unfamiliar company, he was held in social awe, his younger ministers appearing ‘like boys with their master’. The Whig Creevey was impressed by his ‘despotic authority’, but he never lost his temper. Gaiety of heart, a calm conscience and, above all, his sanguine disposition, which enabled him until 1805 to weather every crisis and sleep with no thought for the morrow through even the worst, made him resilient. Such was his self-confidence that, with an eye for talent, he was indifferent to criticisms of the ‘lumber’ in his council or of the shortcomings of his adjutants or of his own negligence: he was more sensitive to ‘a low state of the funds’ than to the opposition in Parliament. Wilberforce characterized him as a virgin defiled by bad company and the dismal, vulgarizing preoccupations of politics; a less charitable critic, John Nicholls, thought that he remained an undergraduate in politics, confined to business from an early age when he did not have a ‘large view’ of statesmanship. This he thought made Pitt ‘arrogant, but not resolute; rather following circumstances and acting upon them, than forming a plan, and maintaining it’. This criticism is more applicable to Pitt as a war minister than as a peace minister, for in the latter capacity he was inventive and some of his unrealized dreams were striking.40 He well knew that the war with revolutionary France would cramp his style and remained the least warlike of his cabinet, the least disposed to crusade or to apply his mind to strategic handicaps. The zeal of the Portland Whigs, with which he had to come to terms, intensified the impression that his war aims fluctuated ‘de die in diem’ and that he was ‘not a bold politician’ (Burke) but ‘went on by concessions, and lived in office by tiding it over’ (Windham).41 To the claims of office he sacrificed both his stomach and his private credit: by eating too little and drinking too much he ruined a delicate constitution, and by utter indifference to his private affairs could scarcely keep the duns at bay.42 He would not allow the King the satisfaction of paying his debts out of the privy purse and, on going out of office, was obliged to sell his beloved Holwood, accept a secret, indefinite loan from a few friends and live obscurely in Park Place or in splendid isolation at Walmer. His banker advised him to return to the law and become lord chancellor and Addington in 1802 offered him the sinecure clerkship of the pells, but ‘he lived without ostentation and died poor’.43

Pitt concurred with the King’s choice of Speaker Addington as his successor in February 1801 and in the King’s belief that as long as the three of them stuck together all would be well. The King described his conduct on retiring as more honourable ‘than any of his predecessors’. The extent to which Pitt was committed to this arrangement vexed his friends exceedingly. He had required no one to follow him out, but Lords Grenville, Spencer, Cornwallis, Camden and Castlereagh, with Dundas, Windham and Canning, had resigned with him on principle. Some of them were hard put to it to justify Pitt’s ‘romantic eagerness’ in urging the rest, including his brother, to remain in office. It was not surprising that the belief arose that it was all ‘a game’, that Addington was a mere locum tenens for Pitt, who would sooner or later return to power in more congenial circumstances and company. Pitt’s reported message of consolation to the Irish Catholics, though subsequently played down by him, seemed to support this view. In their frustration such zealots as Canning maintained that had Pitt stood up to the King, the latter must have given way since he would not look to opposition, and that Addington’s ministry, without Pitt’s support, could not last. But Pitt believed it could ‘as Mr Pelham’s had done’ and, wishing ‘to keep everything firm and steady’, lent his credit to the formation of the new ministry in the House on 16 Feb. Those who believed that he could never be ‘in his proper sphere but at the head’, were disappointed when the King’s illness, which prevented him from surrendering the seals after presenting his last budget unopposed and defending the Ferrol expedition, did not lead to his resumption of the reins. Canning, Dundas and Portland pressed him, and as long as a Regency loomed and he could be sure of the same restrictions as in 1789 he was prepared to consider it, but only on ‘entreaty’ from Addington. This was not forthcoming. When the King recovered, having obtained from Pitt as a salve the pledge that he would never impose Catholic relief on him in or out of office during his reign, Pitt did not choose to make this a basis for negotiation either and duly surrendered the Exchequer on 14 Mar. He had not deserted Catholic relief but had waived it for the present, thinking it his clear duty to contribute what he could to maintain George III’s sanity; he had consulted the Prince of Wales during the King’s illness but evidently did not trust him and doubtless dreaded another Regency crisis, which he had omitted to forestall by statute while in power. Nor did the King trust Pitt: Lord Malmesbury feared Pitt was engaging in ‘a trial of strength’ with his monarch. But he jibbed at the King’s invitation to private friendship, because he knew it must have damaging political repercussions.44

On 16 Mar. 1801 Pitt seated himself ‘four or five seats behind the Treasury bench’, the most aloof of souffleurs, and began to adopt the pose of an accomplished idler, which he at first enjoyed. Wilberforce thought his ‘magnanimity unparalleled in a politician’, but Canning and others found his game, poised as he was between friends in and out of office, too refined to be understood. On 25 Mar., settling ‘in the third row immediately behind the Treasury bench’ and still canvassing his recalcitrant friends to join government, Pitt made his apologia for his resignation. He admitted, without revealing his pledge to the King, that he could not carry Catholic relief as a minister, upheld the royal prerogative and called for support for Addington’s ministry: as for the war, he reminded opposition that ‘we have not lost ... a single foot of territory; and we have given to the rest of the world many chances of salvation’. For the rest of the session he came to the defence of war and security measures undertaken when he was in power, such as the Egyptian and Copenhagen expeditions and the prevention of sedition, but he privately encouraged Addington to secure an armistice, primarily for financial recuperation. When peace preliminaries were signed at the end of September, Malmesbury commented, ‘Pitt counselled, and, of course, directed the whole’; it was he who prevented the Foreign secretary Hawkesbury from consulting Lord Grenville. Out of office, it would seem that he at last had a government he could depend upon. Both privately and publicly (3 Nov. 1801), he defended the peace preliminaries, with provisos about Malta and the Cape, as ‘on the whole advantageous and certainly very creditable to the country’; Fox concurred, while Grenville and Windham took the offensive against them, an ominous rift which Pitt made only a token effort to repair, knowing his cousin’s obstinancy. Dundas and Canning swallowed their objections to humour him. Dundas, writing as if Pitt were a manic depressive like his father, reported, 17 Nov. 1801: ‘He is either in a garret or a cellar’. Certainly, like his father from 1762-6, he confined himself to abstract measures and was indifferent to his fellow men, thereby courting failure on his return to office. With peace achieved and Fox competing with him in support of a pacific administration, he was expected by the cynics to quarrel with Addington and return to power waiving Catholic relief: but his sense of character forbade it—he considered himself, willy nilly, pledged to Addington, even in the unhappy position of being his secret and shabbily treated adviser, an ex-minister going ‘out of fashion’, not least in his constituency. Thus he resisted his friends’ evidence of Addington’s ungratefully exploiting his support and concurred in ministerial tactics—such as overtures to individual Whigs—which were thought uncongenial to him, to retain influence over Addington in the financial sphere. Since he averted his eyes from the King, it was behind his back that his friends manoeuvred for the King’s good opinion of him.

Henceforward Pitt’s friends out of office, egged on by Canning, never ceased to try to wean him from the makeshift administration to which he had made himself mentor: but his ambition being ‘character, not office’, nothing proved more exasperatingly difficult than to ‘kick away the ladder’; he seemed, even when Addington neglected him, ‘as tame as a chaplain’. At times he showed personal irritation; he remonstrated with his locum tenens for letting Tierney’s onslaught against him in debate on 8 Feb. 1802 go unanswered in his absence—but he accepted Addington’s lame explanation.45 From March until May he reappeared in the House to vindicate his financial measures, including the giving up of the income tax on which he had advised Addington, and to defend the Treaty of Amiens, in accordance with his belief that financial recovery for a few years was a prerequisite to the formation of a new continental alliance against Napoleonic France in a conflict that could not be averted, but should at least be postponed. This belief kept him apart from Lord Grenville when the latter was induced to parley with his cousin.46 Pitt refused to be drawn into Canning’s schemes to part him from Addington over such issues as the slave trade or the supposed contrast in their policies, and actively hindered them. While his friends might demonstrate to their own satisfaction that Pitt was the nation’s inevitable choice, either by complimentary motion or by public acclaim at the birthday dinner held in his honour (28 May 1802) as the ‘pilot that weathered the storm’, he remained true to the definition of the destiny prognosticated for him by his uncle Lord Camelford after the Regency crisis:

whether in or out of place, whether in or out of favour, he will be always the most considerable man of his country, as long as he adheres to the line of strict duty, without regarding any personal consequences whatsoever.

Windham, who regarded this outlook as cant, thought Pitt with ‘more powers than any single man, and more than most combinations of men’, had much to answer for:

He has a sort of inveterate prudence, an instinctive horror of indiscretion, which will never suffer those qualities which are to carry with them the enthusiasm of mankind, to have their full scope. He has been so bred in a riding-house, so completely put upon his haunches, that he never can fairly lay himself out ventre a terre, so as to win the prize in the real race of renown and glory. It is very fatal this, both for the country and for him. For infallibly, if the historians of these times shall not be led away by the mere popular and vulgar notions which however they are very likely to be ... he will never come out in the character of a great man, though he must always retain that of a man of great abilities.47

So it was that Pitt, on the pretext of his health, took to farming in the summer of 1802 and absented himself from Parliament, rather than publicize his reservations about those of Addington’s measures that ignored his advice. (Addington, seeing that Pitt would not take subordinate office, ‘squeezed him like an orange’). During his ‘convalescence’ at Bath in the winter of 1802, he did nothing to satisfy Grenville’s or George Rose’s bid to rally him to energetic hostility to Buonaparte: on the contrary, he advised Addington on 10 Nov. to keep to a defensive system in Europe, and by ‘pairing’ with George Rose prevented the latter from preparing an attack on foreign policy. He did, however, concede to Grenville that he was willing to take the lead again in a crisis, preferably to avert war rather than prosecute it, and this was the basis for another bid by Canning and co., with Grenville’s blessing, to restore him to power by means of a respectably endorsed appeal to Addington to step down, which he could reject only on peril of a parliamentary onslaught next session, and for which the King’s approval was to be sought. This scheme was vetoed by Pitt when he got wind of it in November 1802, as ‘a plot quite so desperate as Col. Despard’s’ to storm the closet: Addington must solicit the change himself to satisfy public opinion. At that time, however, Addington was leaning on the support of the Whigs, who attacked Pitt in his absence. All that could be wrung from Pitt was a resolution not to be drawn into helping the minister with his advice, 19 Nov.: the budget, in which he detected errors of calculation, had shown him that he was wasting his time. At the end of 1802, therefore, he hesitated inertly between his ‘rival wooers’, remaining ‘fettered, or at least at liberty on parole’, and resisting the temptation to vindicate himself in debate, despite his dissatisfaction with the eagerness of his ‘young friends’ to do it for him. He shuttled between Dropmore, where systematic opposition was urged on him by Grenville and Canning, and Richmond Park, but once more reconciled himself to Addington, feeling that ‘the line of government may be more nearly conformable to my opinions than I expected’. Still dissatisfied with the finances, however, and riled by attacks on him in the government press, he gave his friends in opposition the satisfaction of promising to state his objections plainly and publicly—only to procrastinate and remain ‘in secession’ with the excuse of further illness. This conduct was inevitably found eel-like: the truth was, to quote Lord Minto, that ‘his opinion is one way and his hampering engagements another’.48

In March 1803, with war in sight, Addington attempted to inveigle Pitt into office through Lord Melville’s mediation at Walmer. He at first suggested, unsuccessfully, that they should both be secretaries of state under Lord Chatham. Subsequently, through Charles Long and in person at Long’s house, he improved on this by offering Pitt several cabinet places to dispose of. As the King was kept in the dark, Pitt would not parley, but, after consultation with Grenville, made it clear that if called upon by the King he would propose a comprehensive government, to include Grenville, Spencer and Windham, as well as members of the present government and his friends. Addington made this a pretext for regarding Pitt’s proposal as an offer to be rejected by his colleagues, 13 Apr., and an acrimonious correspondence brought the negotiation to an end. When the King learnt of it, he refused to read the correspondence and was disgusted at what he called Pitt’s ‘putting the crown in commission’, complaining that ‘he carried his plan of removals so extremely far and so high, that it might reach him’. This tended to confirm Pitt’s suspicion that the King did not mind his return to subordinate office but was set against his return to power; but it also destroyed his confidence in Addington and made him realize what an obstacle Grenville’s connexion might be to his restoration.49

As Pitt had not attended Parliament to give his opinion on Addington’s defence measures, his friends could claim that he opposed them, while Addington could claim that he approved them. Chatham glossed over his brother’s absence by maintaining that his coming forward would give a ‘warlike’ turn to events. When war was resumed, though ‘but indifferent in health’ he was obliged to make his position clearer, and on 23 May 1803, in one of his ‘grand displays’, inadequately reported, ‘raised the war whoop’; he fired ‘over the heads of ministers’, electrified the House and was greeted with ‘incessant applause’. Nothing came of a project to get him into office without Grenville through the mediation of the Duke of Portland: this could scarcely have satisfied Pitt, who had ‘his taxes ready’ and required the helm, but doubted whether his health would support him. He refused to discuss any arrangement for his return to power except by royal invitation. He therefore wished to avoid alienating the King by taking a lead against Addington: Addington had better commit political suicide, or at least succumb to any opposition except Pitt’s, leaving him to reap the benefit. This, as opposition saw it, was Pitt’s ‘game’ and made it easier for him to concur in the principle of Fox’s motion in favour of Russian mediation between the warring powers, 27 May 1803.50

Pitt’s premeditated conduct on Patten’s motion of censure against ministers, 3 June 1803, was the despair of his friends in opposition. When Addington, who had just snubbed him by taking Tierney into office, insisted on a direct negative of it, Pitt took his own line of moving the previous question in a manner unfriendly to Addington and then going away: a paltry 56 votes supported him against 333. It was a blow to his prestige and showed that he was not a good general pursuing an intelligible line of conduct. It led him once more to deprecate independent parliamentary action,51 but he was prepared to prod government into further military expenditure, 6 June, and treated them to a lecture on his ideas about defence, 23 June. He made contemptuous notes on Addington’s budget, admiring only its size, and in July induced him to amend it by omitting taxation of funded property, after forcing a division on the subject. He also approved the government’s defence proposals in principle, speaking from ‘under the gallery’, 18 July, but amended their version of his plan for a volunteer training bill in detail a few days later. In a peroration, 22 July, he was confident that Buonaparte’s projected invasion of Britain would fail and predicted the revival of Europe: Canning noted that playing ‘a decided part’ had done Pitt good. That summer, determined to remain an active colonel ‘even in the field’, he translated his ideas into action by drilling 3,000 Cinque Port volunteers at Walmer. Lord Mulgrave thought ‘he would have enrolled and trained the whole population of Kent’, if he had not been checked by the minister’s limitations. Canning thought that Pitt was playing ‘a deeper game than the state of the country warrants’; but less critical friends maintained that he was taking, if not the ‘shortest ... the surest and safest road to honourable office’. In his own view, ministers should allow the country to save itself without their interference.52

Pitt’s personal relations with Addington were poisoned before the session of 1803-4 by a government sponsored pamphlet A few cursory remarks, which abused him and caused him to sanction a reply and to refuse to give advice. He did not attend the opening, but appeared before the Christmas recess as ‘Colonel Pitt’ to put in a word for the volunteer system and state the case for further naval precautions: his distaste for the ministry was apparent, though under control in debate, and this, at the moment when the Foxites and Grenvillites were planning to act in concerted opposition, did not augur well for Addington. Opposition must certainly make a bid for Pitt, despite his ‘shuffling tactics’ and courtierly tone: but Grenville and Canning failed to achieve a tripartite coalition, even by enlisting Pitt’s niece and chatelaine Lady Hester Stanhope as an ally. He would not be drawn into storming the closet, least of all, as at first proposed, on the issue of Catholic relief, though he had lost all faith in Addington, his support for whom had lost all credibility. He was reconciled to the notion of expressing his opposition publicly when he disapproved measures and Grenville could not get him to go any further, 10 Jan. 1804. By mid February, at the King’s invitation, he was prepared to take over from Addington in a crisis, for as his friend Mulgrave put it, ‘he will always be the resource, the refuge and the hope of the nation’.53

The King’s illness in February 1804 had Pitt on tenterhooks: a strong government was called for, but he could not reconcile himself to a strong Regency, still less to any plan that forestalled the King’s resumption of his dignity. He did not trust the Prince of Wales and had no wish to serve Fox. The King’s recovery obviated the problem. Pitt had attended the House on 27 Feb. to oppose the adjournment and to damn the volunteer consolidation bill with faint praise. In the next few days, rallied by his young friends, he was prepared to find points of agreement with Fox and Windham who gave him every encouragement in the debate on the bill. He proposed amendments to it, on two of which he divided the House, 6, 10 and 12 Mar., though he refused to abandon the bill in the face of threatened invasion. Despite tactical absences on Wrottesley’s motion on Ireland, which his friends supported, and Creevey’s on Ceylon, Pitt harassed Addington on 9 Mar. on his Irish duties bill and returned to the fray on 15 Mar. to develop his naval notions in an eloquent call for inquiry into St. Vincent’s naval administration. He received some support from Fox and opposition and was defeated by 201 votes to 130. On the other hand, when he opposed the recommitment of the volunteer bill on 19 Mar., he was supported by only 56 votes. According to Canning, Pitt was disappointed because there were ‘no converts, no convinced country gentlemen, no honest good sort of people quitting the ministry from a sudden flash of persuasion that they were neglecting the interests of the country’, and refused to acknowledge that he could not overthrow the government by his own impetus. With an eye to the King, he insisted on his own line of opposition, but saw the need to rally the House he hoped to convince: all his potential supporters were mustered and he could count on the Foxites and Grenvillites to play his game, although they knew that he had no intention of forcing a coalition government on the King, little as he might object to one himself provided he controlled the finances. The degree of collaboration that Pitt had reached with opposition after the Easter recess was suggested by the combined opposition to the Irish militia augmentation bill on 16 Apr. and clearly indicated by the two crucial motions on defence, Fox’s of 23 Apr. and his own of 25 Apr., that brought down Addington’s government: the former which he supported was lost by 256 votes to 204 and his own by 240 to 203. In it he took his stand against the bill suspending the army of reserve, because the alternative methods proposed of making up the regulars were inadequate; he intended to carry his own plan rather than lend it to an incompetent and unrepentant government.54

Thus Pitt remained unpledged to any man when, through Lord Chancellor Eldon, he hinted his willingness to the King to form a second administration during the critical defence divisions, on the pretext of explaining his votes. The King authorized Pitt, on Addington’s abdication, to send his plan for government. This plan of 2 May for a broad administration was a trial of the King’s nerves and, as Pitt had anticipated, when he saw the King on 7 May, after consulting the royal doctors as to his fitness for such a contentious interview, it was more than the King could swallow. It made Fox and Fitzwilliam secretaries of state with Lord Melville, restored Spencer to the Admiralty and made Lord Grenville lord president, while Grey was secretary at war and Windham chancellor of the duchy. Of Pitt’s own creatures, Chatham, Camden, Castlereagh, Harrowby and Canning were included; only Portland and Eldon were otherwise retained from the Addington administration. The King’s principal objection, as expected, was to Fox; Fox had no objection to serving government abroad or to his friends taking office without him, but they had, and so, to Pitt’s indignation, had Grenville, who thought greater obstinacy the only answer to George III’s veto. In fact, the King had not at first welcomed the return of Grenville or Melville to power. Having failed in his bid, Pitt did not make a stand against the King but, as he had previously warned, fell back on a ministry composed of his own friends in and out of office. It was a makeshift ministry: it suited excluded Foxites and Grenvillites to proclaim themselves the victims of a calculated game. Pitt had anticipated such a predicament, but was resolved to make the narrow experiment, at least for the present, though doubtful of adequate parliamentary support. In doing so, he risked alienating those of his own followers, notably Canning, but also some more independent Members, who had strongly hoped and worked for a coalition. Nor did the King welcome him back with open arms; Pitt evaded an overt pledge against Catholic relief to reinforce his private one; their exchanges were brusque and the King’s changes in his household showed that Pitt had left him a free hand, fearing always that the King would lapse into insanity. It was the same fear that dogged Pitt in his efforts to gain the Carlton House party by reconciling the Prince and the King, through the mediation of Lord Moira.55

Pitt survived the session to the end of July 1804 against determined opposition. Of the cabinet, only he and Castleragh were in the Commons. The House, which no longer resisted his pleas for the abolition of the slave trade, was quite as hostile to the additional force bill, his ‘parish bill’, introduced on 5 June, as it had been to any of Addington’s defence measures. That very day Pitt had brushed aside a French armistice bid conveyed to him by Fox and Grey. The divisions were 221 to 181 on the second reading on 8 June; 214 to 185 on the report stage on 15 June and 265 to 223 on the engrossment, 18 June, the largest division since 1741. On 15 June Pitt had found himself in the minority on a snap division. The bill passed, execrated by a united opposition of Foxites, Grenvillites and Addingtonians. That summer the question of wooing more support for his government was uppermost; unsuccessful bids were made for stragglers like Tierney and Vansittart; but Pitt left the impression that he would go it alone if he could. Fox certainly doubted whether Pitt could offer him anything with sincerity. An admirer, noting that he was gaining ground in the Commons and secure in the Lords, asserted: ‘He never was so great as he is at this moment standing singly against the talents of the whole country. He literally has not one man to assist him in the House of Commons’; yet he might endure ‘as long as the King lives or continues in his senses’. A less friendly observer noted, however, that Pitt was ‘a dying man from his appearance’.56

In November 1804 Pitt’s attempt to strengthen himself by reconciling the King and his heir collapsed57 and, in the face of the Fox-Grenville junto in ‘unconstitutional’ opposition, he had no alternative left but to turn to Addington for ‘medical assistance’. The junction brought about between them by Hawkesbury, with the King’s blessing, in December 1804 was a disastrous marriage of convenience. Pitt’s critical situation with, to quote a hostile view,

no army raised at home—no foreign connections made or improved—on the contrary, a new war unnecessarily undertaken and ungraciously entered upon—the Catholic body united in their demands, founded on past promises, and a powerful and unbroken opposition ready and willing to support

brought it on: it procured him an uncertain number of conditional votes, but no credit except with the King, and no quality. Such were the fruits of ‘a long vacation of political enticement’. ‘What a fine triumph the old madman has over all of us,’ exclaimed Fox, ‘and if Pitt had one spark of pride how humiliated he must feel!’58

If Pitt intended to scotch the emergence of a third party by annexing Addington and pushing him upstairs, he ran the risk of creating a third party from among his own dissentient friends: Lords Lowther and Stafford were victims of Pitt’s want of ‘little attentions’ who were in temporary danger of seceding with their squads, and the Duke of Beaufort was saved from a similar step by means of a ribband. The old supporters whom he had dished in 1804, like Lords Auckland and Pelham, and the rising men he had neglected, like Canning, were equally disgruntled by the favours awarded Addington’s friends. The King saw no more of Pitt and thought no better of him for his sacrifice and Pitt hinted at resignation, 22 Jan. 1805, over the King’s preference for Manners Sutton rather than his own nomination, his ex-secretary the bishop of Lincoln, for the vacant archbishopric of Canterbury.59

In Parliament, Pitt also had a thin time. The session opened with a bleak reminder from Fox and Windham that Pitt’s Defence Act had failed and proceeded with an onslaught on the war with Spain. Pitt carried it by 313 votes to 106 on 12 Feb. He had also carried the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland in his ‘great style’ on 8 Feb. and Sheridan’s motion for the repeal of his ‘parish bill’ was lost, after Pitt’s crushing retort, by 267 votes to 127 on 6 Mar. But several of his budgetary proposals were defeated and the commission of naval inquiry which exposed irregularities in Melville’s financial administration brought on his unsuspecting head the severest humiliation he had ever suffered in Parliament. The rowdy hostility Pitt met with when the Speaker’s casting vote carried Whitbread’s censure motion on Melville on 8 Apr. 1805 reduced him to tears: his own efforts to secure a select committee of inquiry in Melville’s defence were hamstrung by his unceasing respect for veracity in a charged and impatient assembly. So, at Fox’s suggestion, he had moved the previous question. In his restricted circle, ‘difficult of access’, he underestimated ‘the general temper of the country’ on the subject. To make matters worse, his own conduct in 1796 in authorizing a transfer of £40,000 of naval funds to Boyd, Benfield & Co. to enable them to contract for a government loan, came into the question and damaged his credit in the City. To save his government, he had to give up Melville altogether, though convinced of his innocence of corruption, 10 Apr., and, to save face, replace him with the aged Sir Charles Middleton, ‘a superannuated Methodist ... in order to catch the votes of Wilberforce and co. now and then’, as Creevey put it. This step nearly led to the desertion of the Addingtonians, who had pressed for the exposure of Melville with threats of resignation and were induced to stay on 28 Apr. with promises of curbing Melville and of promotions, but were never forgiven by Pitt. He had to weather the crisis before looking elsewhere for support. This he did contrive to do, securing a select committee of inquiry chosen by ballot to investigate the charges in the tenth report, 25 Apr., with ‘easy majorities’; continuing the naval commission, not without criticism of their conduct, 29 Apr.; preferring civil to criminal proceedings against Melville, 29 Apr.; acquiescing in the vote of thanks to the commissioners for their zeal, 2 May, and finally on 6 May justifying the removal of Melville from the Privy Council, in anticipation of Whitbread’s demand for it, by reference to a ‘canvass’ of the opinion of the House in its favour, which Fox affected to find irregular. Pitt positively encouraged the select committee of inquiry into the eleventh naval report, 23 May, as well as the commission on military expenditure a week before; took no part in the debate on Whitbread’s motion for Melville’s impeachment on 11 June except to adjourn it; successfully defended himself and secured indemnification for the charge against himself on 14 June, and on 25 June, after a previous warning, obtained the reversal of the House’s decision to promote the criminal prosecution of Melville in favour of impeachment by 166 votes to 143. Apart from those on the Melville question, Pitt’s only major speeches before the prorogation were a ‘free and unfettered’ objection to the consideration of Irish Catholic claims at present, 14 May, against Fox’s motion; a ‘highly consolatory’ reply to Grey’s gloomy motion on the state of public affairs, lost by 261 to 110 on 20 June; and a motion for £3½ millions in subsidies to support his project for a third continental coalition against Napoleon, 21 June.60

During the recess, Pitt readily accepted the resignations of the Addingtonians, whose hostile conduct on Melville and on the Duke of Atholl’s claims prevented him from being able to humour their demands for official preferment. Apart from a charitable visit to Addington when his son became insane, in October 1805, he had no more to do with them.61 He had already sounded out Lord Grenville in May but received no encouragement and it was on a coalition with Fox and Grenville jointly that his hopes were now expected to centre: they were never very high, but if the bid failed, as Canning observed, ‘the offer will acquit Pitt in the eyes of the public’. The rivalry between Pitt and Fox was, to quote a French observer Moreau, ‘ni leur choix ni leur faute’: the difficulty lay in reconciling their underlings, who were hostile to such a junction. Pitt, who had after all made Fox respectable by proposing him to George III the year before, hoped to win the King over to it at Weymouth in the autumn of 1805, abetted by ‘a more decided state of foreign politics’. Fox, however, thought the exodus of the Addingtonians proved ‘the impossibility of Pitt’s going on with any set of ministers who are not his own mere creatures and tools’, though he might make ‘a show’ of negotiating rather than manifest a wish to go on alone. Fitzpatrick, Fox’s friend, believed that Pitt would ‘hardly resign the management ... if he can get his hands full of war, and money to support it, he will go on to the last penny he can extort’. In any case it was reported that Fox would require Pitt to abdicate the helm and that Grenville, though he did not insist on this, would require a majority of new men in the cabinet. Pitt could not accept these terms, though he was prepared to offer six cabinet places and insisted only on keeping Hawkesbury and Castlereagh of his own team. Moreover, he failed to persuade the adamant King on 21 Sept. to countenance such a coalition, even on the plea of his own failing health. By November Fox was convinced that all prospects of a coalition were at an end.62

As the King had resolved ‘to stand or fall with Mr Pitt’, he patched up his administration and, rather than dissolve Parliament, waited for decisive news from the Continent to improve his popularity and ‘made a large number of baronets to give him some assistance’. The fate of his war policy was still in suspense when at his last public appearance at the Banqueting Hall, 9 Nov. 1805, he declined personal credit for the salvation of Europe: ‘The security of Europe will be owing to very different causes. England has saved itself by its firmness; I trust it will save Europe by its example.’ The naval triumph of Nelson at Trafalgar was followed by the news of military defeat at Ulm, and the subsequent news of the débâcle of Austerlitz dashed all Pitt’s hopes of continental success. He never recovered from it and died unable to meet Parliament, 23 Jan. 1806. His doctor maintained that he ‘died of old age at forty six, as much as if he had been ninety’.63

‘Nothing ever was more disastrous in every way than the second career of Mr Pitt—as much so as his first was brilliant’, wrote Lady Bessborough in April 1805. Canning agreed that Pitt was ‘weaker than the Dr [Addington] ever was’. He had become an isolated, inaccessible and ‘invisible’ minister, weary of business and ‘too late for everything’. Lord Hardwicke, who wished to resign the lord lieutenancy of Ireland, as he found that Pitt ‘never thinks of Ireland except when he is pressed for votes in Parliament’, considered him, in August 1805, ‘grievously embarrassed; and I fear he is not what he was in point of energy, or application to business. He seems to me only to go on from day to day; and will hardly be able to stand his ground in the next session of Parliament.’ Implacable himself, he was no longer able to adjudicate in quarrels between members of his government: between Canning and Hawkesbury at home, or between Hardwicke and John Foster in Ireland; ‘still imagining’, as Canning put it, ‘that by deciding nothing between the two contending parties he kept them both at his own disposal’. Before his final illness, his enemies were agreed that ‘instant death’ was better for Pitt than living ‘a little longer to be turned out’: only the King stood between him and the failure of his measures in public opinion and, as he himself despaired of continuing and the courtiers were deserting him, that bastion too might fall.64

Even if Pitt had recovered, his friends had no wish to sacrifice him further, and when he died they lacked the strength to continue his administration. His cousin Lord Grenville succeeded him at the head of the Foxite opposition Pitt had subdued but never broken. All his friends could do was to embellish his exit as that of a patriotic and pious statesman and secure the public tribute of a monument and the payment of his debts. The Whig case against Pitt was summarized by the Duchess of Devonshire on the day he died:

It is affecting to behold a life terminated as it were in its prime, and it is sorrowful indeed to think that the powerful voice of eloquence, so matchless, so beautiful is dumb for ever ... Mr Pitt’s faults as an Englishman and statesman, were, that he came into place against the constitution and supported himself in place by increasing the power of the throne. As a statesman he was chiefly brilliant as a financier—in war he was a bad leader—not from his own want of power but from his trusting too much to incapable individuals. But his eloquence was so great he could explain even any disaster into almost the contrary—his choice of words was perfect, his voice beautiful, and his way of putting aside the question when he chose, and fascinating the minds of men, astounding.

On the same side, Sydney Smith echoed this view more sarcastically:

For fifteen years I have found my income dwindling away under his eloquence, and regularly in every session of Parliament he has charmed every classical feeling and stripped me of every guinea I possessed. At the close of every brilliant display an expedition failed or a kingdom fell, and by the time that his style had gained the summit of perfection Europe was degraded to the lowest abyss of misery. God send us a stammerer, a tongueless man, let Moses come for this heaven-born Aaron has failed.

Pitt however believed, in his résumé of the education of a statesman, that ‘there is room for something more than moderate talents and moderate acquirements in managing the concerns of a great empire’; and his most candid friend, Wilberforce, who deplored his decline, ‘his face anxious, diseased’, reddened with wine and soured and ‘irritated by disappointments’, assessed him in a way more consonant with the character that made him the beau ideal of English statesmanship:

Mr Pitt had foibles, and of course they were not diminished by so long a continuance in office; but for a clear and comprehensive view of the most complicated subject in all its relations; for that fairness of mind which disposes a man to follow out, and when undertaken to recognize the truth; for magnanimity, which made him ready to change his measures, when he thought the good of the country required it, though he knew he should be charged with inconsistency on account of the change; for willingness to give a fair hearing to all that could be urged against his own opinions, and to listen to the suggestions of men, whose understanding he knew to be inferior to his own; for personal purity, disinterestedness, integrity, and love of his country, I have never known his equal.

This assessment of Pitt goes far towards explaining why his ghost haunted the English political scene for a generation. It also suggests why, as his friends and pupils appealed to his memory for sanction for their political endeavours, Pitt, who never called himself a Tory, who was completely free from religious humbug and caste, and whose political instincts favoured a society as open as it was prosperous, became one of the patron saints of the Tories, who clubbed him with them, and prided themselves on a travesty of his principles.65

The Times, 17 Mar.; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 30 Mar. 1801; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 20; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 174, 180, 205, 269, 275, 295; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 51, 53, 59, 347; Wellesley Pprs. i. 140; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Rose, 1 Oct. 1801; SRO GD51/1/64/1; 51/1/556/17; Wilberforce Pprs. 30; PRO 30/8/102, f. 174; Dacres Adams mss 11/1; HMC Fortescue, vii. 49, 54, 55; Lansdowne mss, Ord to Petty, 6 Dec.; Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 12, 22, 27 Nov., 10, 29 Dec. 1801; Add. 48222, f. 142.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Minto, i. 248.
  • 2. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 152.
  • 3. PRO 30/12/17/2/35, E. to J. Law, 16 May 1804.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/186, f. 75; Farington, ii. 78, 259.
  • 5. Moore Mems. ed. Russell, iv. 76, 269; Table Talk of S. Rogers ed. Bishop, 77; D. M. Stuart, Dearest Bess, 133-4.
  • 6. Stanhope, Pitt, ii. 53.
  • 7. Geo. III Corresp. i. 644.
  • 8. Minto, i. 373; Twiss, Eldon, i. 205; Life of Wilberforce (1838), i. 286.
  • 9. Geo. III Corresp. i. 635; Stanhope, 74-75.
  • 10. J. Ehrman, ‘The Younger Pitt and the Oczakov Affair, 1791’, Hist. Today, July 1959.
  • 11. Morning Chron. 9 Apr. 1791; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 441; Stanhope, ii. 115-18.
  • 12. Bland Burges Pprs. ed. Hutton, 174.
  • 13. E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 30 Dec. 1817.
  • 14. Pellew, Sidmouth, i. 88; Geo. III Corresp. i. 751.
  • 15. Add. 45728, f. 136; 51705, Pelham to Lady Webster, 28 May 1792; Minto, ii. 23, 29, 42, 45, 53; PRO 30/8/102, ff. 178, 222; Twiss, i. 212-13; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/2; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 460; Powis mss, Keene to Powis, 28 July 1792; Geo. III Corresp. i. 711, 774.
  • 16. W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 15, 17, 18, 25, 26, 27, 28 Nov. 1792; Geo. III Corresp. i. 807; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 12, 19 Dec. 1792.
  • 17. Sinclair Corresp. i. 87; Geo. III Corresp. i. 819; ii. 836, 838.
  • 18. Minto, ii. 121, 127, 150; Lansdowne mss, Wycombe to Lansdowne, 18 June; Fitzwilliam mss, box 45, Portland to Fitzwilliam, 23 Sept. 1793; J. T. Stoker, W. Pitt et la Revolution Française 1789-93 (Paris 1935), 1; Pellew, i. 103-4; Twiss, i. 260.
  • 19. Pellew, i. 107; Add. 37844, ff. 17-21; 42058, f. 128; 51706, Pelham to Lady Webster, 7 Dec. 1793; NLS mss 11138, f. 42; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 14.
  • 20. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1070, 1091; Add. 37844, ff. 22, 24, 26; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/13, 15, 19; PRO 30/8/102, f. 224; 157, f. 172; Portland mss PwF7705; J. H. Rose, Pitt and Napoleon, 109; HMC Fortescue, ii. 595, 597; SRO GD51/1/24/2.
  • 21. Pellew, i. 121; Bland Burges Pprs. 261; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1110, 1156, 1161, 1170; Auckland Jnl. iii. 252; Ashbourne, Pitt, 173-4, 204-5; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 36; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 12 Oct. 1794; PRO 30/8/102, ff. 264, 266; 170, ff. 163, 167-9; 325, f. 60; Stanhope, ii. 289; Camden mss C123/2, 3; O 103.
  • 22. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1180, 1185, 1198, 1247, 1250, 1255; Farington, i. 85, 90; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 45; B. Connell, Whig Peer, 310; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 85; Camden mss C269/1.
  • 23. Rose, 37, 254-6; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 86; Pellew, i. 157; Connell, 326; Mrs. Montagu ed. Blunt, ii. 319; Harewood mss, Canning to Mrs. Leigh, 28, 31 Oct. 1795; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1333, 1340.
  • 24. Camden mss C132/1, 224/2; Canning and his Friends, i. 65; Rose, 79.
  • 25. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1446, 1450, 1452, 1480, 1487; Camden mss C121/3; 132/3; Connell, 392-3; Farington, i. 181-2; Burke Corresp. ix. 174, 178.
  • 26. Rosebery, Letters relating to Love Episode of Wm. Pitt (1900); Glenbervie Diaries, i. 120; Farington, i. 194, 200; Auckland Jnl. iii. 377-8; Grey mss, Grey to Bigge, 23 Feb. 1797; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1502, 1507, 1509, 1517, 1519, 1521; Burke Corresp. ix. 241, 269, 300; The Times, 24 Mar.; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. and Mrs Leigh, 18, 24, 25 Mar. 1797; Camden mss C226/4.
  • 27. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1526, 1546, 1566; Ailesbury mss diary, 9 Apr. 1797; Colchester, i. 104-5.
  • 28. Leveson Gower, i. 175; HMC Fortescue, iii. 378; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 369; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 417; Minto, ii. 408; Pellew, i. 183, 192, 196; Wellesley Pprs. i. 47-48; Ashbourne, 349.
  • 29. Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1664, 1674, 1678, 1729; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Mornington, 26 Jan. 1798; Farington, i. 229; Pellew, i. 203-6; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 503; HMC Fortescue, iv. 187; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 2/26; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 269, 281-2, 422-3; NLS mss 11052, f. 63; Wellesley Pprs. i. 60, 64.
  • 30. Castlereagh Corresp. i. 404, 412; ii. 9; PRO 30/8/325, f. 26; Minto, iii. 27-29; Pellew, i. 215; ii. 198-9; Add. 37416, f. 31; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1877, 1881, 1885; Farington, i. 259.
  • 31. Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1911, 1914, 1922; Trinity Coll. Camb. mss R4 57/16; Auckland Jnl. iv. 87; Minto, iii. 48.
  • 32. Canning and his Friends, i. 148; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 31 May, 6 June; Add. 38191, f. 245; Chatsworth mss, Lady E. Foster jnl. 7 Feb.; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 4 Nov., 22, 31 Dec. 1799, 11 Jan. 1800, to Mornington, 6 Nov. 1799; The Times, 5 Feb. 1800.
  • 33. Castlereagh Corresp. i. 278, 283-6; Wellesley Pprs. i. 129, 132; Farington, i. 293; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 25, 26, 27 July; Sidmouth mss, Pitt to Addington, 29 Sept., 8 Oct. 1800; Geo. III Corresp. iii. pp. xv, 2264; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 167, 174.
  • 34. Geo. III Corresp. iii. intro. 2263, 2276; HMC Fortescue, vi. 371-2; Add. 51744, Lady Holland to Caroline Fox, [Oct.]; The Times, 5, 7 Nov. 1800; Leveson Gower, i. 289; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 167, 320, 389, 400, 415; Corresp. of Lady Williams Wynn, 63; Bull. IHR, xliv. 239; Croker Pprs. ed Jennings, ii. 340; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 4, 20-23, 75.
  • 35. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 124; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 1-2; Minto, iii. 202-3.
  • 36. Colchester, i. 44; Farington, i. 137.
  • 37. Pellew, i. 338-9; Camden mss C224/2; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 159, 181, 200, 262, 277, 294-5; Rose Diaries, i. 302, 305; Add. 45038, f. 1; PRO 30/12/17/2/35, E. to J. Law, 16 May 1804; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 521, 590; Minto, ii. 390.
  • 38. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 128, 149, 337; Farington, iii. 291; v. 162; Pellew, i. 89.
  • 39. Farington, i. 71, 171; ii. 237, 283; iv. 56, 70, 94; Lonsdale mss, Mulgrave to Lowther, 1 Apr. 1804; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 27 Oct. 1818; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 150, 296, 326; Rose, 94, 105; Twiss, i. 498-9; Wilberforce Pprs. 71; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 590; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 327; Table Talk S. Rogers, 54; Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 157; Holland, Mems. Whig Party, ii. 35.
  • 40. Life of Wilberforce, i. 40; iii. 490; Farington, i. 138, 146, 160, 243; iii. 14, 162, 170; iv. 42, 146, 252; v. 162; vi. 138; viii. 8, 97; Leveson Gower, i. 8, 14, 125, 169; Minto, i. 238; Raikes Jnl. iii. 119; Holland, i. 96; ii. 42; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 260; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 189-90; Rose Diaries, ii. 259, 290; Wellesley Pprs. i. 190; Add. 47565, f. 16;, lt;em>Wilberforce Pprs. 45, 69-72; Greville Mems. ed. Strachey and Fulford, v. 168; Jnl. of Mrs Arbuthnot, i. 13; Pellew, i. 72; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 583; iv. 37; Jnl. of Hon. H. E. Fox, 32, 337.
  • 41. Mrs Montagu, ii. 290; Farington, vi. 135; Mems. Lady Hester Stanhope, ii. 74; Holland, i. 71; Bucks. RO, Grenville mss, D56/1, Ld. to T. Grenville, 3 Aug. 1801; Burke Corresp. ix. 121; Essex RO, Sperling mss D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 3 Feb. 1799; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 590; iv. 53.
  • 42. Farington, i. 79, 86, 181; iii. 76, 139; v. 196; Table Talk S. Rogers, 76; Pellew, i. 91, 152; Wilberforce Pprs. 45; Glenbervie Jnls. 94.
  • 43. Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 21 July 1801, 30 Dec. 1817; Rose Diaries, i. 333, 338, 402-8, 416, 424; Dacres Adams mss 4/18; end of inscription on Guildhall statue (written by Canning).
  • 44. Pellew, i. 288, 331; Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire jnl. 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 22, 25 Feb., 2, 17 Mar., 5 Nov. 1801; Ashbourne, 309, 315, 319; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2339n; Wellesley Pprs. i. 135; Minto, iii. 198, 201; Castlereagh Corresp. iv. 17, 34, 51, 52; Canning and his Friends, i. 126; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 7, 9, 16 Feb., 20 Mar.; Bodl. Eng. lett. c. 60, Yorke to his mother, 11 Feb. 1801; Add. 33107, f. 27; 34716, f. 74; Colchester, i. 246-60; Rose Diaries, i. 297, 311, 317, 325-6, 329, 335, 360, 426; Frere mss, Canning to Frere, 1 Mar. 1801; Leveson Gower, i. 291, 294, 296; Ashbourne, 316, 318n; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 5-6, 8, 9, 14, 17-31, 34, 37, 40, 42, 44, 45; Carlisle mss, Huskisson to Carlisle, 1 Mar. 1801; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 159, 215; Lonsdale mss, Westmorland to Lowther, 14 Mar. 1801; HMC Carlisle, 733; PRO 30/9/33, Abbot diary, 15 Mar. 1801.
  • 45. Rose Diaries, i. 432-7, 441-4; Add. 38833, f. 61; PRO 30/29/8/2, ff. 179, 190; Leveson Gower, i. 314-15; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iii. 191; Pellew, i. 489, 491; Bathurst mss, Bathurst to Ryder, 4 Mar. [1802].
  • 46. Spencer mss, Grenville to Spencer, 16 Mar. 1802; Buckingham, iii. 190, 194, 195; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 64-68.
  • 47. Add. 37844, f. 288; 38833, f. 81; Carlisle mss, Canning to Morpeth, 27 Apr. 1803; Canning and his Friends, i. 189, 190, 194; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 37; Wilberforce Pprs. 31; Dacres Adams mss 4/71, 74; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 1 June 1802.
  • 48. Leveson Gower, i. 337-8, 357, 360, 368, 370; Minto, iii. 251, 260-1, 263, 265, 267, 271; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 320, 333; Add. 41852, ff. 124, 126, 132; 51799, Fitzpatrick to Holland, 23 Feb. 1803; Pellew, ii. 70, 75, 86-87, 102, 108, 112; HMC Fotescue, vii. 126, 128; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 13 Nov.; Tomline mss, Rose's memo, Nov. 1802; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 75, 85, 94-136, 146-9, 154-5, 158, 161, 163-5, 167, 170, 174; Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire to ? [Dec. 1802]; Rose Diaries, i. 451, 466, 485-518; ii. 6-15, 21-28; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Rose, 16 Dec. 1802, 11, 28 Jan., 8, 9 Mar. 1803; Buckingham, iii. 211, 214, 219, 242, 251, 262; Glos. RO, Redesdale mss C7, Abbot to Redesdale, 16 Dec. 1802; D. Marshall, Rise of Canning, 230-1; PRO 30/8/119, f. 213; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 4 Dec. 1802, Grey to his wife, 26 Mar. [1803].
  • 49. Pellew, ii. 114-29; Sidmouth mss, Melville to Addington, 22 Mar. 1803; Buckingham, iii. 282; Rose Diaries, ii. 30-40; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 176, 224; Colchester, i. 414-17; Minto, iii. 281-4; HMC Fortescue, vii. 157-61; Creevey’s Life and Times, 18; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Melville, 12, 13, 14 Apr.; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 19, 20, 30 Apr. 1803; Dacres Adams mss 4/97.
  • 50. Buckingham, iii. 266; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 227, 254-6; Minto, iii. 287; Colchester, i. 418, 423, 424; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 24 May 1803; Romilly, Mems. ii. 105; Creevey Pprs. i. 14-15; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 93; Marshall, 247; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 13, 17, 20, 21, 24 May 1803; Farington, ii. 101; SRO GD51/1/64/3, 4; 51/1/130; Sheridan Letters ed. Price, ii. 196; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Melville, 19 June; Add. 51736, Caroline Fox to Holland, 31 May, 2 June [1803].
  • 51. HMC Fortescue, vii. 169; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 20, 26, 27, 30, 31 May, 2, 4, 7, 8 June 1803; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 260-3; Farington, ii. 107; Grey mss, Whitbread to Grey, 3, 13 June 1803.
  • 52. Grey mss, Whitbread to Grey, 22 June; Add. 51736, Caroline Fox to Holland, 27 June; Pellew, ii. 197; Malmesbury mss, Canning to Malmesbury, 14, 22 July, 4 Aug., Malmesbury to Canning, 2 Aug. 1803; Colchester, i. 431-2; SRO GD51/1/63/10; 51/1/71/1; Lonsdale mss, Mulgrave to Lowther, 22 July, 25 Aug. 1803; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 113; Stanhope, Notes and Extracts, 9; Leveson Gower, i. 434-5.
  • 53. Dacres Adams mss 4/107; Rose Diaries, ii. 42-66; Add. 35703, f. 234; 41852, f. 188; 47565, f. 110; 47566, f. 182; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lowther, 6 Oct., Mulgrave to same, 13, 20 Nov. 1803, 19 Feb. 1804, Ward to same, 11 Nov., 10 Dec., Camden to same, 31 Oct., 15 Nov. 1803; SRO GD51/1/74; Marshall, 254-7; Creevey Pprs. i. 20; Leveson Gower, i. 441-2; HMC Fortescue, vii. 203, 211-14; Carlisle mss, Canning to Morpeth, 19 Jan. 1804; Minto, iii. 305; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 366, 368; Colchester, i. 477, 481; HMC Bathurst, 32; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 288.
  • 54. W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Melville, 16 Feb. 1804; SRO GD51/1/64/6; Stanhope, iv. 139, 145, 148, 150; Leveson Gower, i. 446-7; Marshall, 260-4; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 29 Feb., 10 Mar. [1804]; Minto, iii. 306-7, 315, 317; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 16 Mar. 1804; Jackson Diaries, i. 183; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 371; Add. 37415, f. 193; 40102, f. 133; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 7, 9, 20 Mar., Fox to Grey, 28 Mar., 2 Apr. 1804; J. H. Rose, Life of Wm. Pitt (1923), 498; Colchester, i. 496-7.
  • 55. Twiss, i. 438-49, 453-4; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 17 May 1804; Rose Diaries, ii. 113-32; Lord Mahon, Secret Corresp. connected with Mr Pitt's return to Office in 1804; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 293-305, 307-9, 319, 231-3, 326; Colchester, i. 498-508; Minto, iii. 324-6, 334, 337, 339, 346, 347, 355; HMC Bathurst, 34-41; J. W. Derry, Pitt, 145; HMC 3rd Rep. 221; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 375; Add. 37415, f. 202; 51598, memo [by Leveson Gower, May]; Spencer mss, Grenville to Lady Spencer, 10 May 1804; Buccleeuch mss 70/1273; Ward, 23, Creevey Pprs. i. 28; Creevey's Life and Times, 21; PRO 30/8/146, f. 72.
  • 56. Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 316, 328; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 9, 11, 12 June 1804; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 379; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2884; Minto, iii. 346, 347, 355; Colchester, i. 518, 519, 522; Windham Pprs. ii. 240; Add. 34715, f. 215; Spencer mss, Lady to Ld. Spencer, 31 Aug. 1804; Buckingham, iii. 370.
  • 57. Windham Pprs. ii. 243; HMC Fortescue, vii. 237-42; Colchester, i. 528-9; Twiss, i. 473; Leveson Gower, i. 476; Add. 47565, ff. 133, 135; Carlisle mss, Grenville to Carlisle, 14 Nov. 1804; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 1972.
  • 58. Colchester, i. 532-3; Creevey Pprs. i. 31; Sheridan Letters, ii. 234; Pellew, ii. 329; Sidmouth mss, Addington to Bragge Bathurst, 3 Jan. 1805; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 15 Dec. 1804; PRO 30/8/119, ff. 64, 66; 30/29/6/2, f. 53; 30/29/6/5, f. 905; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lowther, 1 Jan., Ward to same, 3, 8 Jan. 1805; Add. 47581, ff. 167-8.
  • 59. Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 314; Camden mss C244/3; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 31 Jan. 1805; PRO 30/29/384; 30/70/4/246; Harrowby mss, Bathurst to Harrowby, 27 Jan., 2 Feb. [12 Feb.], Eliot to same, 4 Feb. 1805; Windham Pprs. ii. 375; Ashbourne, 351-2; Leveson Gower, ii. 25, 28, 34, 49-51, 53; Rose Diaries, ii. 82-92; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2978, 3012, 3014.
  • 60. Perceval (Holland) mss 11, f. 7; Lansdowne mss, Bute to Petty, 1 Nov. 1804; Leveson Gower, ii. 51; Colchester, i. 544, 546-8, 551-2, 556; Add. 35716, ff. 25, 43, 57; 35718, f. 85; 35737, f. 130; 38241, f. 130; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 9 Apr. 1085; Ward, 27; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 218, 224-5; Creevey Pprs. i. 34, 35; Camden mss C226/5, 237/1; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Addington, 28 Apr. 1805.
  • 61. Add. 35706, f. 257; HMC Bathurst, 48, 49, 499; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Addington, 7 July; Harrowby mss, Bathurst to Harrowby, Sun. [14 July]; Grey mss, Whitbread to Grey, 12 July; Lonsdale mss, Camden to Lowther, 4 Oct. 1805.
  • 62. PRO 30/8/140, f. 177; Add. 35645, f. 151; 35716, f. 123; 47565, ff. 143, 145, 153; 47566, ff. 213, 263; 51799, Fitzpatrick to Holland, 7 Sept. [1805]; HMC Fortescue, vii. 281-97, 302-8; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 11, 15, 17 July; Grey mss, Fox to Grey, 12, 16 July; Fitzwilliam mss, box 67, Fox to Fitzwilliam, 1 Aug., 11 Nov.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Camden, 8 Oct. 1805.
  • 63. Colchester, ii. 17, 24; Pole Carew mss CC/L/38, Rashleigh to Pole Carew, 10 Oct.; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 735/4, correcting the text publ. by Stanhope of Pitt’s speech, 9 Nov. 1805; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 339-41, 344, 346; Farington, iii. 136, 145.
  • 64. Leveson Gower, ii. 54, 58, 157, 175; Add. 31230, f. 65; 35706, ff. 272, 316; 35760, f. 112; 38833, f. 183; Rose Diaries, ii. 91; Marshall, 288; Creevey Pprs. i. 73; Grey mss, Grey to Fox, 5 Jan., Creevey to Grey, 7 Jan. 1806.
  • 65. Tomline mss, bp. of Lincoln to his wife, 15 Jan.; Holland, i. 207; ii. 35; Stuart, 134; Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire to Hartington [begun 20 Jan. 1806]; Sydney Smith Letters ed. N. C. Smith, i. 112; HMC Fortescue, vii. 191-2; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 249; v. 73; Greville Mems. i. 267; Croker Pprs. ii. 86.