William Pitt

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Pitt, William,

1708–78: see Chatham, William Pitt, 1st earl ofChatham, William Pitt, 1st earl of
, 1708–78, British statesman, known as the Great Commoner. Proud, dramatic, and patriotic, Chatham excelled as a war minister and orator. He was the father of William Pitt.
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.

Pitt, William,

1759–1806, British statesman; 2d son of William Pitt, 1st earl of ChathamChatham, William Pitt, 1st earl of
, 1708–78, British statesman, known as the Great Commoner. Proud, dramatic, and patriotic, Chatham excelled as a war minister and orator. He was the father of William Pitt.
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. Trained as a lawyer, he entered Parliament in 1781 and in 1782 at the age of 23 became chancellor of the exchequer under Lord ShelburneShelburne, William Petty Fitzmaurice, 2d earl of,
1737–1805, British statesman. He served briefly (1763) as president of the Board of Trade in George Grenville's cabinet but then became a supporter of William
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. At the fall (1783) of the coalition government of Lord NorthNorth, Frederick North, 8th Baron,
1732–92, British statesman, best known as Lord North. He entered Parliament in 1754 and became a junior lord of the treasury (1759), privy councilor (1766), and chancellor of the
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 and Charles James FoxFox, Charles James,
1749–1806, British statesman and orator, for many years the outstanding parliamentary proponent of liberal reform. He entered Parliament in 1768 and served as lord of the admiralty (1770–72) and as lord of the treasury (1772–74) under
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, who was to be Pitt's lifelong rival, Pitt was made prime minister by George IIIGeorge III,
1738–1820, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1760–1820); son of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, and grandson of George II, whom he succeeded. He was also elector (and later king) of Hanover, but he never visited it.
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. He overcame strong opposition in Parliament, where the king's interference was sharply resented, and a long-postponed general election (1784) gave him a parliamentary majority. Pitt's policies included reduced expenditures, new taxes to decrease the national debt, and lower customs duties in accordance with the theories of Adam SmithSmith, Adam,
1723–90, Scottish economist, educated at Glasgow and Oxford. He became professor of moral philosophy at the Univ. of Glasgow in 1752, and while teaching there wrote his Theory of Moral Sentiments
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. He also advocated parliamentary reform but failed (1785) to secure Parliament's approval of it. His India Act (1784) strengthened the government's powers there but left patronage in the hands of the East India CompanyEast India Company, British,
1600–1874, company chartered by Queen Elizabeth I for trade with Asia. The original object of the group of merchants involved was to break the Dutch monopoly of the spice trade with the East Indies.
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. His Constitutional Act (1791) divided Canada into Upper and Lower Canada and sanctioned the institutions of the French Canadians in the latter province. Pitt's popularity increased steadily; when the king became temporarily insane (1788–89), the prime minister was able, despite the efforts of Fox, to prevent the establishment of an unlimited regency and remain in office. His liberal policies ended when Great Britain became involved in the French Revolutionary WarsFrench Revolutionary Wars,
wars occurring in the era of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era, the decade of 1792–1802. The wars began as an effort to defend the Revolution and developed into wars of conquest under the empire.
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, followed by the Napoleonic Wars (see Napoleon INapoleon I
, 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal." Early Life

The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at
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). When the French Revolution began (1789), Pitt's desire was for peace and neutrality, and after France finally declared war (1793) on Britain, he failed to foresee either the length or the seriousness of the conflict. Within Great Britain he suspended (1794) habeas corpus and enacted other repressive legislation to halt radical agitation. His military coalitions against France (1793 and 1798) were unsuccessful on land, although the British navy won some overwhelming victories, and his financial support of Britain's allies brought on a monetary crisis. Rebellion in Ireland hampered the war effort and convinced Pitt that the solution to the Irish problem lay in the parliamentary union of Ireland with England, accompanied by Catholic EmancipationCatholic Emancipation,
term applied to the process by which Roman Catholics in the British Isles were relieved in the late 18th and early 19th cent. of civil disabilities.
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, so that Roman Catholics might hold office. The union was achieved (1800) by wholesale bribery, but the king then refused to approve Catholic Emancipation, and Pitt resigned (1801). He was recalled (1804) as prime minister to repel an expected invasion by Napoleon, which never materialized. He organized a third coalition against France, but Horatio Nelson's great naval victory at Trafalgar was soon followed by the defeat of Britain's allies at Austerlitz (1805). The latter news is said to have hastened Pitt's death.

Bibliography

See biographies by P. H. Stanhope, 5th Earl Stanhope (4 vol., 3d ed. 1867, repr. 1970), Lord Rosebery (1891, repr. 1968), and J. Ehrmann (1972, repr. 1983); studies by P. MacKesy (1984) and G. O'Brien (1986)