William The Elder Pitt

Pitt, William (The Elder)


(the earl of Chatham). Born Nov. 15, 1708, in London; died May 11, 1778, in Hayes, Kent. British statesman. Grandson of T. Pitt, a governor of Madras who made his fortune in India.

The Elder Pitt was one of the leaders of the Whig faction known as the Boy Patriots, advocates of an extremely expansionist foreign policy aimed at seizing new colonies. In 1735 he became a member of Parliament, and after 1746 he held various cabinet offices under the Whigs. In 1756 he took control of the foreign affairs and war departments, and he became the Whig leader in the House of Commons. The de facto leader of the cabinet from 1757 to 1761, he played a major role in starting the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), as a result of which Great Britain seized almost all of France’s possessions in India and North America.

Pitt went into retirement over differences with King George III and his aides (the “king’s friends”). However, from 1766 to 1768 he served as prime minister of a coalition cabinet, attempting to unite various Whig and Tory factions. He became a member of the House of Lords in 1766, having been made an earl. In the late 1760’s and early 1770’s, during Great Britain’s conflict with its North American colonies, Pitt advocated more flexible methods of colonial rule.


Williams, B. The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, vols. 1–2. London, 1913.