William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham

British politician (1708-1778)

The Right Honourable William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (15 November 1708 – 11 May 1778) was a British Whig statesman who achieved his greatest fame as war minister during the Seven Years' War (aka French and Indian War) and who was later Prime Minister of Great Britain. He is often known as William Pitt the Elder to distinguish him from his son, William Pitt the Younger

Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins.

QuotesEdit

1730sEdit

  • When trade is at stake, it is your last entrenchment; you must defend it, or perish...Sir, Spain knows the consequence of a war in America; whoever gains, it must prove fatal to her...is this any longer a nation? Is this any longer an English Parliament, if with more ships in your harbours than in all the navies of Europe; with above two millions of people in your American colonies, you will bear to hear of the expediency of receiving from Spain an insecure, unsatisfactory, dishonourable Convention?
    • Denouncing the Spanish Convention of Pardo in the House of Commons (6 March 1739), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), pp. 6-7
  • It must cut up Liberty by the root and poison the Fountain of Publick Security; and who that has an English heart can ever be weary of asserting Liberty?
    • Denouncing corruption in a draft speech (November 1739), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume I (1913), p. 80

1740sEdit

  • We are now to examine whether it is probable that we shall preserve our commerce and our independence, or whether we are sinking into subjection to a foreign power.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (26 January 1741), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume I (1913), p. 82
  • Our seamen have always been famous for a matchless alacrity and intrepidity in time of danger; this has saved many a British ship, when other seamen would have run below deck, and left the ship to the mercy of the waves, or, perhaps, of a more cruel enemy, a pirate.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (6 March 1741), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), p. 10

1750sEdit

  • I rejoice to hear that you have begun Homer's Iliad; and have made so great a progress in Virgil. I hope you taste and love those authors particularly. You cannot read them too much: they are not only the two greatest poets, but they contain the finest lessons for your age to imbibe: lessons of honour, courage, disinterestedness, love of truth, command of temper, gentleness of behaviour, humanity, and in one word, virtue in its true significance.
    • Letter to his nephew, Thomas Pitt (12 October 1751), quoted in W. S. Taylor and J. H. Pringle (eds.), Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: Vol. I (1838), pp. 62–63
  • Substitute Tully and Demosthenes in the place of Homer and Virgil; and arm yourself with all the variety of manner, copiousness and beauty of diction, nobleness and magnificence of ideas of the Roman consul; and render the powers of eloquence complete by the irresistible torrent of vehement argumentation, and close and forcible reasoning, and the depth and fortitude of mind of the Grecian statesman.
    • Letter to his nephew, Thomas Pitt (31 January 1756), quoted in Letters Written by the late Earl of Chatham to His Nephew Thomas Pitt, Esq. (1805), pp. 89-89
  • My Lord, I am sure I can save this country, and no one else can.
  • A gloomy scene for this distressed, disgraced country.
    • Remark on the state of affairs (June 1757), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume I (1913), p. 337
  • ...the day is come when the very inadequate benefits of the treaty of Utrecht, the indelible reproach of the last generation, are become the necessary, but almost unattainable wish of the present, when the empire is no more, the ports of the Netherlands betrayed, the Dutch Barrier treaty an empty sound, Minorca, and with it, the Mediterranean lost, and America itself precarious.
    • Letter to Benjamin Keene (23 August 1757), quoted in W. S. Taylor and J. H. Pringle (eds.), Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: Vol. I (1838), p. 251
  • The only way to have peace is to prepare for war.
    • To the Duke of Newcastle (c. August 1758), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume I (1913), p. 379

1760sEdit

  • [Pitt] said he could not allow what I said; that either we were in a situation to receive the law or to give it; that he thought the latter was our case; that therefore it was our business to propose the terms and tell France on what conditions they were to have peace; that it was so at the Peace of Utrecht and it would be absurd to act otherways.
    • Quoted in the Duke of Devonshire's diary (22 April 1761), Peter D. Brown and Karl W. Schweizer (eds.), The Devonshire Diary. William Cavendish, Fourth Duke of Devonshire. Memoranda on State Affairs. 1759–1762 (1982), p. 95
  • [Pitt] said he would not come into it; that he thought this country in a situation to give peace to France, and if we were at first firm in our proceedings and did not yield to France, we should soon have a very good peace.
    • Remarks to the Council (27 April 1761), quoted in Peter D. Brown and Karl W. Schweizer (eds.), The Devonshire Diary. William Cavendish, Fourth Duke of Devonshire. Memoranda on State Affairs. 1759–1762 (1982), p. 97
  • Pitt complained that we lay inactive, while the French pushed on their conquests.
    • Remarks to the Council (14 July 1761), quoted in Peter D. Brown and Karl W. Schweizer (eds.), The Devonshire Diary. William Cavendish, Fourth Duke of Devonshire. Memoranda on State Affairs. 1759–1762 (1982), p. 101
  • [Pitt said] he saw combinations of great Lords against him but for his part he would go his own way; that he was a British subject and he knew he stood upon British ground; that he had learnt his maxims and principles under the great Lord Cobham and the disciples of the greatest lawyers, generals and patriots of King William's days: named Lord Somers and the Duke of Marlborough.
    • Remarks to the Council (14 August 1761), quoted in Peter D. Brown and Karl W. Schweizer (eds.), The Devonshire Diary. William Cavendish, Fourth Duke of Devonshire. Memoranda on State Affairs. 1759–1762 (1982), p. 111
  • [Pitt] said that he saw so many Lords great in themselves and in their influence in the House of Commons, differing so much in opinion from him, and inclined to make concessions for the sake of peace than he could come into; that it was impossible for him to remain; that for the sake of unanimity he had gone as far as his conscience and even his sleep would permit him.
    • Remarks to the Council (10 September 1761), quoted in Peter D. Brown and Karl W. Schweizer (eds.), The Devonshire Diary. William Cavendish, Fourth Duke of Devonshire. Memoranda on State Affairs. 1759–1762 (1982), p. 119
  • This unjust and unexampled proceeding of the Court of Spain, by inforcing her demands on England through the channel and by the compulsion of a hostile power, denouncing eventually future war in conjunction, while Spain was still professing amity and friendship with Great Britain; and the full declaration and avowal at last made by the Spanish Ministry of a total union of councils and interests between the two monarchies of the House of Bourbon, are matters of so high and urgent a nature as call indispensably on His Majesty to take forthwith such necessary and timely measures as God has put into his hands, for the defence of the honour of his Crown, and of the just and essential interests of His Majesty's people.
    • Memorial to the King and the Cabinet signed jointly with Richard Temple (18 September 1761), quoted in William James Smith (ed.), The Grenville Papers: Being the Correspondence of Richard Grenville Earl Temple, K.G., and The Right Hon. George Grenville, Their Friends and Contemporaries: Vol. I (1852), p. 386
  • No doubt with me that Spain is France [more] than that the Isle of France is, a union in the House of Bourbon; loss of time loss of opportunity. Whatever is dangerous will be more so 6 months hence; no safety but acting with vigour. Procrastination will increase the danger. The fact is proved, the treatment we have had shews what we are to expect. The question is that France and Spain are joined: what is to be done? ... I am still of opinion that an immediate action gives us the best chance to extricate ourselves. Acquiesced in their partiality till such time as we had broke the force of France, wishing then that Spain would give us an opportunity to punish them. Best chance to order Lord Bristol away and your fleets to take every Spanish flag. If the means to do this are doubtful will it not be more so next spring. I am for it now.
    • Remarks to the Council (18 September 1761), quoted in Peter D. Brown and Karl W. Schweizer (eds.), The Devonshire Diary. William Cavendish, Fourth Duke of Devonshire. Memoranda on State Affairs. 1759–1762 (1982), p. 127, p. 130
  • Spain's conduct in putting forward her grievances under the shield of England's enemy, with whom we are at war, is the highest indignity that ever was offered to the Crown of England, and it will fix an eternal stain upon that crown if no answer is returned to Spain's avowal of her action. As to the other consideration, the safety of the public—are we not already suffering from the worst species of war, when Spain supports France with her full weight, covers her trade, lends her moneys and abets her in negotiation? You are now at war with the House of Bourbon; but, for open war with Spain, you are prepared and she is not.
    • Resignation speech to the Council (2 October 1761), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume II (1914), p. 112
  • Without having ever asked any one single employment in my life, I was called by my Sovereign and by the Voice of the People to assist the State when others had abdicated the service of it. That being so no one can be surprised that I will go on no longer since my advice is not taken. Being responsible I will direct, and will be responsible for nothing that I do not direct.
    • Resignation speech to the Council (2 October 1761), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume II (1914), pp. 112-113
  • A difference of opinion with regard to measures to be taken against Spain, of the highest importance to the honour of the crown, and to the most essential national interests, and this founded on what Spain had already done, not on what that court may further intend to do, was the cause of my resigning the seals.
    • Letter to William Beckford MP (15 October 1761), quoted in W. S. Taylor and J. H. Pringle (eds.), Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: Vol. II (1838), p. 158
  • America has been conquered in Germany, where Prince Ferdinand's victories have shattered the whole military power of that great military monarchy, France. Recall the troops from Germany, and I should be robbed of my honour, while England, by deserting her allies, would be deserted by God and man. And, honour apart, nothing but that spectre of an invasion which the Ministry of 1755 had not constancy enough to look at, frightened us out of Minorca. So would it be again, if the troops of France found themselves at liberty to quit Germany.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (13 November 1761), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume II (1914), p. 131
  • As Germany was formerly managed it was a millstone about our necks; as managed now, it is a millstone about the neck of France. When I came in, I found the subsidy to Prussia dictated by Hanover, not by Great Britain. I insisted that national defence and America must stand first, nor would I agree to the German war until every other service had been provided for. I acceded to the plan of a Ministry that wanted vigour and borrowed their majority to carry on their own plan. But I carried it on in my own way, and, though that may have been the wrong way, I offer myself confitentem reum, if I have not thereby annihilated French power in the East and West Indies.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (9 December 1761), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume II (1914), p. 132
  • While we had France for an enemy, Germany was the scene to employ and baffle her arms.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (August 1762)
  • ...the errors of Rome...[are] rank idolatry—a subversion of all civil as well as religious liberty, and the utter disgrace of reason and of human nature.
    • Letter to the Bishop of Gloucester William Warburton (October 1762), quoted in W. S. Taylor and J. H. Pringle (eds.), Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: Vol. II (1838), p. 188
  • We retain nothing, although we have conquered everything...France is chiefly, if not solely, to be dreaded by us in the light of a maritime and commercial power; and therefore by restoring to her all the valuable West India islands, and by our concessions in the Newfoundland fishery, we have given her the means of recovering her prodigious losses and of becoming once more formidable to us at sea...all the Spanish treasures and riches in America, lay at our mercy.
  • The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter — all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!
  • Confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom.
    • Speech, Jan. 14, 1766, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • It is my opinion, that this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. At the same time I assert the authority of this kingdom over the colonies to be sovereign and supreme in every circumstance of Government and legislation whatsoever. The colonists are the subjects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the natural rights of mankind and the peculiar privileges of Englishmen...The Americans are the sons, not the bastards, of England. Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power...When, therefore, in this House we give and grant, we give and grant what is our own. But in an American tax, what do we do? We, your Majesty's Commons for Great Britain, give and grant to your Majesty,—what? Our own property?—No! We give and grant to your Majesty, the property of your Majesty's Commons of America...The distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially necessary to liberty...There is an idea in some, that the colonies are virtually represented in this House...Is he represented by any knight of the shire, in any county in this kingdom?...Or will you tell him that he is represented by any representative of a borough?—a borough which perhaps its own representatives never saw.—This is what is called the rotten part of the constitution. It cannot continue a century. If it does not drop, it must be amputated...I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty, as voluntarily to let themselves be made slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of all the rest...The gentleman asks, When were the colonies emancipated? I desire to know when were they made slaves?
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Stamp Act (14 January 1766), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), pp. 71-6.
  • There are many things a parliament cannot do. It cannot make itself executive, nor dispose of offices which belong to the crown. It cannot take any man's property, even that of the meanest cottager, as in the case of enclosures, without his being heard.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1766), quoted in Parliamentary History of England (London, 1813), vol. 6, col. 195.
  • When the people condemn me I shall tremble but I shall set my face against the proudest connection in the country.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 December 1766), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume II (1914), pp. 228-229

1770sEdit

  • When then, my Lords, are all the generous efforts of our ancestors, are all those glorious contentions, by which they meant to secure themselves, and to transmit to their posterity, a known law, a certain rule of living, reduced to this conclusion, that instead of the arbitrary power of a King, we must submit to the arbitrary power of a House of Commons? If this be true, what benefit do we derive from the exchange? Tyranny, my Lords, is detestable in every shape; but in none is it so formidable as where it is assumed and exercised by a number of tyrants. But, my Lords, this is not the fact, this is not the constitution; we have a law of Parliament, we have a code in which every honest man may find it. We have Magna Charta, we have the Statute-book, and we have the Bill of Rights...It is to your ancestors, my Lords, it is to the English barons that we are indebted for the laws and constitution we possess. Their virtues were rude and uncultivated, but they were great and sincere...I think that history has not done justice to their conduct, when they obtained from their Sovereign that great acknowledgment of national rights contained in Magna Charta: they did not confine it to themselves alone, but delivered it as a common blessing to the whole people...A breach has been made in the constitution—the battlements are dismantled—the citadel is open to the first invader—the walls totter—the place is no longer tenable.—What then remains for us but to stand foremost in the breach, to repair it, or to perish in it?...let us consider which we ought to respect most—the representative or the collective body of the people. My Lords, five hundred gentlemen are not ten millions; and, if we must have a contention, let us take care to have the English nation on our side. If this question be given up, the freeholders of England are reduced to a condition baser than the peasantry of Poland...Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, there tyranny begins.
    • Speech in the House of Lords on John Wilkes (9 January 1770), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), pp. 90-4
  • I have the principles of an Englishman, and I utter them without apprehension or reserve...this is not the language of faction; let it be tried by that criterion, by which alone we can distinguish what is factious, from what is not—by the principles of the English constitution. I have been bred up in these principles, and I know that when the liberty of the subject is invaded, and all redress denied him, resistance is justifiable...the constitution has its political Bible, by which if it be fairly consulted, every political question may, and ought to be determined. Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights and the Bill of Rights, form that code which I call the Bible of the English constitution. Had some of his Majesty's unhappy predecessors trusted less to the commentary of their Ministers, and been better read in the text itself, the glorious Revolution might have remained only possible in theory, and their fate would not now have stood upon record, a formidable example to all their successors.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (22 January 1770), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), p. 98
  • A long train of these practices has at length unwillingly convinced me that there is something behind the throne greater than the King himself.
    • Chatham Correspondence, Speech, March 2, 1770, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Quoted by Lord Mahon, "greater than the throne itself", in History of England, vol. v., p. 258.
  • Reparation for our rights at home, and security against the like future violations.
    • Letter to the Earl of Shelburne, Sept. 29, 1770. Compare: "Indemnity for the past and security for the future," Bertrand Russell, Memoir of Fox, vol. iii, p. 345, Letter to the Hon. T. Maitland.
  • The first great and acknowledged object of national defence in this country, is to maintain such a superior naval force at home, that even the united fleets of France and Spain may never be masters of the Channel.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (22 November 1770), quoted in W. S. Taylor and J. H. Pringle (eds.), Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: Vol. IV (1840), p. 12
  • Resistance to your acts was necessary as it was just; and your vain declarations of the omnipotence of Parliament, and your imperious doctrines of the necessity of submission, will be found equally impotent to convince or to enslave your fellow-subjects in America, who feel tyranny, whether ambitioned by an individual part of the legislature, or the bodies who compose it, is equally intolerable to British subjects...What, though you march from town to town, and from province to province; though you should be able to enforce a temporary and local submission, which I only suppose, not admit—how shall you be able to secure the obedience of the country you leave behind you in your progress, to grasp the dominion of eighteen hundred miles of continent, populous in numbers, possessing valour, liberty, and resistance? This resistance to your arbitrary system of taxation might have been foreseen: it was obvious, from the nature of things and of mankind; and, above all, from the Whiggish spirit flourishing in that country. The spirit which now resists your taxation in America, is the same which formerly opposed loans, benevolences, and ship-money, in England: the same spirit which called all England on its legs, and by the Bill of Rights vindicated the English constitution: the same spirit which established the great, fundamental, essential maxim of your liberties, that no subject of England shall be taxed but by his own consent. This glorious spirit of Whiggism animates three millions in America; who prefer poverty with liberty to gilded chains and sordid affluence; and who will die in defence of their rights as men, as freemen.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (20 January 1775), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), pp. 134-6
  • You have ransacked every corner of Lower Saxony; but forty thousand German boors never can conquer ten times the number of British freemen. You may ravage—you cannot conquer; it is impossible: you cannot conquer the Americans. You talk, my Lords, of your friends among them to annihilate the Congress, and of your powerful forces to disperse their army: I might as well talk of driving them before me with this crutch! ...If you conquer them, what then? You cannot make them respect you; you cannot make them wear your cloth: you will plant an invincible hatred in their breasts against you. Coming from the stock they do, they can never respect you...
    • Speech in the House of Lords (30 May 1777), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), p. 144
  • I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, I venture to say it, you CANNOT conquer America...As to conquest, therefore, my Lords, I repeat, it is impossible. You may swell every expense, and every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German Prince, that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign country; your efforts are for ever vain and impotent—doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies—to overrun them with the sordid sons of rapine and plunder; devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms, never! never! never! ...I call upon the honour of your Lordships to reverence the dignity of your ancestors, and to maintain your own. I call upon the spirit and humanity of my country to vindicate the national character. I invoke the genius of the constitution. From the tapestry that adorns these walls, the immortal ancestor of this noble Lord frowns with indignation at THE DISGRACE OF HIS COUNTRY! In vain he led your victorious fleets against the boasted Armada of Spain; in vain he defended and established the honour, the liberties, the religion, the Protestant religion of his country, against the arbitrary cruelties of Popery and the Inquisition.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (18 November, 1777), responding to a speech by Henry Howard, 12th Earl of Suffolk, who spoke in favour of the war against the American colonists. Suffolk was a descendant of Howard of Effingham, who led the English navy against the Spanish Armada. Effingham had commissioned a series of tapestries on the defeat of the Armada, and sold them to King James I. Since 1650 they were hung in the House of Lords, where they remained until destroyed by fire in 1834.
    • William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), pp. 150-6
 
"I rejoice that the grave has not closed upon me; that I am still alive to lift up my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy!"
  • My Lords, I rejoice that the grave has not closed upon me; that I am still alive to lift up my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy! Pressed down as I am by the hand of infirmity, I am little able to assist my country in this most perilous conjuncture; but, my Lords, while I have sense and memory, I will never consent to deprive the royal offspring of the House of Brunswick, the heirs of the Princess Sophia, of their fairest inheritance. Where is the man that will dare to advise such a measure? My Lords, his Majesty succeeded to an empire as great in extent as its reputation was unsullied. Shall we tarnish the lustre of this nation by an ignominious surrender of its rights and fairest possessions? Shall this great kingdom, that has survived, whole and entire, the Danish depredations, the Scottish inroads, and the Norman conquest; that has stood the threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, now fall prostrate before the House of Bourbon? Surely, my Lords, this nation is no longer what it was! Shall a people, that seventeen years ago was the terror of the world, now stoop so low as to tell its ancient inveterate enemy, take all we have, only give us peace? It is impossible! ...My Lords, any state is better than despair. Let us at least make one effort; and if we must fall, let us fall like men!
    • Speech in the House of Lords (7 April 1778), quoted in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (1848), pp. xv-xvi
  • We have a Calvinistic creed, a Popish liturgy, and an Arminian clergy.
    • Prior's Life of Burke (1790), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Quotes about William PittEdit

Alphabetised by surname
  • Chatham was incomparably the greatest British statesman of the eighteenth century: none could match him in boldness of purpose or extent of achievement. Almost alone among his contemporaries he saw the vision of Britain expanded across the world, and set her feet firmly on the path of imperial greatness.
    • John Brooke, The Chatham Administration, 1766–1768 (1956), p. 385
  • The internationally acknowledged but over vast areas undeveloped monopoly of the greater part of America by Bourbon Spain appeared an unjust obstacle to the expansion of British trade. Pitt, from first to last a fiery patriot, nursed the utmost contempt for the foreigner, especially of the Catholic monarchies of Versailles and Madrid, whose subjects could not read the Bible and knew nothing of Protestant liberty. He never considered the pagan motive of greed underlying the rivalries between Britain and her Atlantic neighbours a reproach; Protestant Britain was entitled to God's blessing and the rewards of wealth and empire no detriment.
  • Pitt had been called to power by the suffrages of the 'people', the first minister in British history chosen by acclaim. Pitt's integrity and force of character convinced men that he alone could save the country, a capacity he himself never doubted. The call for the services of Churchill in 1940, and the co-operation he too had to welcome from old enemies of bitter blood on both sides of the House, is the irresistible parallel.
  • Chatham had been the saviour of the national pride in the face of France. In the cases of general warrants and parliamentary privilege he had served popular liberties. As upholder of the rights of the Middlesex electors he was defender of the Constitution. In the cause of America he identified political and religious freedom at home with the constitutional and natural rights of the English-speaking peoples overseas, and, the vindication too, of the national dignity against the House of Bourbon. On each count, Chatham led the way, to the example of posterity.
  • [W]e may affirm with truth and impartiality, that no man was ever better fitted than Mr. Pitt, to be the minister in a great and powerful nation, or better qualified to carry that power and greatness to their utmost limits. There was in all his designs a magnitude and even a vastness, which was not easily comprehended by every mind, and which nothing but success could have made to appear reasonable. ... He was called to the ministry by the voice of the people; and what is more rare, he held it with that approbation. ... Under him Great Britain carried on the most important war in which she ever was engaged, alone and unassisted, with greater splendour, and with more success than she had ever enjoyed at the head of the most powerful alliances. Alone this island seemed to balance the rest of Europe.
    • Edmund Burke, Annual Register...For the Year 1761 (1763), p. 47
  • In the conduct of the war he never suffered the enemy to breathe, but overwhelmed them with reiterated blows, and kept up the alarm in every quarter. If one of his expeditions was not so well calculated or so successfully executed, amends was made by another, and by a third. The spirit of the nation once roused, was not suffered for a moment to subside; and the French, dazzled, as it were, by the multitude and celerity of his enterprizes, seemed to have lost all power of resistance. In short, he revived the military genius of our people; he supported our allies; he extended our trade; he raised our reputation; he augmented our dominions.
    • Edmund Burke, Annual Register...For the Year 1761 (1763), p. 47
  • Lord Chatham a great Minister & bold in his undertakings. He inspired the People of England with Martial ardour when necessary for the safety of this Kingdom. He considered Mobs in the light of a raw material which might be manufactured to a proper stuff for their own Happiness in the end.
    • Edmund Burke, quoted in "Extracts from Mr. Burke's Table-talk, at Crewe Hall. Written down by Mrs. Crewe, pp. 62.", Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society. Volume VII (1862–63), p. 13
  • This minister is, as you know, the idol of the people, who regard him as the sole author of their success, and they do not have the same confidence in the other members of the council...Pitt joins to a reputation of superior spirit and talent, that of most exact honesty...with simple manners and dignity, he seeks neither display nor ostentation...He is very eloquent, specious, wheedling, and with all the chicanery of an experienced lawyer. He is courageous to the point of rashness, he supports his ideas in an impassioned fashion and with an invincible determination, seeking to have no other ambition than to elevate Britain to the highest point of glory and to abase France to the lowest degree of humiliation.
  • [A] great man, the greatest perhaps that this age or this country has produced, to whom this country owes her present prosperity, and, I am sorry to say it, her pride, her pride of conquest, which has infatuated her, even in this impracticable war, with the ideas of victory, and certain success; that great man, from whose opinions, though some of your lordships may sometimes differ, yet there is not one of your lordships who does not pay homage to his consummate capacity, his extensive talents, his great services, and his age, when he delivers those opinions from his place.
    • Lord Camden, speech in the House of Lords (16 March 1775), quoted in The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 ... Vol. XVIII. A.D. 1774—1777 (1813), column 445
  • It is a considerable fact in the history of the world, that he was for four years King of England.
  • Over-bearing, persuasive, and impracticable, his object was England,—his ambition was fame; without dividing, he destroyed party; without corrupting he made a venal age unanimous; France sunk beneath him; with one hand he smote the house of Bourbon, and wielded in the other the democracy of England.
    • Henry Grattan, 'Character of Mr. Pitt' (1772), quoted in Miscellaneous Works of the Right Honourable Henry Grattan (1822), p. 9
  • When I saw Lord Chatham's bill, I entertained high hope that a reconciliation could have been brought about. The difference between his terms, and those offered by our Congress, might have been accommodated, if entered on, by both parties, with a disposition to accommodate. But the dignity of Parliament, it seems, can brook no opposition to its power.
    • Thomas Jefferson to William Small (7 May 1775), quoted in Thomas Jefferson, Writings, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (1984), p. 748
  • Both the elder and the younger Pitt delighted in a kind of ostentatious virtue which raised them, in the eyes of careless observers, to a far higher level than politicians like Burke or like Fox, who, with abilities perhaps not inferior, sacrificed incomparably more to their principles. But yet with all his faults he was a very great man—far surpassing both in mental and moral altitude the other politicians of his generation. As a war minister his greatness was beyond question, and almost beyond comparison.
  • The greatest War Minister of modern times.
    • David Lloyd George's remarks to George Riddell, as recorded in Riddell's diary (3 August 1918), quoted in The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923, ed. J. M. McEwen (1986), p. 232
  • The success of our arms was perhaps owing less to the skill of his dispositions than to the national resources and the national spirit. But that the national spirit rose to the emergency,—that the national resources were contributed with unexampled cheerfulness,—this was undoubtedly his work. The ardour of his spirit had set the whole kingdom on fire. It inflamed every soldier who dragged the cannon up the heights of Quebec, and every sailor who boarded the French ships amidst the rocks of Britanny.
  • Thus, then, after such long gestation, and so many throes and struggles, came to light the first administration of Chatham,—the greatest and most glorious, perhaps, that England had ever yet known—an administration not always, indeed, free from haste or error in its schemes, and no doubt owing their success in part to the favour of Fortune and to the genius of Generals; but still, after every allowance that can be justly required, an administration pre-eminently strong at home and victorious abroad—an administration which even now is pointed at with equal applause by contending and opposite parties, eager to claim its principles as their own.
    • Lord Mahon, History of England from the Peace of Utrecht to the Peace of Versailles, 1713–1783, Vol. IV: 1748–1763 (1853), p. 108
  • With all his faults we shall want Mr Pitt, if such a complicated, such an extensive war is to be carried on. I know nobody who can plan or push the execution of any plan agreed upon in the manner Mr Pitt did.
    • Duke of Newcastle to Lord Hardwicke (15 November 1761), quoted in Philip C. Yorke, The Life and Correspondence of Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, Vol. III (1913), pp. 338-339
  • Pitt did not flinch from the contemplation of the violent aggression required by such an active and expanding commercial imperialism, and such an open avowal of England's aspirations bred its own elation. ... It was Chatham, ignorant of men, ignorant of politics, who knew with utter certainty England's destiny and showed her the way to it.
    • J. H. Plumb, England in the Eighteenth Century (1950, 1964), pp. 71-72
  • Pitt was at home with men like his grandfather, men who believed that England's greatness and prosperity depended on aggression, on seizing and holding on to the world's trade. ... In the late thirties and and early forties Pitt had spent much time studying the statistics of French commerce and industry, which had bred the conviction that France was the greatest danger England had to face, and the only rival worth considering in the race for overseas trade. ... Two aims, he thought, should dominate English policy – supremacy at sea and the capture of French trading posts.
    • J. H. Plumb, England in the Eighteenth Century (1950, 1964), pp. 108-110
  • The memory of that great and glorious minister, who, to all succeeding ages, will be quoted as an illustrious example, how one great man, by his superior ability, could raise his drooping country from the abyss of despair to the highest pinnacle of glory, and render her honoured, respected, revered, and dreaded by the whole universe.
    • Admiral George Rodney (December 1779), quoted in G. B. Mundy (ed.), The Life and Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney: Volume I (1830), pp. 204-5
  • In the last decade of the colonial period the ideal of the man of public virtue was made real in the person of William Pitt. The cult of this noblest of Whigs, "the Genius of England and the Comet of his Age" was well advanced toward idolatry at least five years before the Stamp Act. The greatest of "the great men of England", the last and noblest of the Romans, was considered the embodiment of virtue, wisdom, patriotism, liberty, and temperance. ... Pitt, "glorious and immortal", the "guardian of America", was the idol of the colonies. His eloquent arguments against taxation without representation were repaid in full measure by a grateful people. Ships, towns, and babies bore the proud name of Pitt; preachers, orators, and poets celebrated his Roman virtues.
    • Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic: The Origin of the American Tradition of Political Liberty (1953), pp. 145, 359–360
  • Look at the great personage who dominates English politics through the whole middle period of that century, the elder Pitt. His greatness is throughout identified with the expansion of England; he is a statesman of Greater Britain. It is in the buccaneering war with Spain that he sows his political wild oats; his glory is won in the great colonial duel with France; his old age is spent in striving to avert schism in Greater Britain.
  • When all due allowance is made for Pitt's shortcomings, however, and credit given to others where it is due, the fact remains that he was a great war minister. His theatrical posturings and belligerent rhetoric were exactly what the country needed, a vision of itself greater than that projected by his predecessors as prime minister, the pacific Walpole, the able but self-effacing Pelham, the timid and neurotic Newcastle. ... In the last analysis Pitt's greatness can only be measured against the rival alternatives, and here he was a giant among pygmies.
    • W. A. Speck, Stability and Strife: England, 1714–1760 (1977), p. 272
  • Mr. Pitt has the finest Genius, improv'd by Study, and all the ornamental Part of Classical Learning. He came early into the House of Commons, where he soon distinguish'd himself; lost a Cornecy of Horse, which was then his only subsistence; and in about twenty years, has raised himself to be first Minister, and the most powerful Subject in this Country. His Eloquence is nervous, natural, correct, and elegant. He has an astonishing Clearness, and Facility of Expression, and has an Eye as significant as his Words. He is not always a fair or conclusive Reasoner, but commands the Passions with Sovereign Authority; and to inflame or captivate a popular Assembly, is a consummate Orator. Tho his Passions are strong, and fiery, they are all obedient to his unbounded Ambition. He has courage of every sort, cool or impetuous, active or deliberate. ... [E]ven his Enemies must allow that he has the Firmness, and activity of a great Minister: that he has hitherto conducted the War with Spirit, Vigor, and tolerable Success: and tho some favorite Schemes have been visionary and impracticable, they have at least been more honorable, & less dangerous, than the passive, unperforming Pusillanimity, of the late Administration.
    • Lord Waldegrave, 'Memoirs of 1754–1757', The Memoirs and Speeches of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, 1742–1763, ed. J. C. D. Clark (1988), pp. 152-153
  • Mr Pitt, on entering upon administration, had found the nation at the lowest ebb in point of power and reputation. His predecessors, now his coadjutors, wanted genius, spirit and system...France, who meant to be feared, was feared heartily...They were willing to trust that France would be so good as to ruin us by inches. Pitt had roused us from this ignoble lethargy.
  • The admirers of Mr Pitt extol the reverberation he gave to our councils, the despondence he banished, the spirit he infused, the conquests he made, the security he affixed to our trade and plantations, the humiliation of France, the glory of Britain carried under his administration to a pitch at which it never had arrived—and all this is exactly true.
  • When Pitt left office the Pope of Rome said that he esteemed it the highest honour to be born an Englishman. In Africa we had taken away all the French possessed; in Europe our troops had beaten the flower of their armies, while our expeditions had insulted their coasts from Dunkirk to Bordeaux and had even occupied a parcel of France; on the high seas our fleets were supreme. In America we had won a continent, in India we were masters of Bengal, and in other parts had no European rivals left victories which ensured that in these two vast portions of the world the Protestant Anglo-Saxon not the French Roman Catholic civilisation should thereafter prevail. And in spite of the long war the commerce on which England's greatness then chiefly rested had never been so flourishing. To Pitt all this was due.
    • Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Volume II (1913), p. 124
  • [W]e sensibly felt the manifold good effects of your truly patriot and singularly wise and upright administration. To this we must attribute the rescuing Britain from the shameful infection of that pestilential, ministerial panic, which called foreign mercenaries to the defence of a Country, by her native force, when properly exerted, more than a match for half the powers of Europe. To your steady virtues, we stand indebted for freeing our Mother Country from the reproach of calling foreign troops to defend her from a threatened invasion, and for chastising the insolence of the vaunting invader, by inspiring the councils and arms of Britain with that ancient true National spirit, which, when duly exerted, ever has, and ever must render the British name terrible to her foes in the utmost extremities of the globe.
    • "The grateful Address of the Merchants and Traders of the City of Dublin, to the Right Hon. William Pitt, Esq; late one of his Majesty's Secretaries of State", The Gentleman's and London Magazine (November 1761), p. 544
  • That the thanks of...the City of York...be presented to the Right Honourable William Pitt, for the signal advantages this nation has derived from his upright, wise, and vigorous administration; to which, under Providence, we owe the revival of the ancient British spirit, the acquisition of the most valuable and important conquests, and the abolition of party distinctions. The loss of so able, so disinterested a Statesman, who so happily united the characters of the great Minister and the true Patriot, cannot but be deeply regretted at this critical conjuncture by every well-wisher to his King and Country.
    • "Copy of the Thanks to the Right Hon. William Pitt, from the City of York, Nov. 6, 1761", The London Chronicle, Volume 10 (1761), p. 464
  • Our toast in general is,—Magna Charta, the British Constitution,—PITT and Liberty forever!
    • "A Son of Liberty in Bristol County, Mass.", Newport Mercury (19 May 1766) on the repeal of the Stamp Act, quoted in C. Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic (1953), p. 360
  • Erected by the King and Parliament
    As a Testimony to
    The Virtues and Ability
    of
    WILLIAM PITT EARL OF CHATHAM
    During whose Administration
    In the Reigns of George II and George III
    Divine Providence
    Exalted Great Britain
    To an Height of Prosperity and Glory
    Unknown to any Former Age
    Born November 15, 1708; Died May 11, 1778
    • Inscribed on his monument in Westminster Abbey

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