Facts and Events
William Pitt the Younger (28 May 1759 – 23 January 1806) was a British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He became the youngest Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24. He left office in 1801, but was Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806. He was also the Chancellor of the Exchequer throughout his premiership. He is known as "the Younger" to distinguish him from his father, William Pitt the Elder, who had previously served as Prime Minister.
The younger Pitt's prime ministerial tenure, which came during the reign of George III, was dominated by major events in Europe, including the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Pitt, although often referred to as a Tory, or "new Tory", called himself an "independent Whig" and was generally opposed to the development of a strict partisan political system.
He is best known for leading Britain in the great wars against France and Napoleon. Pitt was an outstanding administrator who worked for efficiency and reform, bringing in a new generation of outstanding administrators. He raised taxes to pay for the great war against France and cracked down on radicalism. To meet the threat of Irish support for France, he engineered the Acts of Union 1800 and tried (but failed) to get Catholic Emancipation as part of the Union. Pitt created the "new Toryism", which revived the Tory Party and enabled it to stay in power for the next quarter-century.
Historian Asa Briggs points out that his personality did not endear itself to the British mind, for Pitt was too solitary, too colourless, and too often exuded superiority. His greatness came in the war with France, with the adversary setting the pace. Pitt reacted to become what Lord Minto called "the Atlas of our reeling globe". His integrity and industry and his role as defender of the threatened nation allowed him to inspire and access all the national reserves of strength. William Wilberforce said that, "For personal purity, disinterestedness and love of this country, I have never known his equal." Historian Charles Petrie concludes that he was one of the greatest prime ministers "if on no other ground than that he enabled the country to pass from the old order to the new without any violent upheaval....He understood the new Britain." For this he is ranked highly amongst British Prime Ministers.