Why did Pitt the Younger dominate politics 1783-93?


Pitt's personal qualities and experience:

  • Had political connections within the family - Father was Prime Minister (Pitt the Elder), Mother was a Whig and uncle was also a Prime Minister
  • A skillful public speaker/orator
  • Brought up with political education (plus speaking classes from a young age)
  • Felt careers should be built on talent over connections
  • Was elected to parliment in 1781
  • Became Chancellor of the Exchequor in 1782
  • Became the youngest Prime Minister in British history when George III dismissed the Fox-North Coallition and invited Pitt to form a ministry. 
  • Was MP for Applebury - a rotton borough. 
  • Came into office when politics was at a low ebb: War of Independence, succession of relitavly unsuccesful administrations (North, Rockingham, Shelbourne, Fox-North)
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The American War of Independence

When Pitt came into office the country was humiliated by its loss in the American War of Independence.

  • The King was shamed, there was low morale of the country and 13 colonies had be lost in America.  
  • A national debt of £242 million, was rising at a rate of £10 million per year
  • The low morale and difficulties in trading led to decrease in the value of exports and imports. 
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Royal Support for Pitt

  • George III was King and asked Pitt to form a government in December 1783
  • At the time the King held political office - was head of state. Had power over all key desicion making (but chose to hand it over to the Prime Minister)
  • He dismissed the Fox-North coallition over the India Bill and brang Pitt into office. 
  • It was named the "Mince Pie Administration" by the opposition as it wasnt expected to last past Christmas
  • However George III used his power to call another election in which Pitt was victorious. 
  • The King's support was vital for the success of a ministry
  • Regency crisis was proof of the need of the monarch's supoprt
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The 1784 Election

  • Despite being appointed as Prime Minister by George III, Pitt had very little support from the House of Commons
  • The King used his power to call an election
  • The King's electoral agents (i.e. Ratcatcher Robinson) built up support in smaller consituencies, while Pitt himself had gained support from larger constituencies. 
  • He won with a shocking majority - arguably a combination of Pitt's skillls in winning over parlimentary and popular opinion and the crown's power of political influence and electoral manegement. 
  • This also highlighted the importance of the King's support as Pitt's success lay in the timing - was called by George III -
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The opposition party was the Whigs - whose origin lay in contitutional monarchy

  • The Whigs were led by Charles James Fox - also a skilled politician, but not equal to Pitt. He was said to miss too many oppertunities
  • Fox was dispised by the King because of his close relationship with the Prince of Wales, whom the King publically hated, and his attempts to pass the India Bill in 1783
  • The Whigs lost public support due to their support for the French War and parlimentary reform. 
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Pitt's Financial Reforms

Financial Reforms: Focused on reducing smuggling and increasing efficiancy. 

  • 1783: Bonded Warehouses - increased the volume of legitimate trade. Traders only had to pay import duty if goods were for UK sale rather than being re-exported. This led to the value of food and raw material imports to rise from £13 million to £27 million (less smuggling)
  • 1784: Hovering Act - allowed ships to be searched up to 12 miles out to sea (to prevent smuggling)
  • 1784: Commutations Act - reduced import duty on tea (from 119% to 25%) to make smuggling less profitable
  • Indirect Taxes - introduced as a way for the government to raide money, taxes introduced on items consumed by the wealthy (i.e servants, wigs, tea) to avoid popular disturbances for lower classes. Revenue reaching the treasury increased dramatically. But these taxes were orchestrated slightly clumsily - i.e. Window Tax affected everyone and led to poorer classes simply building over their windows. 
  • 1786: Sinking Fund - every year a sum of money was put aside from surplus revenue to pay off national debt (reduced by £11 million from 1786 to 1793)
  • 1787: Consilidated Fund Act - increased efficiancy of taxes as the previous 103 exchequer accounts were replaced by 1. This streamlined the tresuary and resulted in more revenue. 
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Pitt's Administrative Reforms

Administrative Reforms: focused on increasing efficiancy

  • Removal of Patronage Posts - the King historically gave out patronage posts as rewards and to friends. The result of this was that government offices were filled with aristocrats who were either inefficiant or had individual aims. It caused inneficient government administration. Pitt couldn't simply abolish these posts due to the King, so ensured offices 'lapsed' on the holder's retirment/death. However this deprived the monarchy of much of it's political influence. 765 offices in 1789, 180 by 1806.
  • 1785: Attempt to remove 36 Rotton Boroughs - Pitt wanted to extend the electoral franchise to more individuals (in a small way), but was strongly defeated in the House of Commons.
  • 1785: Audit Office
  • 1786: Civil List - greater supervision of royal family expenditure by parliment
  • Army and Navy's accounts closed and balanced at the end of each year, curtosy of Lord Barham. 
  • 1787: Consolidated Fund Act - reduced the 103 exchequer accounts into 1. 
  • 1787: Stationary Office brought under the Treasury's controll
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Pitt's Comercial Policy

Deployed a principle of Free Trade

e.g. 1787: The Eden Trade Treaty - allowed free trade between France and Britain. This benefited Britain as France's industry was behind and Britain didn't need imports due to the large scale manufacturing of the industrial revolution, so simply gave British producers a larger market. 

but: 1786: The Navigation Act - restricted British/Commonwealth/Colony ships with only trading between themselves rather than with other countries. Results was that countries such as Holland did the same, reducing international trade dramatically. - - - The opposite of Free Trade. 

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Foreign Issues

Imperial issues:

  • 1784: The India Act - A Board of Controll was established, begining to remove power from the East India Company.
  • 1791: The Canada Act - the creation of two provinces. This was in attempt to try and preserve British forms of society (e.g. Anglicanism) without antagonising the French community in Quebec. 

European Diplomicy: 

  • 1788: Alliance with Prussia and Holland
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