December 19: Pitt For Prime Minister

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Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

December 19, 1738 CE. William Pitt the Younger becomes the youngest British Prime Minister at the age of twenty-four. Born on May 28, 1759 in the town of Hayes, England, William Pitt led an unusual early life. Due to his delicate health and his father’s overall dislike of public education, Pitt received his education at home until the age of fourteen, when he transferred to Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, England. After his graduation in 1776, Pitt attempted to enlist in Parliament but, ultimately failed due to his young age. In 1782, under William Petty-Fitzmaurice, 1st marquess of Lansdowne, William Pitt attained the position of chancellor of the Exchequer. In December 1783, after the defeat of a coalition aimed against the wishes of the monarchy, King George III dismissed its members, promptly forming a government under the leadership of William Pitt. As the newly established Prime Minister, Pitt inherited the massive debt from the American Revolutionary War, which amounted to about £250,000,000. With his institution of new taxes, lowering of duties which encouraged piracy, and the installation of a new auditing system, Pitt managed to aid in the payment of the debt. The statesman’s authority was not just confined to the British Isles though, as he managed to consolidate British control in India and Western North America and restrict French influence on Continental Europe through the establishment of alliances with the Netherlands and the German state of Prussia. With the events of the French Revolution, Pitt’s political career began to deteriorate, eventually resigning from the position of Prime Minister on February 3, 1801. Although Pitt would go on to establish a second government as Prime Minister, the statesman’s first term proved the most critical and successful, ultimately aiding in the establishment of British power at home and across the world.