xxxxxA member of a distinguished family, William Pitt entered parliament in 1735, and soon made his name as a brilliant orator. He played a prominent part in forcing Robert Walpole to retire in 1742, and later took the secretary of state, John Carteret, to task for his policy in the War of the Austrian Succession, accusing him of subordinating the nation’s interests to those of Hanover (the king’s principality on the continent). This lost him royal support, and in 1755 he was dismissed as paymaster general of the forces. However, soon after the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in 1756, he was recalled to form a coalition government, and it was then that his dynamic leadership and strategic skill brought a string of victories. By using the navy to support and supply Britain’s colonial forces, he drove the French out of Canada and India, and gained outposts in the West Indies and West Africa. His second ministry (1766-
WILLIAM PITT, THE ELDER 1708 -
Pitt: from the studio of the English portrait painter William Hoare (1707-
xxxxxThe British Whig politician William Pitt was born in London of a wealthy and influential family, and was educated at Eton and the Universities of Oxford and Utrecht (in the Netherlands). Uncertain as to the career he should follow, he then spent some time on the Grand Tour of Europe -
xxxxxHe next turned his parliamentary skills against John Carteret, the secretary of state in the next administration. Speaking, as he put it, for the “voice of England”, he took him to task for his handling of Britain’s contribution in the War of the Austrian Succession, calling him a “Hanover troop minister”. The interests of the nation, he declared, were being subordinated to those of the king’s principality on the continent. Britain’s policy should be to oppose French power where it mattered, at sea and in her colonial possessions. It was a waste of money and men to attempt to defend Hanover. It is hardly surprising that such convictions should lose him royal favour, and that George II should refuse to have him included in the ministry of 1744! But this said, the following year he proved a staunch and effective defender of the Hanovarian dynasty during the abortive Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Early in 1746 the king agreed to make Pitt joint vice treasurer of Ireland, and two months later he was appointed paymaster general of the forces.
xxxxxHe married successfully in November 1754, but in the next year was dismissed from his job as paymaster general of the forces, following criticism of yet another prominent figure, this time the prime minister, the Duke of Newcastle. But he was not dispatched to the back benches for long. Despite the king’s objections, he was recalled to high office by popular demand soon after the outbreak of the Seven Year’s War. He formed a highly successful coalition government and, as prime minister in all but name, took over the conduct of the war. In the opening phases of the conflict, matters had gone badly for Britain, with heavy loses and a lack of central direction. Pitt was to change all that. On returning to office he declared, with characteristic modesty, “I am sure I can save this country, and nobody else can”. He more than saved the country and, to do him justice, no other politician of the time could have achieved so much.
xxxxxFrom the start, Pitt, a dynamic leader and brilliant strategist, viewed the war as a global conflict, and one in which sea power was to play a vital and decisive role. He speedily reorganized and re-
xxxxxPitt did not see the war out to the bitter end, though by the time of his departure his major aim -
xxxxxDespite his distinguished background, and the high-
xxxxxIncidentally, the great American city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is named after Pitt the Elder, (having been built on the site of Fort Pitt, constructed in 1761), as is the city of Pittsfield in Massachusetts.
xxxxxOne of America’s finest portrait artists, John Singleton Copley (1738-
xxxxxCopley was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and began painting around 1753. He was virtually self-
xxxxxIt was from this time onwards that he began to specialize in recording historical scenes. In 1783 he gained admission to the Royal Academy of Arts for his famous picture of Chatham. Other historical works included his Death of Major Francis Pierson, depicting a battle scene during an unsuccessful French invasion of the island of Jersey in 1781, and the Siege of Gibraltar of 1782. A number of his works, such as his Watson and the Shark -
xxxxxThe American portrait painter John Singleton Copley (1738-
xxxxxRegarded today as the finest portrait painter of colonial America, demand for his work declined during the Napoleonic Wars. He then fell into debt and suffered from depression. Today, apart perhaps from his historical work The Death of the Earl of Chatham, his fame rests mainly upon the many fine paintings produced during his early days as a portrait artist in New England, and during a short stay he made in New York in 1771.