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Pulteney, William, 1st earl of Bath

Pulteney, William, 1st earl of Bath (1684–1764). Pulteney was Whig MP for Hedon (1705–34) and Middlesex (1734–42), becoming secretary at war in 1714. He supported Walpole and Townshend in opposition during the Whig schism from 1717 to 1720, but felt insulted when not offered a post in the reunited Whig administration. Thereafter he became alienated from Walpole and in 1725 made a final break with him, joining Bolingbroke in attacking the ministry in print via the Craftsman. On the accession of George II in 1727 he was disappointed not to replace Walpole. His greatest triumphs in opposition were the destruction of the Excise scheme in 1733 and his agitation for war with Spain, which eventually brought down Walpole in 1742. But Pulteney refused to take office and was created earl of Bath. Disappointed once more at not being made first minister in 1743, he tried to overthrow Henry Pelham in 1746 but failed to form a government. Thereafter he played no part in public affairs. Pulteney was one of the first politicians to head a sustained appeal to public opinion, only to raise hopes which he dashed. With a great reputation as a debater, he was increasingly mistrusted by his allies among the ‘patriots’. His failure to effect reform or root out corruption after Walpole's fall was thought by many to reveal factiousness and self-seeking and he was accused of avarice. ‘A paltry fellow’, was the disillusioned Johnson's terse dismissal.

Clyve Jones

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