Newcastle, Thomas Pelham Holles, Duke of

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Newcastle, Thomas Pelham Holles, Duke of

NEWCASTLE, THOMAS PELHAM HOLLES, DUKE OF. (1793–1768). British statesman. A privy councillor from 1717, in 1724 Newcastle became one of Robert Walpole's secretaries of state. From the start he understood the need for a European ally, preferably the Hapsburg monarchy, in order to offset a move by France, possibly in alliance with Spain, against an isolated Britain. In 1754–1756, when he was prime minister, he failed to anticipate Maria Theresa's move toward France and found himself committed to Prussia instead. The initial disasters of the Seven Years' War drove him from office in 1756. However, once William Pitt recognized the necessity of Newcastle's "continental" policy, Newcastle returned as nominal prime minister in 1757. Later, especially after Pitt's resignation in 1761, Newcastle shared Lord Bute's alarm at the spiraling national debt; but, to avoid future diplomatic isolation, he opposed the government's desertion of Prussia. Obliged to resign in May 1762, he found his influence gravely weakened, and he was unable to work with Pitt in opposition. Apart from a few months as lord privy seal in 1765, his days in office were over. Perhaps his last significant act was to support both repeal of the Stamp Act and the Declaratory Act, and to persuade George III that Rockingham's conciliation policy was correct.

Historians used to portray Newcastle as a comically inept politician who owed his prominence entirely to his great wealth and parliamentary interest. However, toward the end of the twentieth century a more balanced picture emerged: Newcastle may have lacked the judgment and confidence of a prime minister, but he had diligence, skill with people, a good grasp of detail, and energetic (if not always coherent) oratory. Above all, he consistently worked to avoid the very isolation that proved so calamitous during the War of American Independence.

SEE ALSO Chatham, William Pitt, First Earl of; Declaratory Act; Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, Second Marquess of; Stamp Act; Walpole, Horatio (or Horace).


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                               revised by John Oliphant

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Newcastle, Thomas Pelham Holles, Duke of

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