Pitt, William (Lord Chatham) (1708–1778)

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PITT, WILLIAM (Lord Chatham) (1708–1778)

William Pitt the elder was one of Britain's greatest statesmen and one of freedom's staunchest friends. He led Britain from near defeat in the Seven Years War to victory and worldwide empire.

In the wilkes cases debates (1763–1770) Pitt denounced general warrants as illegal and subversive of liberty and opposed any surrender of parliamentary privilege. During the 1766 debate over repeal of the Stamp Act, Pitt insisted that "the distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially necessary to liberty," and that while Britain was "sovereign and supreme, in every circumstance of government and legislation whatsoever," Parliament had no right to tax those not represented therein. "There is," he declared, "a plain distinction between taxes levied for purposes of raising a revenue, and duties imposed for the regulation of trade." Later that year, as earl of Chatham, Pitt was again called to head the government. During his administration (but while he was incapacitated by illness) his chancellor of the exchequer procured passage of the townshend acts.

In the 1770s Chatham urged conciliation with the American colonies, but he opposed any measure tending toward dissolution of the empire. His final speech, delivered in 1778, was against a motion to withdraw British troops and recognize American independence.

Dennis J. Mahoney

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Pitt, William (Lord Chatham) (1708–1778)

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