The Chatham Administration, 1766-1768

The Chatham Administration, 1766-1768

The Chatham Administration, 1766-1768

The Chatham Administration, 1766-1768

Excerpt

The main theme of British domestic politics from 1760 to 1770 is the search for a stable Administration which would command the confidence of both Crown and Parliament.

When in July 1766 George III commissioned William Pitt to form an Administration, this problem seemed on the way to being solved. Since Pitt's resignation in 1761 he had been an incalculable and disrupting force: too considerable to be neglected, too unco-operative to be assimilated. He opposed the Grenville Ministry, but would not work with the opposition; he supported the Rockinghams over the repeal of the Stamp Act, but turned against them when that measure was passed. It was clear that nothing but full powers would satisfy him, that he would be the auxiliary of no one; and in July 1766 George III gave him plenary authority to form a Ministry, and, in the months to follow, a degree of confidence enjoyed by neither Grenville nor Rockingham. It seemed that stability was at last returning.

Yet twelve months later the King's Administration was in the melting-pot -- for the sixth time in seven years -- and stability seemed as far away as ever. The first two chapters of this book tell how Pitt (now Earl of Chatham) with every advantage on his side -- full support from the King, the goodwill of Parliament, and the memories of success and glory associated with his name and genius -- threw them all away, and caused chaos to come again. It is a story without parallel in British political history, and not to be explained simply in terms of politics. Chatham set out to break all parties, to achieve that unanimity and harmony for which all politicians claimed to strive; yet within six months he had aligned in opposition against him the three party groups then in Parliament.

One of the first acts of his Administration was to propose an inquiry into the East India Company, which it was under-

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