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Useful Notes / William Pitt The Elder

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"Shall we tarnish the luster of this nation by an ignominious surrender of its rights and fairest possessions? Shall this great nation, that has survived, whole and entire, the Danish depredations, the Scottish inroads, the Norman conquest—that has stood the threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, now fall prostrate before the House of Bourbon? Surely, my Lords, this nation is no longer what it was! Shall a people that seventeen years ago was the terror of the world, now stoop so low as to tell its ancient inveterate enemy, "Take all we have, only give us peace?" It is impossible!

I wage war with no man or set of men. I wish for none of their employments; nor would I co-operate with men who still persist in unretracted error, or who, instead of acting on a firm, decisive line of conduct, halt between two opinions, where there is no middle path. In God's name, if it is absolutely necessary to declare either for peace or war, and the former can not be preserved with honour, why is not the latter commenced without delay? I am not, I confess, well informed as to the resources of this kingdom, but I trust it has still sufficient to maintain its just rights, though I know them not. But, my Lords, any state is better than despair. Let us at least make one effort, and, if we must fall, let us fall like men!"
— The end of Chatham's last speech in the House of Lords, 1778 (about The American Revolution), after which he died of a heart attack from his exertions

William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham PC (15 November 1708 – 11 May 1778) was the ninth Prime Minister of Great Britain, though he achieved his greatest fame as a Secretary of State during the Seven Years' War, as known in Great Britain and Asia (known as the French and Indian War in North America).

Elder, Younger, and Location Namer

He is often known as William Pitt, the Elder to distinguish him from his son, William Pitt, the Younger. He was also known as The Great Commoner, because of his long-standing refusal to accept a title. The major American city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is named after him, which is very fitting, since the war had its origins in conflicts between French and British colonists (the latter led by a very young George Washington) in the region. Ironically, Pittsburgh was built where the French had a fort. Other places named for him include Pittsylvania County, Virginia and Chatham County, North Carolina; and the communities of Pittston, Pennsylvania; Chatham, New Jersey; the New Hampshire towns of Pittsburg, Pittsfield, and Chatham; and Chatham Township, Quebec; as well as Chatham University in Pennsylvania. Pitt Town, New South Wales, Australia was named after Pitt by Governor Macquarie in 1810.

Appears in the following works:

  • In The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat", baseball player Wade Boggs and local drunk Barney Gumble debate whether Pitt the Elder or The Viscount Palmerston was the greatest Prime Minister of Great Britain, with Boggs taking Pitt the Elder's side and Barney taking Lord Palmerston's, eventually punching out Boggs.
  • In Look to the West, Pitt (along with William Pulteney) is one of the leaders of the Patriot political party supporting the exiled Prince Frederick, and is locked up in the Tower of London for it. Later when Frederick returns to the throne he is freed and becomes Prime Minister, but unlike our history never took a peerage, preserving his reputation as 'the Great Commoner'.
  • Described in Blackadder as being as effective as 'a catflap in an elephant house'.
  • In the Disney film Johnny Tremain, set during The American Revolution, ​Joseph Warren tries to win over General Gage by quoting from a Pitt speech that condemns the British policy in America. Gage responds, "Lord Chatham is one of the greatest statesmen England has ever known, but Lord Chatham is not in office. I am a soldier, sir, and must take my orders from the ministry in power."