William Pitt the Elder dominated British politics in the middle of the eighteenth century and served as prime minister for a time. Under his leadership, mercantile trade boomed, the Seven Years War with France was won and Canada acquired, and Britain became a world empire. In 1766, Pitt, though retaining public office,...
William Pitt the Elder dominated British politics in the middle of the eighteenth century and served as prime minister for a time. Under his leadership, mercantile trade boomed, the Seven Years War with France was won and Canada acquired, and Britain became a world empire. In 1766, Pitt, though retaining public office, accepted the title earl of Chatham and went to the House of Lords. Illness cut short his career in 1768 though he continued from time to time to attend Parliament. There he urged accommodation with the American colonies, and after the outbreak of the American Revolution favored a peace settlement.
Lord Rockingham was a keen supporter of constitutional rights for the American colonists before the Revolution, and in his first term as prime minister repealed the Stamp Act. He opposed the American War and was again prime minister after the fall of Lord North. At that time, he backed the claim for American independence and initiated negotiations with the fledgling United States to bring the war to a conclusion.
The Townsend Acts had been passed in 1767 to collect revenue from the colonists in America by putting customs duties on imports of glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea. These led to widespread resistance and protests in the colonies. Both Rockingham and Chatham were in favor of conciliating the Americans and the measure to be debated in Parliament the week of March 1, 1770 was repeal of those acts. Rockingham hoped that Chatham would be able to attend and lend the weight of his name and eloquence to the debate.
Autograph Letter Signed in the third person, Grosvenor House, London, 3 PM, February 28, 1770, to Lord Chatham. “Lord Rockingham presents his compliments to Lord Chatham & hopes to hear that his Lordship is better, & that his health will enable him to be present in the House of Lords on Friday.” On March 5, Parliament decided to repeal all of the acts except one – the tax on tea.
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