William Pitt the Younger - Wikiquote (2024)

The Right Honourable William Pitt the Younger (28 May 175923 January 1806) was a British politician during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He served as Prime Minister from 1783 to 1801, and again from 1804 until his death in 1806. He is known as William Pitt the Younger to distinguish him from his father, William Pitt the Elder, who also served as Prime Minister of Great Britain.


    • 1.1 1770s
    • 1.2 1780s
    • 1.3 1790s
    • 1.4 1800s
  • 2 Attributed
  • 3 Quotes about Pitt
    • 3.1 A–L
    • 3.2 M–Z
  • 4 External links





  • I do not wish...to call myself any Thing but an Independent Whig. Which in words is hardly a distinction, as every one alike pretends to it.
    • Letter to Lord Westmorland (26 July 1779), quoted in John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Years of Acclaim (1969), p. 58
  • Most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unnatural, unjust and diabolical.
    • Speech in Parliament on the American Revolutionary War (26 February 1781), reported in Hansard (Vol. 22), p. 487, Debate on Mr. Fox's Motion for a Committee.
  • What I have now offered is meant merely for the sake of my country, for the simple question is: will you change your Ministers and keep the Empire, or keep your Ministers and lose the Kingdom?
    • Speech in the House of Commons, supporting a motion of censure on the government of Lord North (15 March 1782), quoted in William Cobbett, Parliamentary History
  • That beautiful frame of government which had made us the envy and admiration of mankind, in which the people were entitled to hold so distinguished a share, was so far dwindled and departed from its original purity, that the representatives ceased, in a great degree, to be connected with the people. It was the essence of the constitution, that the people had a share in the government by the means of representation; and its excellency and permanency was calculated to consist in this representation, having been designed to be equal, easy, practicable, and complete. When it ceased to be so; when the representative ceased to have connection with the constituent, and was either dependent on the Crown or the aristocracy; there was a defect in the frame of representation, and it was not innovation, but recovery of constitution, to repair it.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (7 May 1782), quoted in The Parliamentary Register; Or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons, Vol. VII (1782), p. 122. Pitt's motion for parliamentary reform was rejected by 161 votes to 141
  • I feel, Sir, at this instant, how much I had been animated in my childhood by a recital of England's victories:—I was taught, Sir, by one whose memory I shall ever revere, that at the close of a war, far different indeed from this, she had dictated the terms of peace to submissive nations. This, in which I place something more than a common interest, was the memorable aera of England's glory. But that aera is past...the visions of her power and pre-eminence are passed away... Let us examine what is left, with a manly and determined courage... Let us feel our calamities—let us bear them too, like men.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (21 February 1783), quoted in W. S. Hathaway (ed.), The Speeches of William Pitt in the House of Commons, Volume I (1817), pp. 31-32
  • I will repeat then, Sir, that it is not this treaty, it is the Earl of Shelburne alone whom the movers of this question are desirous to wound. This is the object which has raised this storm of faction; this is the aim of the unnatural coalition to which I have alluded. If, however, the baneful alliance is not already formed, if this ill-omened marriage is not already solemnized, I know a just and lawful impediment, and, in the name of the public safety, I here forbid the banns.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (21 February 1783), quoted in John Almon and John Debrett, Register of Parliament. Referring to the Fox-North Coalition which was already agreed in outline.
  • You may take from me, Sir, the privileges and emoluments of place, but you cannot, and you shall not, take from me those habitual and warm regards for the prosperity of Great Britain which constitute the honour, the happiness, the pride of my life, and which, I trust, death alone can extinguish.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (21 February 1783), quoted in The War Speeches of William Pitt (1915), p. 7. Referring to the peace treaty with the United States. Pitt, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, knew the government would lose the vote and he would have to resign.
  • Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
  • I came up no backstairs... Little did I think to be ever charged in this House with being the tool and abettor of secret influence. The novelty of the imputation only renders it so much the more contemptible. This is the only answer I shall ever deign to make on the subject, and I wish the House to bear it in their mind, and judge of my future conduct by my present declaration: the integrity of my own heart, and the probity of all my public, as well as my private principles, shall always be my sources of action.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (12 January 1784), quoted in Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? England, 1783-1846 (2006), p. 54
  • Considering the treaty in its political view, he should not hesitate to contend against the too-frequently advanced doctrine, that France was, and must be, the unalterable enemy of Britain. His mind revolted from this position as monstrous and impossible. To suppose that any nation could be unalterably the enemy of another, was weak and childish. It had neither its foundation in the experience of nations, nor in the history of man. It was a libel on the constitution of political societies, and supposed the existence of diabolical malice in the original frame of man.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Eden Agreement (12 February 1787), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. I. (1806), p. 356



  • William Pitt: Never fear, Mr. Burke: depend on it we shall go on as we are, until the day of judgment.
    Edmund Burke: Very likely, Sir. It is the day of no judgment that I am afraid of.
    • Conversation at a dinner in 10 Downing Street (24 September 1791), quoted in George Pellew, The Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Henry Addington, First Viscount Sidmouth, Volume I (1847), p. 72.
  • We must not count with certainty on a continuance of our present prosperity during such an interval [15 years]; but unquestionably there never was a time in the history of this country when, from the situation of Europe, we might more reasonably expect fifteen years of peace, than we may at the present moment.
    • Budget speech in the House of Commons (17 February 1792), quoted in The War Speeches of William Pitt (1915), p. 16. His prediction was a vain hope.
  • What is it which has produced, in the last hundred years, so rapid an advance, beyond what can be traced in any other period of our history? What but that, during that time, under the mild and just government of the illustrious Princes of the family now on the throne, a general calm has prevailed through the country, beyond what was ever before experienced; and we have also enjoyed, in greater purity and perfection, the benefit of those original principles of our constitution, which were ascertained and established by the memorable events that closed the century preceding? This is the great and governing cause, the operation of which has given scope to all the other circ*mstances which I have enumerated.
    It is this union of liberty with law, which, by raising a barrier equally firm against the encroachments of power, and the violence of popular commotion, affords to property its just security, produces the exertion of genius and labour, the extent solidity of credit, the circulation and increase of capital; which forms and upholds the national character, and sets in motion all the springs which actuate the great mass of the community through all its various descriptions.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (17 February 1792), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 46
  • Let us remember, that the love of the constitution, though it acts as a sort of natural instinct in the hearts of Englishmen, is strengthened by reason and reflection, and every day confirmed by experience; that it is a constitution which we do not merely admire from traditional reverence, which we do not flatter from prejudice or habit, but which we cherish and value, because we know that it practically secures the tranquillity and welfare both of individuals and of the public, and provides, beyond any other frame of government which has ever existed, for the real and useful ends which form at once the only true foundation and only rational object of all political societies.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (17 February 1792), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 47
  • [W]e have become rich in a variety of acquirements, favoured above measure in the gifts of Providence, unrivalled in commerce, pre-eminent in arts, foremost in the pursuits of philosophy and science, and established in all the blessings of civil society; we are in the possession of peace, of happiness, and of liberty; we are under the guidance of a mild and beneficent religion; and we are protected by impartial laws, and the purest administration of justice: we are living under a system of government which our own happy experience leads us to pronounce the best and wisest which has ever yet been framed; a system which has become the admiration of the world.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (2 April 1792), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 81
  • It is in this view, Sir,—it is an atonement for our long and cruel injustice towards Africa, that the measure proposed by my honourable friend most forcibly recommends itself to my mind. The great and happy change to be expected in the state of her inhabitants, is, of all the various and important benefits of the abolition, in my estimation, incomparably the most extensive and important.
    I shall vote, Sir, against the adjournment; and I shall also oppose to the utmost every proposition, which in any way may tend either to prevent, or even to postpone for an hour, the total abolition of the slave-trade: a measure which, on all the various grounds which I have stated, we are bound, by the most pressing and indispensable duty, to adopt.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (2 April 1792), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 83
  • We learn with concern, that not only a spirit of tumult and disorder has shown itself in acts of insurrection, which required the interposition of a military force in support of the civil magistrate, but that the industry employed to excite discontent has appeared to proceed from a design to attempt, in concert with persons in foreign countries, the destruction of our happy constitution, and the subversion of all order of government.
    • Address in Reply (13 December 1792). Parl Hist xxx, 6, quoted in Conor Cruise O'Brien, The Great Melody, p. 493
  • We owe our present happiness and prosperity, which has never been equalled in the annals of mankind, to a mixture of monarchical government. We feel and know we are happy under that form of government. We consider it as our first duty to maintain and reverence the British constitution, which, for wise and just reasons of lasting and internal policy, attaches inviolability to the sacred person of the Sovereign, though, at the same time, by the responsibility it has annexed to government, by the check of a wise system of laws, and by a mixture of aristocratic and democratical power in the frame of legislation, it has equally exempted itself from the danger arising from the exercise of absolute power on the one hand, and the still more dangerous contagion of popular licentiousness on the other. The equity of our laws, and the freedom of our political system, have been the envy of every surrounding nation. In this country no man, in consequence of his riches or rank, is so high as to be above the reach of the laws, and no individual is so poor or inconsiderable as not to be within their protection. It is the boast of the law of England, that it affords equal security and protection to the high and the low, to the rich and the poor.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1 February 1793), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), pp. 96-97
  • They have explained what that liberty is which they wish to give to every nation; and if they will not accept of it voluntarily, they compel them. They take every opportunity to destroy every institution that is most sacred and most valuable in every nation where their armies have made their appearance; and under the name of liberty, they have resolved to make every country in substance, if not in form, a province dependent on themselves, through the despotism of jacobin societies. This has given a more fatal blow to the liberties of mankind, than any they have suffered, even from the boldest attempts of the most aspiring monarch. We see, therefore, that France has trampled under foot all laws, human and divine. She has at last avowed the most insatiable ambition, and greatest contempt for the law of nations, which all independent states have hitherto professed most religiously to observe; and unless she is stopped in her career, all Europe must soon learn their ideas of justice—law of nations—models of government—and principles of liberty from the mouth of the French cannon.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1 February 1793), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 103
  • England will never consent that France shall arrogate the power of annulling at her pleasure, and under the pretence of a natural right of which she makes herself the only judge, the political system of Europe, established by solemn treaties, and guaranteed by the consent of all the powers. Such a violation of rights as France has been guilty of, it would be difficult to find in the history of the world. The conduct of that nation is in the highest degree arbitrary, capricious, and founded upon no one principle of reason or justice.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1 February 1793), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), pp. 107-108
  • He had already given it as his opinion, that if there was no other alternative than either to make war or depart from our principles, rather than recede from our principles a war was preferable to a peace; because a peace, purchased upon such terms, must be uncertain, precarious, and liable to be continually interrupted by the repetition of fresh injuries and insults. War was preferable to such a peace, because it was a shorter and a surer way to that end which the house had undoubtedly in view as its ultimate object—a secure and lasting peace. What sort of peace must that be in which there was no security? Peace he regarded as desirable only so far as it was secure. If...you entertain a sense of the many blessings which you enjoy, if you value the continuance and safety of that commerce which is a source of so much opulence, if you wish to preserve and render permanent that high state of prosperity by which this country has for some years past been so eminently distinguished, you hazard all these advantages more, and are more likely to forfeit them, by submitting to a precarious and disgraceful peace, than by a timely and vigorous interposition of your arms. By tameness and delay you suffer that evil which might now be checked, to gain ground, and which, when it becomes indispensable to oppose, may perhaps be found irresistible.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (12 February 1793), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), pp. 117-118
  • How little progress these principles had made in this country they might be sufficiently convinced by that spirit, which had displayed itself, of attachment to the constitution, and those expressions of a firm determination to support it, which had appeared from every quarter. If, indeed, they mean to attack us, because we do not like French principles, then would this indeed be that sort of war which had so often been alleged and deprecated on the other side of the house—a war against opinions. If they mean to attack us because we love our constitution, then indeed it would be a war of extirpation; for not till the spirit of Englishmen was exterminated, would their attachment to the constitution be destroyed, and their generous efforts be slackened in its defence.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (12 February 1793), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 127
  • They clearly shewed their enmity to that constitution, by taking every opportunity to separate the King of England from the nation, and by addressing the people as distinct from the government. Upon the point of their fraternity he did not wish to say much: he had no desire for their affection. To the people they offered fraternity, while they would rob them of that constitution by which they are protected, and deprive them of the numerous blessings which they enjoy under its influence. In this case, their fraternal embraces resembled those of certain animals who embrace only to destroy.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (12 February 1793), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 128
  • The system of the present governors [of France] has its root in the same unqualified rights of man, the same principles of liberty and equality—principles, by which they flatter the people with the possession of the theoretical rights of man, all of which they vitiate and violate in practice. The mild principles of our government are a standing reproach to theirs, which are as intolerant as the rankest popish bigotry. Their pride and ambition lead them not so much to conquer, as to carry desolation and destruction into all the governments of Europe.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (30 December 1794), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 240
  • But having, in fact, no disposition for peace, and led away by false and aspiring notions of aggrandizement, the government of France offered us such terms as they knew could not possibly be complied with. Did they know the spirit, temper, and character of this country, when they presumed to make such arrogant proposals? These proposals I will leave to the silent sense impressed by them in the breast of every Englishman. I am, thank God! addressing myself to Britons, who are acquainted with the presumption of the enemy, and who, conscious of their resources, impelled by their native spirit, and valuing the national character, will prefer the chances and alternatives of war to such unjust, unequal, and humiliating conditions.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 May 1796), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), pp. 416-417
  • The natural defence of this kingdom, in case of invasion, is certainly its naval force. This presents a formidable barrier, in whatever point the enemy may direct their attack. In this department, however, little now remains to be done, our fleet at this moment being more respectable and more formidable than ever it was at any other period in the history of the country.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 October 1796), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 431
  • The attachment and loyalty of the people of this country, I trust, has experienced no diminution. It lives, and is cherished by that constitution which...still remains entire. Under the protection and support which it derives from the acts passed by the last parliament, the constitution inspires the steady affection of the people, and is still felt to be worth defending with every drop of our blood. The voice of the country proclaims that it continues to deserve and to receive their support. Fortified by laws in perfect unison with its principles and with its practice, and fitted to the emergencies by which they were occasioned, it still possesses that just esteem and admiration of the people which will induce them faithfully to defend it against the designs of domestic foes, and the attempts of their foreign enemies.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 October 1796), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. II. (1806), p. 441
  • I trust also that we shall not be disappointed in our expectation of the spirit of the public collectively or individually; that they will not be wanting in their exertions in such a crisis; that they will be animated, collectively and individually, with a spirit that will give energy and effect to their exertions; that every man who boasts, and is worthy of the name of an Englishman, will stand forth in the metropolis, and in every part of the kingdom, to maintain the authority of the laws, and enforce obedience to them, to oppose and counteract the machinations of the disaffected, and to preserve a due principle of submission to legal authority. I trust that all the inhabitants of the kingdom will unite in one common defence against internal enemies, to maintain the general security of the kingdom, by providing for the local security of each particular district; that we shall all remember, that by so doing we shall give the fullest scope to his Majesty's forces against foreign enemies, and also the fullest scope to the known valour and unshaken fidelity of the military force of the kingdom against those who shall endeavour to disturb its internal tranquillity. Such are the principles which I feel, and upon which I shall act for myself, and such are the principles, and will be the conduct, I hope, of every man in this house and out of it; such are the sentiments that are implanted in us all; such the feelings that are inherent in the breast of every Englishman.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (2 June 1797), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), p. 144
  • I verily believe, in the present state of Europe, that if we are not wanting to ourselves, if, by the blessing of Providence, our perseverance, and our resources, should enable us to make peace with France upon terms in which we taint not our character, in which we do not abandon the sources of our wealth, the means of our strength, the defence of what we already possess; if we maintain our equal pretensions, and assert that rank which we are entitled to hold among nations—the moment peace can be obtained on such terms, be the form of government in France what it may, peace is desirable, peace is then anxiously to be sought. But unless it is attained on such terms, there is no extremity of war, there is no extremity of honourable contest, that is not preferable to the name and pretence of peace, which must be in reality a disgraceful capitulation, a base, an abject surrender of every thing that constitutes the pride, the safety, and happiness of England.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 November 1797), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), pp. 158-159
  • [I]f we look to the whole complexion of this transaction, the duplicity, the arrogance, and violence which has appeared in the course of the negociation, it if we take from thence our opinion of its general result, we shall be justified in our conclusion, not that the people of France, not that the whole government of France, but that that part of the government which had too much influence, and has now the whole ascendancy, never was sincere; was determined to accept of no terms but such as would make it neither durable nor safe, such as could only be accepted by this country by a surrender of all its interests, and by a sacrifice of every pretension, to the character of a great, a powerful, or an independent nation.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 November 1797), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), p. 172
  • [Y]ou have it stated in the subsequent declaration of France itself, that it is not against your commerce, that it is not against your wealth, it is not against your possessions in the east, or colonies in the west, it is not against even the source of your maritime greatness, it is not against any of the appendages of your empire, but against the very essence of your liberty, against the foundation of your independence, against the citadel of your happiness, against your constitution itself, that their hostilities are directed. They have themselves announced and proclaimed the proposition, that what they mean to bring with their invading army is the genius of their liberty: I desire no other word to express the subversion of the British constitution,—and the substitution of the most malignant and fatal contrast—and the annihilation of British liberty, and the obliteration of every thing that has rendered you a great, a flourishing, and a happy people.
    This is what is at issue; for this are we to declare ourselves in a manner that deprecates the rage which our enemy will not dissemble, and which will be little moved by our entreaty. Under such circ*mstances are we ashamed or afraid to declare, in a firm and manly tone, our resolution to defend ourselves, or to speak the language of truth with the energy that belongs to Englishmen united in such a cause?
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 November 1797), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), p. 173
  • [I]f we love that degree of national power which is necessary for the independence of the country, and its safety; if we regard domestic tranquillity, if we look at individual enjoyment, from the highest to the meanest among us, there is not a man, whose stake is so great in the country, that he ought to hesitate a moment in sacrificing any portion of it to oppose the violence of the enemy; nor is there, I trust, a man in this happy and free nation, whose stake is so small, that would not be ready to sacrifice his life in the same cause... There may be danger, but on the one side there is danger accompanied with honour; on the other side, there is danger with indelible shame and disgrace; upon such an alternative, Englishmen will not hesitate.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 November 1797), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), pp. 173-174
  • [T]here is one great resource, which I trust will never abandon us, and which has shone forth in the English character, by which we have preserved our existence and fame, as a nation, which I trust we shall be determined never to abandon under any extremity, but shall join hand and heart in the solemn pledge that is proposed to us, and declare to his Majesty, that we know great exertions are wanting, that we are prepared to make them, and at all events determined to stand or fall by the laws, liberties, and religion of our country.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 November 1797), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), p. 174
  • Certainly much depends upon the posture in which you converse of peace. What is the real foundation of the strength of a nation? Spirit, security, and conscious pride, that cannot stoop to dishonour. It comprehends a character that will neither offer nor receive an insult. Give me peace consistently with that principle, and I will not call it a peace "nominal or delusive;" and there is no man who will go farther than I will to obtain it. To any thing dishonourable I will never submit; nor will this country ever submit to it, I trust. There can be no man who has an English heart within his bosom who can wish it; or can wish that you may, by an untimely diminution of your strength, expose yourselves to the renewal, with aggravated insults, of those evils which we have already had too much reason to deplore.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (5 December 1797), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), pp. 218-219
  • [W]e must also do justice to the wisdom, energy, and determination of the parliament who have furnished the means, and the power, by which all the rest was sustained and accomplished. Through them all the departments of his Majesty's government had the means of employing the force whose achievements have been so brilliant; through the wisdom of parliament the resources of the country have been called forth, and its spirit embodied in a manner unexampled in its history. By their firmness, magnanimity, and devotion to the cause, not merely of our own individual safety, but of the cause of mankind in general, we have been enabled to stand forth the saviours of the earth. No difficulties have stood in our way; no sacrifices have been thought too great for us to make; a common feeling of danger has produced a common spirit of exertion, and we have cheerfully come forward with a surrender of a part of our property as a salvage, not merely for recovering ourselves, but for the general recovery of mankind. We have presented a phenomenon in the character of nations.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 December 1798), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), pp. 327-328
  • I feel in common with every gentleman who hears me, the proud situation in which we have been placed, and the importance it has given us in the scale of nations. The rank that we now hold, I trust, we shall continue to cherish, and that, pursuing the same glorious course, we shall all of us feel it to be a source of pride and consolation that we are the subjects of the king of Great Britain.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 December 1798), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), pp. 331
  • We are not in arms against the opinions of the closet, nor the speculations of the school. We are at war with armed opinions; we are at war with those opinions which the sword of audacious, unprincipled, and impious innovation seeks to propagate amidst the ruins of empires, the demolition of the altars of all religion, the destruction of every venerable, and good, and liberal institution, under whatever form of polity they have been raised.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (7 June 1799), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), pp. 421-422
  • We will not leave the monster to prowl the world unopposed, He must cease to annoy the abode of peaceful men. If he retire into the cell, whether of solitude or repentance, thither we will not pursue him; but we cannot leave him on the throne of power.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (7 June 1799), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. III. (1806), p. 422



  • [W]hat was required of us by France was, not merely that we should acquiesce in her retaining the Netherlands, but that, as a preliminary to all treaty, and before entering upon the discussion of terms, we should recognise the principle, that whatever France, in time of war, had annexed to the republic, must remain inseparable for ever, and could not become the subject of negociation. I say, that, in refusing such a preliminary, we were only resisting the claim of France, to arrogate to itself the power of controlling, by its own separate and municipal acts, the rights and interests of other countries, and moulding, at its discretion, a new and general code of the law of nations.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), pp. 22-23
  • Look then at the fate of Switzerland, at the circ*mstances which led to its destruction, add this instance to the catalogue of aggression against all Europe, and then tell me, whether the system I have described has not been prosecuted with an unrelenting spirit, which cannot be subdued in adversity, which cannot be appeased in prosperity, which neither solemn professions, nor the general law of nations, nor the obligation of treaties (whether previous to the revolution or subsequent to it), could restrain from the subversion of every state into which, either by force or fraud, their arms could penetrate. Then tell me, whether the disasters of Europe are to be charged upon the provocation of this country and its allies, or on the inherent principle of the French revolution, of which the natural result produced so much misery and carnage in France, and carried desolation and terror over so large a portion of the world.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 25
  • The all-searching eye of the French revolution looks to every part of Europe, and every quarter of the world, in which can be found an object either of acquisition or plunder. Nothing is too great for the temerity of its ambition, nothing too small or insignificant for the grasp of its rapacity.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 26
  • What then was the nature of this system? Was it any thing but what I have stated it to be? an insatiable love of agrandizement, an implacable spirit of destruction directed against all the civil and religious institutions of every country. This is the first moving and acting spirit of the French revolution; this is the spirit which animated it at its birth, and this is the spirit which will not desert it till the moment of its dissolution, "which grew with its growth, which strengthened with its strength," but which has not abated under its misfortunes, nor declined in its decay; it has been invariably the same in every period, operating more or less, according as accident or circ*mstances might assist it; but it has been inherent in the revolution in all its stages.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 27
  • Thus qualified, thus armed for destruction, the genius of the French revolution marched forth, the terror and dismay of the world. Every nation has in its turn been the witness, many have been the victims of its principles, and it is left for us to decide, whether we will compromise with such a danger, while we have yet resources to supply the sinews of war, while the heart and spirit of the country is yet unbroken, and while we have the means of calling forth and supporting a powerful co-operation in Europe.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 28
  • If we carry our views out of France, and look at the dreadful catalogue of all the breaches of treaty, all the acts of perfidy at which I have only glanced, and which are precisely commensurate with the number of treaties which the republic have made (for I have sought in vain for any one which it has made and which it has not broken); if we trace the history of them all from the beginning of the revolution to the present time, or if we select those which have been accompanied by the most atrocious cruelty, and marked the most strongly with the characteristic features of the revolution, the name of Buonaparte will be found allied to more of them than that of any other that can be handed down in the history of the crimes and miseries of the last ten years. His name will be recorded with the horrors committed in Italy, in the memorable campaign of 1796 and 1797, in the Milanese, in Genoa, in Modena, in Tuscany, in Rome, and in Venice.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 35
  • [O]n what grounds are we to be convinced that he [Napoleon] has an interest in concluding and observing a solid and permanent pacification? Under all the circ*mstances of his personal character, and his newly acquired power, what other security has he for retaining that power, but the sword? His hold upon France is the sword, and he has no other. Is he connected with the soil, or with the habits, the affections, or the prejudices of the country? He is a stranger, a foreigner, and an usurper; he unites in his own person every thing that a pure Republican must detest; every thing that an enraged Jacobin has abjured; every thing that a sincere and faithful Royalist must feel as an insult. If he is opposed at any time in his career, what is his appeal? He appeals to his fortune; in other words to his army and his sword. Placing, then, his whole reliance upon military support, can he afford to let his military renown pass away, to let his laurels wither, to let the memory of his achievements sink in obscurity? Is it certain that, with his army confined within France, and restrained from inroads upon her neighbours, he can maintain, at his devotion, a force sufficiently numerous to support his power? Having no object but the possession of absolute dominion, no passion but military glory, is it certain, that he can feel such an interest in permanent peace, as would justify us in laying down our arms, reducing our expense, and relinquishing our means of security, on the faith of his engagements?
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), pp. 42-43
  • The advocates of the French revolution boasted in its outset, that by their new system they had furnished a security for ever, not to France only but to all countries in the world, against military despotism; that the force of standing armies was vain and delusive; that no artificial power could resist public opinion; and that it was upon the foundation of public opinion alone that any government could stand. I believe, that in this instance, as in every other, the progress of the French revolution has belied its professions; but so far from its being a proof of the prevalence of public opinion against military force, it is instead of the proof, the strongest exception from that doctrine, which appears in the history of the world. Through all the stages of the revolution military force has governed; public opinion has scarcely been heard. But still I consider this as only an exception from a general truth; I still believe, that, in every civilized country (not enslaved by a jacobin faction) public opinion is the only sure support of any government.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 45
  • He defies me to state, in one sentence, what is the object of the war. I know not whether I can do it in one sentence; but is one word, I can tell him that it is SECURITY: security against a danger, the greatest that ever threatened the world. It is security against a danger which never existed in any past period of society. It is security against a danger which in degree and extent was never equalled; against a danger which threatened all the nations of the earth; against a danger which has been resisted by all the nations of Europe, and resisted by none with so much success as by this nation, because by none has it been resisted so uniformly, and with so much energy. This country alone, of all the nations of Europe, presented barriers the best fitted to resist its progress. We alone recognised the necessity of open war, as well with the principles, as the practice of the French revolution. We saw that it was to be resisted no less by arms abroad, than by precaution at home; that we were to look for protection no less to the courage of our forces, than to the wisdom of our councils; no less to military effort, than to legislative enactment. At the moment when those, who now admit the dangers of jacobinism while they contend that it is extinct, used to palliate its atrocity, and extenuate its mischief, this house wisely saw that it was necessary to erect a double safeguard against a danger that wrought no less by undisguised hostility than by secret machination.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (17 February 1800), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 61
  • [W]e had not an option at this moment, between the blessings of peace and the dangers of war that from the fatality of the times, and the general state of the world, we must consider our lot as cast, by the decrees of Providence, in a time of peril and trouble that he trusted the temper and courage of the nation would conform itself to the duties of that situation that we should be prepared, collectively and individually, to meet it with that resignation and fortitude, and, at the same time, with that active zeal and exertion, which, in proportion to the magnitude of the crisis, might be expected from a brave and free people; and that we should reflect, even in the hour of trial, what abundant reason we have to be grateful to Providence, for the distinction we enjoy over most of the countries of Europe, and for all the advantages and blessings which national wisdom and virtue have hitherto protected, and which it now depends on perseverance in the same just and honourable sentiments, still to guard and to preserve.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (23 May 1803), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 234
  • The amount of our danger, therefore, it would be impolitic to conceal from the people. It was the first duty of ministers to make it known, and after doing so, it should have been their study to provide against it, and to point out the means to the country by which it might be averted.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 July 1803), opposing a vote of censure on his successor Henry Addington, quoted in The War Speeches of William Pitt (1915), p. 314
  • Much has been said of the danger of arming the people. I confess that there was a time when that fear would have had some weight; but there never was a time when there could have been any fear of arming the whole people of England, and particularly not under the present circ*mstances. I never, indeed, entertained any apprehensions from a patriot army regularly officered, according to the manner specified in the measure before the house, however I might hesitate to permit the assemblage of a tumultuary army otherwise constituted. From an army to consist of the round bulk of the people, no man who knows the British character could have the least fear if it even were to include the disaffected; for they would bear so small a proportion to the whole, as to be incapable of doing mischief, however mischievously disposed. There was indeed a time when associations of traitors systematically organized, excited an apprehension of the consequences of a sudden armament of the populace: but that time is no more, and the probability is now, as occurred in the case of the volunteers, that, if there are still any material number of disaffected, by mixing them with the loyal part of the community, the same patriotic zeal, the same submission to just authority will be soon found to pervade the whole body, and that all will be equally anxious to defend their country or perish in the attempt.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 July 1803), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 247
  • [I]f we are not wanting to ourselves, if we have not forgotten our national character, but remember who we are, and what we are contending for, the contest will be glorious to us, and must terminate in the complete discomfiture of the enemy, and ultimate security to this kingdom.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (22 July 1803), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 252
  • That we shall have no difficulty in procuring the men who are to compose this force, I am perfectly satisfied, because the spirit of the country is now raised in the capital, and will from thence rapidly pervade all the extremities of the empire. That spirit was first kindled in the north, from thence it has extended to the metropolis, and is now catching from town to town, from village to village, and very shortly the whole kingdom will, I am convinced, manifest one scene of activity, of animation, and of energy, displaying in its native lustre the character of Englishmen.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (22 July 1803), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 255
  • We ought to have a due sense of the magnitude of the danger with which we are threatened; we ought to meet it in that temper of mind which produces just confidence, which neither despises nor dreads the enemy; and while on the one hand we accurately estimate the danger with which we are threatened at this awful crisis, we must recollect on the other hand what it is we have at stake, what it is we have to contend for. It is for our property, it is for our liberty, it is for our independence, nay, for our existence as a nation; it is for our character, it is for our very name as Englishmen, it is for every thing dear and valuable to man on this side of the grave.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (22 July 1803), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), pp. 262-263
  • [T]he result of this great contest will ensure the permanent security, the eternal glory of this country; that it will terminate in the confusion, the dismay, and the shame, of our vaunting enemy; that it will afford the means of animating the spirits, of rousing the courage, of breaking the lethargy, of the surrounding nations of Europe; and I trust, that, if a fugitive French army should reach its own shores after being driven from our coasts, it will find the people of Europe reviving in spirits, and anxious to retaliate upon France all the wrongs, all the oppressions, they have suffered from her; and that we shall at length see that wicked fabric destroyed which was raised upon the prostitution of liberty, and which has caused more miseries, more horrors to France and to the surrounding nations, than are to be paralleled in any part of the annals of mankind.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (22 July 1803), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), p. 263
  • I need not remind the house that we are come to a new era in the history of nations; that we are called to struggle for the destiny, not of this country alone, but of the civilized world. We must remember that it is not for ourselves alone that we submit to unexampled privations. We have for ourselves the great duty of self-preservation to perform; but the duty of the people of England now is of a nobler and higher order. We are in the first place to provide for our security against an enemy whose malignity to this country knows no bounds: but this is not to close the views or the efforts of our exertion in so sacred a cause. Amid the wreck and the misery of nations, it is our just exultation, that we have continued superior to all that ambition or that despotism could effect, and our still higher exultation ought to be, that we provide not only for our own safety, but hold out a prospect to nations now bending under the iron yoke of tyranny, what the exertions of a free people can effect; and that at least in this corner of the world, the name of liberty is still revered, cherished, and sanctified.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (25 April 1804), quoted in The Speeches of the Right Honourable William Pitt, in the House of Commons. Vol. IV. (1806), pp. 334-335
  • I return you many thanks for the honour you have done me; but Europe is not to be saved by any single man. England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example.
    • Speech at the Guildhall, City of London (9 November 1805), quoted in The War Speeches of William Pitt (1915), p. 351. This was Pitt's last speech in public.
  • Prostrate the beauteous ruin lies; and all
    That shared its shelter perish in its fall.
    • The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin, No. xxxvi, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Oh my country! How I love my country!
    • Last words.
    • Lord Stanhope, Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt
    • Lord Rosebery reports it as "my country! how I leave my country!" in Pitt (1891), and attributes "O my country! How I love my country!" to Benjamin Disraeli.
    • See also Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, pg 456.
  • I think I could eat one of Bellamy's mutton pies.
    • Also "I think I could eat one of Bellamy's meat pies." Both in Rosebery, Pitt. Rosebery wrote that this story was related to him by Disraeli, who heard it as a young member of Parliament by a "grim old waiter of prehistoric reputation, who was supposed to possess a secret treasure of political tradition." According to Rosebery, "Disraeli mentioned the meat -- veal or pork I think, but I have forgotten." Reported in Rosebery, Pitt.



  • Roll up that map; it will not be wanted these ten years.

Quotes about Pitt




  • His talents, quickness, temper and application well qualified him to have been a Prime Minister in the real sense of the word.
    • James Burges, 'Concise Diary of Events', quoted in John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Years of Acclaim (1969), p. 326
  • Not merely a chip of the old 'block', but the old block itself.
    • Edmund Burke's reaction to Pitt's maiden speech in Parliament; the 'old block' was William Pitt the Elder, quoted in Nathaniel Wraxall, "Historical Memoirs of My Own Time", part 2
  • Mr. Pitt is, at the head of his own table, exactly what hits my taste—attentive without being troublesome—mixing in the conversation without attempting to lead it—laughing often and easily—and boyish enough if it should fall in his way, to discuss the history of co*ck Robin.
    • George Canning, journal entry (22 November 1793), quoted in The Letter-Journal of George Canning, 1793–1795 (1991), p. 30
  • I think I have never left him without liking him better than before. I could not admire or love him more, even if I had no obligations to him; though, in that case, I should give a freer, because less suspicious testimony of the claims which, I think, he has to be both loved and admired.
    • George Canning to Lord Boringdon (21 August 1796), quoted in Augustus Granville Stapleton, George Canning and His Times (1859), p. 38
  • Here's to the Pilot that weather'd the Storm!
    • George Canning's poem, read at a public birthday dinner in Pitt's honour at Merchant Taylors' Hall (28 May 1802), quoted in The Times (29 May 1802), p. 2
  • In attacking France, Pitt preserved social order in England, and kept civilisation in the paths of that regular and gradual progress which it has followed ever since. He loved power not as an end but as a means.
    • Cavour in his early political writings, quoted in Evelyn Martinengo Cesaresco, Cavour (1904), p. 30
  • The greatest statesman of his century.
    • Cavour in his early political writings, quoted in Denis Mack Smith, Cavour (1985), p. 8
  • He was far too practical a politician to be given to abstract theories, universal doctrines, watchwords, or shibboleths of any kind. He knew of no political gospel that was to be preached in season and out of season alike. When he thought reform wholesome, he proposed it: when he ceased to think it wholesome, he ceased to propose it. Whether his memory would be claimed by Reformers or anti-Reformers was a question upon which he troubled himself very little. In the same way he urged Catholic Emancipation, even at the cost of power, when he judged that the balance of advantages was on its side. He abandoned it with equal readiness as soon as the King's strong resistance and the necessity of avoiding intestine division in the face of foreign peril had placed the balance of advantage on the other side. The same untheoretical mind may be traced in all his legislation. The great merit of his measures, so far as they had a trial, was that they were admirably calculated to attain the object they had in view, with the least possible damage to the interests which any great change must necessarily affect. Their demerit was, if demerit it be, that they were justifiable on no single theory, and were often marred by what seemed to be logical contradictions, which damaged them in argument, though they did not hinder them in practice.
    • Lord Robert Cecil, 'Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt', The Quarterly Review, Vol. 109 (April 1861), p. 559
  • Time and again he showed a rare sense of what was due to the occasion. With astonishing magnanimity he forebore to reveal Charles James Fox's involvement in an intrigue with the Russian court in 1790, traversing ministerial policy, which by any standard came near to the verge of a treasonable misdemeanour and gives a lamentable impression of Fox's flawed political integrity. When a bad harvest sent bread prices rocketing Pitt plunged into state trading in grain – until Parliament imposed its veto. In these and other ways...the liberal impulses in Pitt's mind survived against revolution after 1790. And this was also true of foreign affairs... Even under the stress of war the Pittite circle preserved its sympathy for the idea of French constitutional monarchy, was not averse to seeing those elements that were of value salvaged from the Revolution of 1789 and...hung back from any endorsem*nt of the Bourbon princes' demands for a return to the pre-revolutionary regime.
    • I. R. Christie, 'Years of trial', The Times (6 October 1983), p. 13
    • A review of John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Reluctant Transition
  • But did he live or die a Tory? Ehrman is surely right to answer no. Pitt called himself a Whig. His personal commitment to the Anglican Church and to the monarchy was limited. He took a utilitarian view of traditional institutions, ruthlessly transforming them when necessary. In an ideal world, he thought Tom Paine was right. He was conservative only in his conviction that an ideal world was unattainable and that property should be preserved. Only after his death was a renovated Tory party forged, with him as a crucial part of its mythology.
    • Linda Colley, 'A busy stage dominated by William the Great', The Times (30 May 1996), p. 40
    • A review of John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle
  • To all appearance, indeed, the better part of the work achieved by Chatham was in ruins. Its restoration, so far as restoration was now possible, was the task which lay before his son. He brought to it great gifts of intellect and character—a swift comprehensive mind, eloquence, patience, unbending courage, intense devotion to his country, and, most useful of all, a capacity to face facts as they are and to shape policy in accordance with the lessons of experience.
    • Reginald Coupland, 'Introduction', The War Speeches of William Pitt the Younger (3rd ed. 1940), p. ix
  • I will only here sum up what I have to say to those Tory gentlemen who belong to what are called Pitt Clubs, that the two most formidable objects of their apprehensions, Parliamentary Reform and Catholic Emancipation, were the measures of Mr. Pitt.
    • John Wilson Croker, memorandum (1830), quoted in The Croker Papers: The Correspondence and Diaries of the late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, LL.D., F.R.S., Secretary to the Admiralty from 1809 to 1830. Vol. II, ed. Louis J. Jennings (1884), p. 86
  • His reputation has suffered both from hero-worship, which skimmed over the contradictions of his character, and from denigration, which was oblivious to its complexities. He remains an enigma, for his correspondence does not abound in those flashes of exuberant self-revelation which make Charles Fox and Edmund Burke so vivid and compelling. But the stabilisation of British economy after the American War, the reform of the customs, the pruning of wasteful expenditure, the restoration of national self-respect, and the courageous defence of English and European liberties threatened by an absolutism more powerful than the old, constitute an enduring claim to fame.
  • Were the Tories inimical to national improvement when under Pitt they first applied philosophy to commerce, and science to finance; when under their auspices the most severe retrenchment was practised in every department of the public expenditure; when a bill for the Commutation of Tithes was not only planned but printed; and when nothing but the violence of the French Revolution prevented the adoption of a matured scheme of Ecclesiastical Reform, which would not have left our revolutionary oligarchs a single pretext to veil their present plundering purpose? Why! the cry of Parliamentary Reform was first raised by a Tory minister, struggling against the bigoted and corrupt authority of the Whig oligarchy.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, Vindication of the English Constitution in a Letter to a Noble and Learned Lord (1835), p. 195
  • He created a plebeian aristocracy and blended it with the patrician oligarchy. He made peers of second-rate squires and fat graziers. He caught them in the alleys of Lombard Street, and clutched them from the counting-houses of Cornhill.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845), p. 22
  • [W]ith that last breath expired the last hopes of this country... [I]t is deprived of the services of such a man whose like we shall never look upon again.
    • Earl of Essex to Viscount Lowther (23 January 1806), quoted in Historical Manuscripts Commission, The Manuscripts of the Earl of Lonsdale (1893), p. 158
  • What I have found remarkably agreeable in any conversation I have had with Mr. Pitt on business is not only the extreme quickness of his apprehension but the undivided and unprejudiced attention which he gives.
    • John Fordyce to Henry Dundas (1 September 1789), quoted in John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Years of Acclaim (1969), p. 326, n. 1
  • I have been this morning with Lady Hester Pitt, and there is little William Pitt, not eight years old, and really the cleverest child I ever saw, and brought up so strictly and so proper in his behaviour, that, mark my words, that little boy will be a thorn in Charles's side as long as he lives.
    • Lady Caroline Fox, quoted in Memorials and Correspondence of Charles James Fox, Volume I, ed. Lord John Russell (1853), p. 25
  • Impossible, impossible; one feels as if there was something missing in the world—a chasm, a blank that cannot be supplied.
    • Charles James Fox's reaction to Pitt's death, recorded in Lady Bessborough to Granville Leveson-Gower (23 January 1806), quoted in Lord Granville Gower, Private Correspondence, 1781 to 1821, Vol. II, ed. Castalia Countess Granville (1916), pp. 162–163
  • [O]ur reverence for the memory of that statesman, to whom it is, in our opinion, mainly owing that those institutions are still preserved to us, and that the continuance of that policy is still within our power; that these nations now enjoy the blessings of domestic tranquillity, and that what remains of independent Europe is now leaning with confidence upon our aid... [T]hat great minister, who united in himself, beyond the example of all former ministers, the confidence of his fellow-subjects with the favour of his sovereign... [T]hose stupendous talents, of which even the most ordinary exercise was a source of wonder and delight; which resembled, in the mightiness of their force, the elementary powers of nature, and in the truth and precision of their movement, the most exquisite process of art.
    • John Hookham Frere, 'Trotter's Memoirs of the Rt. Hon. C. J. Fox', The Quarterly Review (December 1811), p. 552
  • No one who really knew Pitt intimately would have called him cold. A man who is Prime Minister at twenty-six, cannot carry his heart on his sleeve and be "Hail, fellow! well met," with every Jack, Tom, and Harry. Pitt's manner by nature, as well as by habit and necessity, was in public always dignified, reserved, and imperious; but he had very warm feelings and, had it not been for the obligations of the official position, which lay on him almost throughout his whole life, I believe he might have had nearly as many personal friends as Fox.
    • John Hookham Frere, note of some recollections (1844–1845), quoted in The works of John Hookham Frere in Verse and Prose, Now First Collected With a Prefatory Memoir by His Nephews W. E. and Sir Bartle Frere (1872), p. xxvii
  • I am certain that, up to the very last, it was Pitt's determination to have kept clear from the European wars consequent on the French Revolution. Nothing was more unjust than the charge constantly brought against him that he did not do all that a patriotic minister could do to preserve peace. His personal interests and predilections were all in favour of peace, and nothing but the outrageous conduct of the French compelled him to take part in the war, which no English minister could have long avoided, unless by joining the French in their onslaught upon all the old governments in Europe.
    • John Hookham Frere, note of some recollections (1845), quoted in The works of John Hookham Frere in Verse and Prose, Now First Collected With a Prefatory Memoir by His Nephews W. E. and Sir Bartle Frere (1872), p. xxviii
  • Mr. Pitt, like other men, had his errors; and the country is still smarting for them. But I cannot refer even to the errors of so great a man without avowing my respect and veneration for his memory. [A Laugh.] Sir, I am under no obligation to profess such a sentiment; it is our right and duty to read the characters of public men in the light of history; but I say simply, because it is the truth, that I look with sincere and profound respect upon the political character and the genius of Mr. Pitt.
  • Mr. Pitt has gain'd himself great Credit by his two or three last Speeches. His Language and Oratory amazes, but the sensible thinking People are astonished at his knowledge. The Opposition even cannot help expressing Astonishment. Your Papa says that he is a most wonderful young man. His Passions are all guided by Reason, with a mind so improved, such Discretion, and so perfect a Knowledge of the Commerce, Funds, and Government of the Country that one must imagine to hear him on these subjects, that he had the experience of fifty years, and at the same Time so clever, lively, and agreeable in Society, without the least assuming, that it is impossible to know him without liking him and wondering at his Knowledge and Parts.
    • Lady Gower to Granville Leveson-Gower (19 February 1785), quoted in Lord Granville Leveson Gower (First Earl Granville): Private Correspondence, 1781–1821, Vol. I, ed. Castalia Countess Granville (1916), pp. 5-6
  • William Pitt, the greatest Parliamentary statesman whom England has produced... He...was...the one man upon whom, through long years of danger both from foreign and domestic enemies, a nation reposed confidence, whose removal from power was the signal for general despair, whose restoration revived the public spirit as sunrise renews the daylight, and whose death was lamented by the tears not only of personal friends and Parliamentary supporters, but by thousands who had never seen him, yet felt themselves reduced to sudden helplessness by the loss of their tried protector. Such a position as this no other man in English history has ever occupied; and this, which is wholly independent of particular measures or combinations, is Pitt's title to immortality.
    • T. E. Kebbel, A History of Toryism: From the Accession of Mr. Pitt to Power in 1783 to the Death of Lord Beaconsfield in 1881 (1886), pp. 78-79
  • You must know (I think) that I was very much attached to Mr. Pitt, as a public Man; but You cannot know, for it is difficult to conceive the enthusiasm I felt for him, and still feel for his memory. I am almost disposed to repeat, what I once heard Lord Muncaster say, "that he considered him as something supernatural, something between God and man." Without going quite that length I consider him the greatest Statesman this, or any other Country ever produced; and moreover, as good, and as honest as a public man could be.
    • Sir John Legard to William Wilberforce (10 December 1806), quoted in Robin Furneaux, William Wilberforce (1974), p. 235



  • If Mr. Pitt had lived in 1832, it is our firm belief that he would have been a decided Reformer.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, 'Mirabeau', The Edinburgh Review (July 1832), The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay (1865), p. 220
  • Little as I revere the memory of Mr. Pitt, I must confess that, comparing the plan he formed with the policy of Cromwell and William, he deserves praise for great wisdom and humanity. The Union of Ireland with Great Britain was part of his plan, an excellent and essential part of it, but still only a part. It never ought to be forgotten that his scheme was much wider in extent, and that he was not allowed to carry it into effect. He wished to unite not only the kingdoms, but the hearts and affections of the people. For that object the Catholic disabilities were to be removed, the Catholic clergy were to be placed in an honourable, comfortable, and independent position, and Catholic education was to be conducted on a liberal scale. His views and opinions agreed with, and were, I have no doubt, taken from those of Mr. Burke, a man of an understanding even more enlarged and capacious than his own. If Mr. Pitt's system had been carried into effect, I believe that the Union with Ireland would fully now have been as secure, and as far out of the reach of agitation, as the Union with Scotland. The Act of Union would then have been associated in the minds of the great body of the Catholic Irish people with the removal of most galling disabilities.
  • From personal knowledge I am therefore enabled to state, that no Minister ever understood so well the commercial interests of the country. He knew that the true sources of its greatness lay in its productive industry, and he therefore encouraged that industry.
    • Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet, speech in the House of Commons (7 May 1802), quoted in The Parliamentary Register; Or, an Impartial Report of the Debates ..., Vol. III (1802), p. 36
  • He erected a screen against the winds of change, tempering their strength, yet permitting a few zephyrs to filter through: a sinecure suppressed here, a rationalization of tax there. There was no fear that he would upset the structure of government or attempt to realign the basis of power. And when, as he often did, he made a messy compromise, he stayed in power, nothing daunted. What Pitt did was to provide aloof, capable, deeply conservative leadership about which the traditional forces in society, fragmented by the humiliation of the American War, could coalesce. In consequence, they could face the greater problems created by the growing gulf in English life between the political nation and those who held political property, and make certain of the victory of the latter.
    • J. H. Plumb, 'Mr Pitt's benefit', The Times Saturday Review (18 October 1969), p. iv
    • A review of John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Years of Acclaim
  • In 1783 ruin financial as well as ruin military stared Britain in the face: she was impoverished, isolated and – except at sea – ignominiously helpless. The nation wanted financial and personal integrity in government, a break with the politics and the politicians that had betrayed it, and a lengthy period of uninterrupted convalescence. The bleak independence of the Younger Pitt, his superb parliamentary and economic talents, and the aura of authority which he diffused gave Britain what she needed, and knew that she needed, in the years between peace in 1783 and war in 1797. The man fitted the moment. If there had been no Pitt, Britain could well have been the image, instead of the antithesis, of contemporary France. The essence of what Pitt did for Britain lies in the Chapter 'Retrenchment and Revival 1784–92'; in order to understand the influence which Pitt continued to influence from beyond the grave over Peel, over Gladstone, over Britain of the high nineteenth century, one needs to study and study again the budgetary and fiscal measures of those eight years.
    • Enoch Powell, 'Improbable Pitt', Books and Bookmen (August 1979), quoted in Reflections of a Statesman: The Writings and Speeches of Enoch Powell (1991), pp. 282-283
    • A review of Robin Reilly, Pitt the Younger, 1759–1806 (1978)
  • Pitt was truly a great man of principle, of one single principle that transcended all others and on which no compromise was possible. The welfare of his country, with which he associated the preservation of the Constitution and loyalty to the Crown, was the mainspring of his life, and for it he was ready to sacrifice cherished causes, personal advantage, and even his own reputation for integrity. This dedication was absolute... Pitt alone possessed the qualities of integrity and endurance necessary to inspire confidence and courage. To his successors he left an example of leadership, fortitude and self-denial. To his country he bequeathed the priceless legacy of hope.
  • This afflicting stroke follows close on the loss of Lord Nelson, for whom I had also a cordial love and affection; and it leads me to reflect on the uncommon similarity of their characters:—gentleness of mind; sweetness of disposition, accompanied by the most determined resolution; quickness of conception, and promptitude in decision; ardent zeal for the welfare of their country, rendering it most signal and important services; wisdom in concerting plans, and firmness in executing them, undismayed by any hazards or the severest responsibility. In all these they resembled each other with a degree of exactness not to be conceived by any one who did not know them as intimately and as entirely as I did... These two great men died, as they lived, for their country. Mr. Pitt sacrificed his life in its service as much as Lord Nelson did.
    • George Rose, diary entry (23 January 1806), quoted in The Diaries and Correspondence of the Right Hon. George Rose: Containing Original Letters of the Most Distinguished Statesmen of His Day, Vol. II, ed. Rev. Leveson Vernon Harcourt (1860), pp. 233-234
  • The name of Pitt is, in an historical sense, very dear to us, belonging as it does to a party which may be said to have taken its origin from those who gathered around him, and who may be said to have been the founders of modern Toryism... England was his first, his only thought, and it is for that reason that he has left behind him a name which all men revere, and a pattern which the rulers of this country in time of peril may follow.
    • Lord Salisbury, speech to the commemoration of the centenary of Pitt's admission to the freedom of the Grocers' Company held in the Grocers'-hall (28 February 1884), quoted in The Times (29 February 1884), p. 10
  • The firmness, propriety and prudence of every part of your young friends conduct must, as long as it is remembered, place him very high in the estimation of every wise and thinking man in the Kingdom.
    • Adam Smith to Henry Dundas (25 March 1789), quoted in The Correspondence of Adam Smith, eds. E. S. Mossner and I. S. Ross (1987), pp. 318-319
  • Mr. Pitt used to say that Tom Paine was quite in the right; but then he would add, "What am I to do? If the country is overrun with all these men, full of vice and folly, I cannot exterminate them. It would be very well, to be sure, if every body had sense enough to act as they ought; but, as things are, if I were to encourage Tom Paine's opinions, we should have a bloody revolution; and, after all, matters would return pretty much as they were."
    • Lady Hester Stanhope, Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope, As Related by Herself in Conversation with Her Physician; Comprising Her Opinions and Anecdotes of Some of the Most Remarkable Persons of Her Time, Vol. II (1845), p. 22
  • The actual occasions for war (the execution of Louis and the control of the Scheldt) came at the conclusion of twelve months which had transformed Pitt from the Prime Minister of economic retrenchment, peace, and piecemeal reform into the diplomatic architect of European counterrevolution. And this transformation was not of one man but of a class; of the patricians as well as of the commercial and manufacturing bourgeoisie who had seen in Pitt their hope for economic rationalisation and cautious political reform.
    • E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1963), p.
  • Mr. Pitt had foibles, and of course they were not diminished by so long a continuance in office; but for a clear and comprehensive view of the most complicated subject in all its relations; for that fairness of mind which disposes a man to follow out, and when overtaken to recognise the truth; for magnanimity, which made him ready to change his measures when he thought the good of the country required it, though he knew he should be charged with inconsistency on account of the change; for willingness to give a fair hearing to all that could be urged against his own opinions, and to listen to the suggestions of men, whose understandings he knew to be inferior to his own; for personal purity, disinterestedness, integrity, and love of his country, I have never known his equal.
    • William Wilberforce (1806), quoted in Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce, Vol. III (1833), pp. 249–250
  • In society he was remarkably cheerful and pleasant, full of wit and playfulness, neither, like Mr. Fox, fond of arguing a question, nor yet holding forth, like some others. He was always ready to hear others as well as to talk himself.
    • William Wilberforce, Private Papers of William Wilberforce, ed. A. M. Wilberforce (1897), p. 68
  • Lord North could sustain no competition with the late Mr. Pitt, who on those, as on all other occasions, manifested a perspicuity, eloquence, rapidity, recollection, and talent altogether wonderful, which carried the audience along with him in every arithmetical statement, left no calculation obscure or ambiguous, and impressed the House at its close with tumultuous admiration.
    • Nathaniel Wraxall, The Historical and the Posthumous Memoirs of Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall, 1772–1784, Vol. I., ed. Henry B. Wheatley (1884), p. 370
  • In his manners, Pitt, if not repulsive, was cold, stiff, and without suavity or amenity. He seemed never to invite approach or to encourage acquaintance, though when addressed, he could be polite, communicative, and occasionally gracious. Smiles were not natural to him, even when seated on the Treasury bench, where, placed at the summit of power, young, surrounded by followers, admirers, and flatterers, he maintained a more sullen gravity than his antagonist exhibited, who beheld around him only the companions of his political exile, poverty, and privations. From the instant that Pitt entered the doorway of the House of Commons, he advanced up the floor with a quick and firm step, his head erect and thrown back, looking neither to the right nor to the left, nor favouring with a nod or a glance any of the individuals seated on either side, among whom many who possessed five thousand pounds a year would have been gratified even by so slight a mark of attention. It was not thus that Lord North or Fox treated Parliament, nor from them would Parliament have so patiently endured it; but Pitt seemed made to guide and to command, even more than to persuade or to convince, the assembly that he addressed.
    • Nathaniel Wraxall, The Historical and the Posthumous Memoirs of Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall, 1772–1784, Vol. III., ed. Henry B. Wheatley (1884), pp. 217-218
  • [T]here was one man, whom Providence reserved for the tempestuous age which he adorned and controuled, whose unshaken fidelity to his sovereign, whose commanding genius sustained by the most courageous resolution, whose attachment to the British constitution, equalled only by his zeal for the liberties of the civilized world, qualified him to move upon a more elevated sphere, and to be at once the admiration of the good, and the hatred of the wicked. He towered above all his competitors, and stood alone, arrayed in glory, himself an host.
    • Henry Redhead Yorke, 'To the Electors of the United Empire', Mr. Redhead Yorke's Weekly Political Review, Vol. II. Number 19 (9 May 1807), p. 354
  • The honourable William Pitt, son to the late Earl of Chatham, now rose for the first time, and in a speech directly in answer to matter that had fallen out in the course of the debate, displayed great and astonishing powers of eloquence. His voice is rich and striking, full of melody and force; his manner easy and elegant; his language beautiful and luxuriant. He gave, in that first and short essay, a specimen of eloquence, not unworthy the son of the immortal parent.
    • The Parliamentary Register; Or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons...During the First Session of the Fifteenth Parliament of Great Britain. Vol. II. (1781), p. 17
  • The name of Pitt...is embalmed in the heart of admiring nations, with a yet holier passion; for he not only preached, but fought the good fight; and with the reverence which is paid to him as a prophet, we mingle the love which is due to the memory of a hero and a martyr... The gratitude of those who bless his memory forms a bond of connexion and of confidence that will not easily be disunited.
    • 'Letter on the Present State of Administration', Blackwood's Magazine, No. XX, Vol. IV (November 1818), p. 202
  • Pitt was stiff with everyone but women.
    • Contemporary joke, quoted in Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People?: England, 1783–1846 (2006), p. 53, n.

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