Pitt family papers, 1728-1830 (majority within 1757-1805)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- William L. Clements Library
- This collection primarily contains outgoing letters by William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham; Hester Pitt, Countess of Chatham; William Pitt the Younger; and John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham. Most of the letters are addressed to influential political figures such as Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney; Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville; and Count Semen Romanovich Vorontsov. The letters pertain to domestic and international political issues in Great Britain, including military conflicts in North America and Europe.
- 1 linear foot
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Clements Staff and Meg Hixon, January 2013
- Scope and Content:
This collection is primarily made up of outgoing letters by William Pitt, 1st earl of Chatham; Hester Pitt, countess of Chatham; William Pitt the Younger; and John Pitt, 2nd earl of Chatham. Most of the letters are addressed to influential political figures such as Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney; Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville; and Count Semen Romanovich Vorontsov. The letters pertain to domestic and international political issues in Great Britain, including military conflicts in North America and Europe.
The earliest items relate to William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, and his involvement in British politics in the mid-18th century. In letters to various political figures, he discussed military conflicts in Europe and North America during the Seven Years' War and other issues related to the North American colonies, such as illegal trade with French territories. Also present are 2 commissions that Pitt signed in 1760, notes on Parliamentary speeches by several politicians, and a brief poem by Pitt. In a series of letters written shortly after Pitt's death in 1778, his wife Hester Grenville Pitt and others reacted to his death. During her widowhood, Hester Grenville Pitt often wrote to banker Thomas Coutts about her sons and about other personal subjects. Letters from John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, to various recipients frequently concern his involvement in naval and other military affairs.
The outgoing letters of William Pitt the Younger comprise the bulk of the collection. He most frequently wrote to William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne; Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney; Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville; Count Semen Romanovich Vorontsov of Russia; and George Rose, secretary to the Treasury under Lord Shelburne and William Pitt. Pitt discussed a multitude of subjects pertaining to Great Britain's domestic political affairs and international relations; he mentioned domestic taxation, political appointments and officeholders, legislation, the "East Indies business," and the personal affairs of the Prince of Wales. His letters also concern the Irish uprising of 1798, the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and foreign relations with Russia. In his letter to John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmoreland, on February 7, 1801, Pitt briefly described his reasons for resigning as prime minister. Small groups of Pitt's letters to Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville; Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley; and George Rose are housed in bound volumes. The book of letters to Wellesley contains the bookplate of Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, 1st Earl of Midlothian.
- Biographical / Historical:
William Pitt was born in Westminster, London, England, on November 15, 1708, the son of Robert Pitt (1680?-1727) and Harriet Villiers (d. 1736). His grandfather, Thomas Pitt (1653-1726) was a diamond merchant and a governor of Madras, India, for the East India Company. William Pitt attended Eton College from 1719-1726, and Trinity College, Oxford, in 1727. He briefly lived in Utrecht, Netherlands, and received a cornet's commission under Richard Temple, Viscount Cobham, in 1731. After a grand tour of the Continent in 1733-1734, Pitt entered Parliament as part of the opposition to Prime Minister Robert Walpole, and he befriended Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales. His parliamentary reputation and influence grew, and he became paymaster-general from 1746-1755. On November 16, 1754, Pitt married Lady Hester Grenville (1720-1803), the daughter of Richard Grenville (1678-1727) and Hester Temple, Countess Temple (ca. 1684-1752). Pitt and his wife had five children: Hester (b. 1755), John (1756-1835), Harriot (b. 1758), William (1759-1806), and James Charles (b. 1761). Pitt was secretary of state for much of the Seven Years' War, and he continued to serve in Parliament after resigning as secretary in 1760. From 1766-1768, Pitt served as prime minister. He remained involved in politics and international affairs until his death on May 11, 1778.
John Pitt was born in Kent, England, on October 9, 1756, the son of William Pitt and Hester Grenville Pitt. He was an ensign in the 47th Regiment of Foot (1774-1776), a lieutenant in the 39th Regiment of Foot (1778-1779), and a captain in the 86th Regiment of Foot (1779-1783). He became first lord of the Admiralty on July 16, 1778, and inherited the earldom of Chatham upon the death of his father. He served in the British Admiralty until 1794 and in various positions within the Privy Council from 1789-1801. Throughout his time on the cabinet, Pitt continued his military service. In 1799 he was promoted to colonel of the 4th Regiment of Foot, and he served on the Continent later that year. From 1801-1806 and 1807-1810, Pitt was master-general of the ordnance, and he also served as governor of Plymouth and governor of Jersey. He commanded military actions on the Continent during the Napoleonic Wars, was promoted to general in January 1812, and was governor of Gibraltar from 1820 until his death. John Pitt, 2nd earl of Chatham, died on September 24, 1835.
William Pitt (also known as William Pitt the Younger) was born in Kent, England, on May 28, 1759. He attended Pembroke College at Cambridge University from 1773-1779, and studied law at Lincoln's Inn. He joined Parliament as a representative for Appleby in 1781 and became a member of the opposition. His ties to Lord Shelburne led to his appointment as chancellor of the exchequer in 1782 , and he declined the office of prime minister after the collapse of Shelburne's government in 1783. Later that year, he became first lord of the Treasury and prime minister. His first ministry lasted until his resignation in February 1801, prompted by disagreement with the king over Catholic emancipation. Pitt returned to political life after the declaration of war against France in 1803, and he served a second term as prime minister from 1804 until his death on January 23, 1806.
- Acquisition Information:
- 1934-1995. M-234, M-352, M-1082, M-1171, M-2126, M-3104 .
- Processing information:
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.
The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end. Three bound volumes hold additional manuscript letters by William Pitt; see the Scope and Content Note and Detailed Box and Folder Listing for more information.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
- Additional Descriptive Data:
The William L. Clements Library has many publications by and related to William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, and William Pitt the Younger. Search the library's catalog for more information.The Manuscripts Division has additional manuscripts by various members of the Pitt family in many other collections, such as the following:
- George Canning papers
- Henry Clinton papers
- William Dowdeswell papers
- George Sackville Germain papers
- George Grenville papers
- John Lee papers
- William Henry Lyttelton papers
- Viscounts Melville papers
- Charles Townshend papers
- Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney papers
Doorne, Christopher. "Pitt, John, second earl of Chatham (1756-1835). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition. Oxford University Press: 2008. DOI: 10.1093/ref:odnb/22330
Ehrman, J. P. W., and Anthony Smith. "Pitt, William (1759-1806)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition. Oxford University Press: 2009. DOI: 10.1093/ref:odnb/22338
Peters, Marie. "Pitt, William, first earl of Chatham [Pitt the elder] (1708-1778)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition. Oxford University Press: 2009. DOI: 10.1093/ref:odnb/22337
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815.
Seven Years' War, 1756-1763.
Orders (military records)
Great Britain. Parliament.
Coutts, Thomas, 1735-1822.
Rose, George, 1744-1818.
Albemarle, George Keppel, Earl of, 1724-1772.
Beaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de, 1732-1799.
Chatham, Hester Grenville Pitt, Countess of, 1720-1803.
Chatham, John Pitt, Earl of, 1756-1835.
Pitt, William, Earl of Chatham, 1708-1778.
Gardner, Alan Gardner, Baron, 1742-1809.
Hood, Samuel Hood, Viscount, 1724-1816.
Keene, Benjamin, Sir, 1697-1757.
Morris, Robert Hunter, ca. 1700-1764.
Pitt, William, 1759-1806.
Rochford, William Henry Nassau de Zuylestein, Earl of, 1717-1781.
Sandwich, John Montagu, Earl of, 1718-1792.
Stanhope, Hester Lucy, Lady, 1776-1839.
Sydney, John Thomas Townshend, Viscount, 1764-1831.
Sydney, Thomas Townshend, Viscount, 1733-1800.
Temple, Richard Grenville-Temple, Earl, 1711-1779.
Voront︠s︡ov, S. R. (Semen Romanovich), graf, 1744-1832.
Wellesley, Richard Wellesley, Marquess, 1760-1842.
Westmorland, John Fane, Earl of, 1686-1762.
Great Britain--Armed forces.
Great Britain--Foreign relations--1760-1820.
Great Britain--Politics and government--1714-1820.
United States--History--French and Indian War, 1754-1763.