Why was Pitt able to dominate politics between 1783 and 1793?
In the late 18th century, William Pitt managed to turn what looked like an unstable political situation, the government being known as the “Mince-pie administration”, into a period of dominance for him and his supporters. So strong was his hold on politics at the time that he was able to pass an India Bill in 1784, just two years after Fox’s version of the bill had been rejected and forced the Fox-North coalition out of power. Pitt also had many successes financially, never having trouble in passing his budgets between 1783 and 1993. So how did Pitt manage to gain such a stronghold on British Politics in this key decade of British history?
Even though by this decade the Monarchy did not have the feudal power it had held in the 16th century, King George III was crucial in creating Pitt’s dominance. For any government to be successful it needed the backing of the King. This had been shown by the failure of the Fox-North coalition due to the King refusing to use royal patronage during the period. Royal influence created and maintained much of Pitt’s support. In 1784 alone, the King created 119 new peerages. He tactically gave titles to men who had influence over men in the Commons. For example, he gave a peerage to the second son of the Duke of Northumberland, leading to six of the Duke’s seven loyalists becoming supporters of the new government. All this led to Pitt having an ever increasing majority in Parliament, making it easier and easier for him to carry out his plans.
What was also a key to Pitt’s success was that the King bestowed a large amount of confidence and trust in Pitt. He let Pitt get on with the business of running the country without much interference. Even when Pitt brought up the topic of constitutional reform, something the King had been strongly opposed to, the King did not get involved. Their relationship was professional rather than friendly, but it worked well. The confidence the King had in Pitt made it hard for any opposition of the government to try and sway the King’s favour, and in the end most gave up, realising it was hopeless and thinking that the King would soon die and his Foxite-friendly son would come to the throne. It can be argued that without the backing of the King, Pitt wouldn’t have been half as dominant in this crucial decade.
There is an argument suggesting that luck played a major part in Pitt’s success. Pitt proved to be the perfect leader for this decade, but how would he have coped under different circumstances? Later in his career he was much less successful during in dealing with a nation at war with France. This decade of dominance therefore could have just been a case of being in the right place at the right time. For the previous two years prior to Pitt’s election British government had been extremely unstable, going through three short-lasting administrations. Britain needed a strong, intelligent leader to restore balance to politics. Pitt fit this bill. His main opposition, Charles James Fox, and his followers were seen by many as to have been part of the unstable period of government, and support for them was dwindling. The followers or Lord North had had enough of the Fox-North coalition and some started to side with the incumbent government. The independents as usual decided to support the government. Britain’s economic situation, although it looked grim on the surface, was actually rather strong in foundation. Pitt was also lucky not to inherit any conflicts of any sort. With little foreign policy issues to deal with, he was able to concentrate on domestic policy, which made him ever more popular. All in all, after some initial struggle in 1782, Pitt was given a very good situation to work with, so therefore I would say there is some validity to the “right place, right time” argument.
Whilst to a certain extent the situation was no longer in his hands, Fox’s failures as an opposition leader...
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