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Henry Pelham

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The Rt Hon. Henry Pelham
Henry Pelham
Term: 27 August 17436 March 1754
Predecessor: The Earl of Wilmington
Successor: The Duke of Newcastle
Date of Birth: 25 September 1694
Place of Birth: Laughton, Sussex
Date of Death: 6 March 1754
Place of Death: London
Political Party: n/a (Whig)
Missing image
Henry-Pelham-arms.PNG
Arms of Henry Pelham

Henry Pelham (September 25, 1694 - March 6, 1754) was a British Whig statesman, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from February 14, 1743 to his death about ten years later. For the first year of his premiership, real power was held by the Secretary of State for the Northern Department John Carteret, 3rd Baron Carteret, who headed the Carteret Ministry (Pelham was First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons). Thereafter, he shared power with his brother, The Duke of Newcastle; this period was relatively uneventful in terms of domestic affairs (Great Britain fought in several wars, however). Upon his death, his brother took full control of the ministry.

Pelham, Newcastle's younger brother, was a younger son of Thomas Pelham, 1st Baron Pelham of Laughton and of Lady Grace Holles, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Clare. He was educated by a private tutor and at Christ Church, Oxford, which he entered in July 1710. As a volunteer he served in Dormer's regiment at the Battle of Preston in 1715, spent some time on the Continent, and in 1717 entered Parliament for Seaford in Sussex which he represented until 1722.

Through strong family influence and the recommendation of Robert Walpole he was chosen in 1721 a Lord of the Treasury. The following year he was returned for Sussex county. In 1724 he entered the ministry as Secretary at War, but this office he exchanged in 1730 for the more lucrative one of Paymaster of the Forces. He made himself conspicuous by his support of Walpole on the question of the excise, and in 1742 a union of parties resulted in the formation of an administration in of which Pelham became Prime Minister the following year, with the offices of First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. The following year Carteret was forced out of the ministry and Pelham was regarded as the leading figure, but rank and influence made his brother very powerful in the Cabinet, and, in spite of a genuine attachment, there were occasional disputes between them, which led to difficulties.

Being strongly in favour of peace, Pelham carried on the War of the Austrian Succession with languor and indifferent success, but the country, wearied of the interminable struggle, was disposed to acquiesce in his foreign policy almost without a murmur. King George II, thwarted in his own favourite schemes, made overtures in 1746 to Lord Bath, but his purpose was upset by the resignation of the two Pelhams (Henry and Newcastle), who, at the King's request, resumed office.

In 1749, the Consolidation Act was passed, reorganising the Royal Navy. On 20 March 1751, the British calendar was reorganised as well (that day became 1 January); Britain would adopt the Gregorian calendar one year later. One of Pelham's final acts was the Marriage Act 1753, which enumerated the minimum age of consent for marriage. Upon his death, his brother (the aforementioned Duke of Newcastle) took over government.

His very defects were among the chief elements of Pelham's success, for one with a strong personality, moderate self-respect, or high conceptions of statesmanship could not have restrained the discordant elements of the cabinet for any length of time. Moreover, he possessed tact and a thorough acquaintance with the forms of the House of Commons. Whatever quarrels or insubordination might exist within the cabinet, they never broke out into open revolt. Nor can a high degree of praise be denied to his financial policy, especially his plans for the reduction of the national debt and the simplification and consolidation of its different branches.

Pelham had married in 1726 Lady Catherine Manners, daughter of the John Manners, 2nd Duke of Rutland; and one of his daughters married Henry Clinton who by this marriage subsequently became the 2nd Duke of Newcastle.


Preceded by:
Thomas Trevor
Secretary at War
1724–1730
Succeeded by:
Sir William Strickland
Preceded by:
The Lord Wilmington
Paymaster of the Forces
1730–1743
Succeeded by:
Thomas Winnington
Preceded by:
The Earl of Wilmington
Prime Minister
1743–1754
Succeeded by:
The Duke of Newcastle

Template:Succession box one to two Template:End box

References

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