Yes, Prime Minister - A History Thread

Discussion in 'Writers' Corner' started by SoulPunisher, Aug 14, 2021.

  1. research/writing project I'm doing to get some studying notes on tap, thought I'd post it here in case anybody's interested in reading some quick biographies lol
  2. The Georgian Era: Part I - The Whig Supremacy (1720 - 1763)
    The Whig Party
    The Whig Party was a political party operating in the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland beginning in the 1680s, and became the dominant political force in the Kingdom of Great Britain upon its formation in 1707. They were formed out of the 'Roundhead' faction of the English Civil War (1642 - 1651), who attempted to curtail the powers of the monarch - after King Charles I lost the war, the Whigs were then purged from Parliament and the coup d'état installed a dictator-ruled military junta and executed the king. When the monarchy was reinstalled in 1660, they became a faction in Parliament who advocated a constitutional monarchy (where the monarch has little to no power) and purging Catholics and nonconformist Protestants from the country. They dominated British politics between 1715 and 1783.

    The Tory Party
    The Tory Party was a political party operating in the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland beginning in the 1670s. They formed out of the 'Cavalier' faction, people who believed the King should have absolute power and that Parliament shouldn't exist, of the English Civil War (1642 - 1651). After the monarchy's restoration, the Cavaliers dominated Parliament between 1660 and 1678, when Prince James, a Catholic, looked likely to inherit the throne and the Cavaliers were viewed as too sympathetic to him. James did indeed become King James II and had the full support of the Cavaliers, who were now called 'Tories' (the Irish word for 'thieves'), but he was deposed in 1688 and the Tories were purged from all positions of power. They backed all attempts to reinstall King James II as king, even the attempt to install his son, Charles, until the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The Tory Party believed in absolute monarchy (where the monarch is able to do whatever they want) and wanted equal rights for Catholics.

    The Patriot Party
    The Patriot Party was a faction of the Whig Party, created in 1725. It was created as anti-Walpole faction and an anti-executive faction, believing that Walpole himself was a man of dubious character prone to corruption, and that the (at the time, informal) office of Prime Minister was far too powerful and had to be destroyed. They also believed that the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of France were Great Britain's biggest international threat and that they had to be dealt with - a position echoed by the press and the commoners, whose anger and political voice with the Patriot Party forced Walpole's government to pursue the War of Jenkins' Ear with Spain. They found a leader in William Pitt the Elder, who pretty much created the British Empire.

    Prime Ministers
    Robert Walpole
    Robert Walpole was born in Houghton, Norfolk in 1676. He was one of the nineteen children of Colonel Robert Walpole, a Member of Parliament, and Mary Walpole, the daughter of a rich man called Sir Geoffrey Burwell. Walpole, like every child in England born into the upper class since the 1400s, attended Eton College, where he got good enough grades to be enrolled at the University of Cambridge, where he studied to become a member of the clergy; however, his father died when Robert was 22 years old, and as the sole inheritor of the Walpole estate, he dropped out of his studies.

    Following in his father's footsteps, Robert ran in the English general election of 1701, and was elected on a Whig Party ticket to become the Member of Parliament for Norfolk. By 1705, Queen Anne (the woman who formed the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707) of England, Scotland and Ireland appointed him to become a member of the Queen's Council and, in 1708, was appointed as the Secretary at War and was later appointed as the Treasurer of the Navy. This run of parliamentary good form came crashing down when he was found guilty of corruption and accepting bribes, and he was impeached by the House of Commons and sentenced to six months in the Tower of London, and was also kicked out of Parliament, by the House of Lords in 1712.

    Robert was seething at the impeachment and the loss of his parliamentary seat and, upon his release, started creating pamphlets attacking the Tory Party (who had led the impeachment trial against him) and helped Sir Richard Steele, the co-founder of The Spectator (a conservative magazine), attack the Tories in the press.

    He sought re-election at the 1713 general election and won the seat of King's Lynn, again on a Whig Party ticket. Queen Anne died the following year and was succeeded by King George I. King George I didn't like the Tory Party, believing that they didn't accept his claim to the throne, and with his clear anti-Tory stance, appointed Robert Walpole to the Privy Council and gave him the position of First Lord of the Treasury. The Privy Council was, however, led by Charles Spencer, the Earl of Sunderland, and Robert Walpole was merely an important underling. When King George I began acting in the interests of his other kingdom, the Electorate of Hanover (in Germany), rather than those of Great Britain, and was aided by Charles Spencer, Walpole resigned from all of these positions in protest in 1716.

    In 1720, the South Sea Bubble burst. The South Sea Company was a joint-stock trading company founded in 1711 to reduce Britain's national debt and it was granted a monopoly in trading African slaves to South America. It attracted lots of investors due to its ability to deal with the national debt, but the company couldn't even operate in South America, as Britain was at war with Spain at the time, who controlled South America - this, combined with ruinous insider trading, caused it to never make any money and it collapsed in 1720, destroying its shareholders' finances. Several members of the cabinet, including Charles Spencer, had engaged in the insider trading and were impeached for corruption. The impeachments left Walpole as the most powerful and most important person left in the cabinet; King George reinstated him as the First Lord of The Treasury and appointed him as the Leader of the House of Commons, as well as the Chancellor of The Exchequer, and Walpole was suddenly the most powerful parliamentarian in history - his Tory Party opponents called him 'the prime minister', effectively calling him a dictator, and it was a term he strongly disliked and rejected. King George I also awarded Walpole the mansion at Downing Street, which was a twenty minute walk away from Buckingham Palace, to accompany the First Lord of The Treasury title.

    The first duties of the first ever Prime Minister were to deal with the economic hit caused by the South Sea Bubble Burst; he introduced a sinking fund and kept Britain out of war in order to reduce the national debt. These policies allowed him to reduce taxes, causing him to be popular amongst Members of Parliament and merchants (who... tended to be the same people), and even though they couldn't vote, cheaper buying and selling prices kept the peasants happy. This popularity, combined with the influence of Queen Caroline, a personal friend of Walpole's, caused King George II to leave Walpole's position in government alone upon his accession.

    Walpole, eventually, spent two decades as 'Prime Minister', as his opponents - who were growing in number - called him. Prince Frederick, the son and heir of King George II, hated his own father and was thus an enemy of Walpole's. Prince Frederick, alongside new MPs like William Pitt the Elder and George Grenville, formed a group called the 'Patriot Party', dedicated to removing Walpole from power. The Treaty of Seville, signed in 1729, ended the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727 and gave up Britain's right to trade with Spanish colonies in North America - Spain used this as an excuse to board British ships, which enraged King George II and in 1739, the War of Jenkins' Ear broke out despite Walpole's attempts to stop it. Walpole's influence over the House of Commons eroded throughout numerous general elections, as the elections returned more and more MPs who were against him. Younger MPs, hoping to advance their political careers, thought that the Prime Minister was an old man close to running out of steam. Walpole, a year into his fourth term, lost a by-election and resigned from his cabinet positions in 1742. He died two years later - actually outliving his successor, Spencer Compton, who died a year into holding Walpole's positions.

    Henry Pelham
    Henry Pelham was born in 1694 to Thomas Pelham, a Member of Parliament, and Grace Pelham, Thomas' second wife and the daughter of another Member of Parliament. He grew up to study at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in 1709 and 1710 respectively. After graduating from Oxford, he enrolled in the English Army and was present at the Battle of Preston, fighting the Jacobite Rising, in 1715. At twenty-three years of age he left the army and was elected to the House of Commons in 1717.

    Pelham initially served as a Whig Party backbencher. That changed in 1721, when Robert Walpole appointed him as the Lord of The Treasury on merit of Pelham's heritage - he moved up through the cabinet until 1724, arriving at the post of Paymaster of the Forces and becoming one of the most influential MPs in the country: second only to the Prime Minister himself and his brother, Thomas Pelham. Despite this influence, after Walpole resigned, Henry was not chosen to succeed him and was passed over in favour of Spencer Compton - Compton died a year into his Prime Ministership, however, and the line of succession lined Henry up in its sights.

    Pelham was made the First Lord of The Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leader of the House of Commons in 1743. Henry removed Lord Carteret, an influential figure in the late stages of the Walpole Ministry and the dominant force in the Compton Ministry, from his positions and installed his brother, Thomas Pelham, in Carteret's place. The two brothers quickly found themselves at odds, however, on the matter of the War of The Austrian Succession (1740 - 1748): Henry wanted to pull Great Britain out of it, while Thomas wanted to get more involved in it. Once the war was over, however, Henry was able to cut land tax, consolidate Great Britain's national debt, reduced interest rates, and cut Great Britain's military spending in half. He also passed the Jew Bill of 1753, which allowed Jewish people to become citizens of England.

    Throughout Henry's tenure as Prime Minister, the relationship between King George II and his son and heir, Prince Frederick, continued to decline. Henry disliked Frederick's hostility to his office and got King George II to shift certain powers, such as the ability to remove a Prime Minister, to the House of Commons rather than have it be within the remit of the King. Frederick, enraged by this, aligned himself with the Tory Party and, in 1748, led the Tory attempt to remove Henry from office - Henry countered this by dissolving Parliament and calling an early election, which returned a healthy amount MPs supportive to Henry.

    Henry died in office in 1754.
  3. Thomas Pelham
    Thomas Pelham was the older half-brother of Henry Pelham, born in 1693 to Thomas Pelham Snr. and his first wife, Grace Holles, the sister of the Duke of Newcastle. He studied at the University of Cambridge, enrolling in 1710, when his uncle died - Thomas was his uncle's chosen heir, and so Thomas became the Duke of Newcastle in 1711, immediately becoming one of the wealthiest landowners in the Kingdom of Great Britain and joining the House of Lords.

    Thomas was more militant and more violent than his younger brother, and was far less open to compromise. He would organise mobs to fight Jacobites in the streets of London and, for his services, was inducted into the Knight of the Garter by King George I in 1715, leading him to create an anti-Jacobite volunteer force that patrolled the counties under his Dukedom. During this time, he also aligned himself closely with Robert Walpole and became one of his key allies, and sought to further strengthen his Whig Party credentials by marrying Lady Henrietta Godolphin, the granddaughter of the Duke of Marlborough - a Whig who played a key role in the Glorious Revolution and the War of the Spanish Succession.

    Thomas was appointed Lord Chamberlain, the director of the Royal Household, in 1717. In this role he became responsible for silencing Jacobite dissent, censoring any theatre plays that were deemed critical of King George I. He and the Lady Godolphin used the benefits provided by this high position, so close to the royals, to throw lavish parties and ingratiate themselves into London's high society and organise fox hunts. Thomas also invested £4,000 (£845,000 in 2020 money) into the South Sea Company, losing the investment upon the collapse of the bubble in 1720. Henry and Thomas fell out over this, with Henry believing that Thomas was wasting the family's finances.

    Despite his debauched lifestyle and getting caught up in the collapse of the South Sea Bubble, Thomas advanced his political career when, in 1724, he was appointed the Secretary of State for the Southern Department and was put in charge of Britain's foreign policy. Thomas was in charge of co-ordinating Britain's side of the Quadruple Alliance, an alliance between the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of France, the Habsburg Empire, and the Dutch Republic, formed to thwart Spanish attempts at European dominance. When the War of the Polish Succession broke out in 1733 and the rest of the Quadruple Alliance got involved, Thomas went against Robert Walpole's belief that Britain had no dog in the fight and was sidelined, being relegated to managing colonial affairs and appointing bishops. Ever the greedy disgusting pig, Thomas used this position to enlarge his wealth. Tensions between Thomas and Walpole arose again in 1738, when Walpole opposed going to war with Spain over Jenkins' Ear but Thomas spoke in Parliament in favour of it, arguing that the Spanish Empire was crumbling and ripe for a successor - although he did privately attempt to avert war. War broke out nevertheless, and Thomas was put in charge of the war effort, becoming the British poster boy for 'patriotism'. The British war effort fell apart in 1748, when the Battle of Cartagena de Indias ended in the deaths of thousands of British soldiers and in a Spanish victory - despite Thomas issuing the order to carry out the siege, the blame fell firmly at Walpole's feet. The event led Walpole to consider his resignation and Horace Walpole, Robert's son, maintained that Thomas had betrayed him.

    When Henry became Prime Minister in 1743, Thomas was kept in his role and, after the removal of Lord Charteret, inherited those positions too, becoming the second most powerful member of the government behind only the Prime Minister. Throughout Henry's tenure as Prime Minister, Thomas' eyes were on Europe - he believed that the continent needed a stable network of alliances, centred around the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Austrian Empire, to prevent cyclical devastating wars (a system that would be echoed by Otto von Bismarck 130 years later) breaking out. He came under attack from the Patriot Party, however, who argued that the European theatre was increasingly irrelevant and dominance over North America was more important than involvement in Europe.

    After Henry died in office in 1753, Thomas was approached by King George II to become Prime Minister. Thomas initially refused, but he recognised that there wasn't really anyone else to turn to and accepted the role anyway. He began shedding some of the roles that had been given to Robert Walpole and passed down to Henry, however - namely, he appointed someone else as the Leader of the House of Commons; William Pitt the Elder, the de facto Leader of the Patriot Party and the favourite to receive the title, was passed over in favour of Sir Thomas Robinson, a diplomat who Thomas perceived as 'weak' and easily kept in line. He kept hold of his ability to direct foreign affairs, however, and soon found himself under pressure from the Patriot Party to expand Britain's holdings in North America - to do this, the Thirteen Colonies would have to expand into Ohio, seize Nova Scotia, and royally aggravate the Kingdom of France. At the same time, Austria was distrustful of Great Britain and decided to break the alliance with Britain and ally themselves with France. The Kingdom of Prussia then attacked Austria and kicked off the Seven Years' War, and Great Britain and Prussia informally allied themselves with one another. The war did not begin well, and after Britain lost Menorca to France in 1756, Thomas was forced to resign - many called for his head, but Thomas pinned the blame on John Byng, an officer in the Royal Navy, and executed him by firing squad before leaving office. He was succeeded by William Cavendish.

    But not for long! William Pitt the Elder attempted to seize the Prime Ministership from Cavendish in 1757 but was unable to get enough support from the House of Commons, forcing him to turn to Thomas Pelham: the two brokered a political alliance - Thomas would become Prime Minister again, but Pitt would become the Secretary at War, direct the British war effort, and be the second most powerful man in government. Pelham and Pitt sent a British contingent to fight for Prussia, while they launched invasions of French colonies in Africa and North America - this left Great Britain largely undefended, and the British Government caught wind of a French plan to invade Britain in 1759, but this was scrapped after the French lost the Battle of Lagos.

    This new lease on political life for Pelham did not last long. In 1760, King George II died and was succeeded by his grandson, King George III. King George III did not like Pelham or Pitt, and in 1762 dismissed them from their positions, installing John Stuart as Prime Minister.

    Thomas Pelham remained in Parliament but never made any big political moves ever again, pretty much retiring and spending the rest of his days at Claremont House, his mansion. He died in 1768.

    John Stuart
    John Stuart was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1713, the son of James Stuart, the Earl of Bute, and the Lady Anne Campbell, daughter of the Duke of Argyll. Like Robert Walpole, at the age of eleven he was shipped off to Eton College and, after that, went to study civil law at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He returned to Scotland in 1735, when he eloped with Mary Montagu, the daughter of the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

    He moved to Westminster, England in 1745, where he befriended Prince Frederick and was selected to tutor his son, Prince George. Frederick died in 1751, but Stuart was a close friend of his wife and became a father-like figure to Prince George. When King George II died in 1760 and Prince George became King George III, John Stuart was given a permanent spot in the House of Lords, where he aligned himself with the Tory Party. William Pitt the Elder and King George III immediately butted heads over the issue of the Seven Years' War, and Pitt was forced to resign in 1761 - John Stuart was appointed in his place. Prime Minister Thomas Pelham, despite resenting John Stuart's rapid rise, was willing to work with him, but when Stuart abandoned Great Britain's alliance with the Kingdom of Prussia, Pelham resigned in 1762. King George III appointed Stuart as Prime Minister.

    Stuart was the first Prime Minister from Scotland and he was also the first to not be from the Whig Party, becoming the first ever Tory Prime Minister. He brought a swift end to the Seven Years' War, negotiating and signing the Treaty of Paris in 1763 - Thomas Pelham and William Pitt criticised the treaty, believing it to be 'too lenient' on the Kingdom of France and not making enough use out of the American colonies that could've been seized. Because of the large French presence left in North America, Stuart raised taxes on the Thirteen Colonies, believing that they should be paying for their own army that, to deal with the French and Spanish, should have been larger. He also introduced the Cider Tax... a tax on, well, cider.

    Stuart immediately became unpopular with the common people for the tax increases and, after John Wilkes, a journalist, accused Stuart of having an affair with King George III's mother, Stuart tendered his resignation as Prime Minister in 1763 after just a year in the position. He remained in the House of Lords and remained friends with the Queen-Mother, but was never really on speaking terms with King George III again and he largely retired to his mansion in Hampshire, where he pursued a hobby in botany (even getting a plant, Stewartia, named after him). The expression 'Jack Boot' came into use after his premiership, apparently a reference to his poor performance as Prime Minister. He died in 1792.