Papers of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham

Scope and Content

Correspondence (originals and copies), reports, memoranda, and plans, mainly from the papers of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, as Master-General of the Ordnance, concerned with the proposed defences of various parts of England, particularly the South Coast, against the threatened invasion by Napoleon, the defences of Quebec, Trinidad and Ireland, projects for attacking the Spanish colonies in South America and details of ordnance to be supplied to various expeditions. Nos 89-98 (1804-1805, 1807) relate to Trinidad and Nos 99-102, concern projects for attacking the Spanish colonies. This subfonds also contains military correspondence and records from the papers of the commander of the 2nd Brigade in the Peninsula, Sir William Henry Pringle, who was married to John Pitt's neice, Harriot Hester Eliot.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham (1756-1835), army officer, was the eldest son of William Pitt the elder and the elder brother of William Pitt the younger (1759-1806). He joined the army in 1774, but resigned his commission in 1776 due to his father's opposition to the the American war, returning in 1778 when France entered the war. At the invitation of his brother, then prime minister, he became first Lord of the Admiralty in 1778 and was later a member of the Privy Council. In 1801 Chatham became Master-General of the Ordnance, a post he held until February 1806, and then from March 1807 to March 1810. In June 1809 he commanded the Walcheren expedition to sieze Antwerp and Flushing from Napoleon. Lack of resources made this an impossible task, but Chatham was blamed for its failure and in March 1810 he resigned as Master-General of the Ordnance. He was later Governor of Gibraltar until his death in September 1835.

Source: Christopher Doorne, 'Pitt, John, second earl of Chatham (1756-1835)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Related Material

See also English MS 1273, Correspondence of Lieutenant-General Sir William Henry Pringle (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 1273).