William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath
Overview
 
William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath, PC (22 March 1684 – 7 July 1764) was an English politician
Politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

, a Whig, created the first Earl of Bath
Earl of Bath
Earl of Bath was a title that was created five times in British history, three times in the Peerage of England, once in the Peerage of Great Britain and once Peerage of the United Kingdom...

 in 1742 by King George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

; he is sometimes stated to have been Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

, for the shortest term ever (two days), though most modern sources reckon that he cannot be considered to have held the office.
The son of William Pulteney by his first wife, Mary Floyd, he was born in March 1684 into an old Leicestershire
Leicestershire
Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. It takes its name from the heavily populated City of Leicester, traditionally its administrative centre, although the City of Leicester unitary authority is today administered separately from the rest of Leicestershire...

 family.
Quotations

The army causes taxes, the taxes cause discontents, & the discontents are alledged to make an army necessary. Category:Political leaders|Political leaders Category:18th century deaths

Encyclopedia
William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath, PC (22 March 1684 – 7 July 1764) was an English politician
Politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

, a Whig, created the first Earl of Bath
Earl of Bath
Earl of Bath was a title that was created five times in British history, three times in the Peerage of England, once in the Peerage of Great Britain and once Peerage of the United Kingdom...

 in 1742 by King George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

; he is sometimes stated to have been Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

, for the shortest term ever (two days), though most modern sources reckon that he cannot be considered to have held the office.

Background and early career

The son of William Pulteney by his first wife, Mary Floyd, he was born in March 1684 into an old Leicestershire
Leicestershire
Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. It takes its name from the heavily populated City of Leicester, traditionally its administrative centre, although the City of Leicester unitary authority is today administered separately from the rest of Leicestershire...

 family. He was educated at Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 and at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, matriculating on 31 October 1700. He acquired extensive classical knowledge, and on leaving Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 made the usual tour on the continent. In 1705, he was brought into parliament by Henry Guy (former secretary of the Treasury
Treasury
A treasury is either*A government department related to finance and taxation.*A place where currency or precious items is/are kept....

) for the Yorkshire borough of Hedon
Hedon (UK Parliament constituency)
Hedon, sometimes spelt Heydon, was a parliamentary borough in the East Riding of Yorkshire, represented by two Members of Parliament in the House of Commons briefly in the 13th century and again from 1547 to 1832.-History:...

. This seat was held by him without a break until 1734.

Throughout the reign of Queen Anne
Anne of Great Britain
Anne ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.Anne's Catholic father, James II and VII, was deposed during the...

 William Pulteney played a prominent part in the struggles of the Whigs
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

, and was involved in the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell
Henry Sacheverell
Henry Sacheverell was an English High Church clergyman and politician.-Early life:The son of Joshua Sacheverell, rector of St Peter's, Marlborough,...

. When the victorious Tories sent his friend Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, KG, KB, PC , known before 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British statesman who is generally regarded as having been the first Prime Minister of Great Britain....

 to the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 in 1712, Pulteney championed his cause in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 and with the leading Whigs visited him in prison.

Ministerial offices

Pulteney was secretary of war from 1714 to 1717 in the first ministry of George I, and was on the committee of secrecy on the Treaty of Utrecht, formed in April 1715. Two years later, on 6 July 1716, he became one of the privy council
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

. When Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend Bt, KG, PC was a British Whig statesman. He served for a decade as Secretary of State, directing British foreign policy...

 was dismissed, in April 1717, from his post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was the British King's representative and head of the Irish executive during the Lordship of Ireland , the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

, and Walpole resigned, they were followed in their retirement by Pulteney. The crash of the South Sea Company restored Walpole to the highest position, but all he offered to Pulteney was a peerage. The offer was rejected, but in May 1723 Pulteney agreed to accept the lucrative but insignificant post of Cofferer of the Household
Cofferer of the Household
The Cofferer of the Household was formerly an office in the English and British Royal Household.The holder had special charge over other officers of the household and was an officer of state and a member of the Privy Council and the Board of Green Cloth....

. However, when he found himself neglected, he opposed the proposition of Walpole to discharge the debts of the civil list
Civil list
-United Kingdom:In the United Kingdom, the Civil List is the name given to the annual grant that covers some expenses associated with the Sovereign performing their official duties, including those for staff salaries, State Visits, public engagements, ceremonial functions and the upkeep of the...

, and in April 1725 was dismissed from his sinecure
Sinecure
A sinecure means an office that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service...

.

Patriot Whigs

From the day of his dismissal to that of his ultimate triumph, Pulteney remained in opposition, forming the Patriot Whigs
Patriot Whigs
The Patriot Whigs and, later Patriot Party, was a group within the Whig party in Great Britain from 1725 to 1803. The group was formed in opposition to the ministry of Robert Walpole in the House of Commons in 1725, when William Pulteney and seventeen other Whigs joined with the Tory party in...

, a group of fellow Whigs who felt that Walpole was corrupt and tyrannical. Walpole attempt's 1730 at conciliation with the offer of Townshend's place and of a peerage was spurned. Pulteney's resentment was not confined to his speeches in parliament. With Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories, and supported the Church of England politically despite his atheism. In 1715 he supported the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 which sought to overthrow the...

 he started, in December 1726, a periodical called The Craftsman, and in its pages the minister was incessantly denounced for many years. Lord Hervey published an attack on the Craftsman, and Pulteney, either openly or behind the person of Amhurst, its editor, replied to the attack. Whether the question at issue was the civil list, the excise, the income of the Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales was a member of the House of Hanover and therefore of the Hanoverian and later British Royal Family, the eldest son of George II and father of George III, as well as the great-grandfather of Queen Victoria...

, or the state of domestic affairs, Pulteney was ready with a pamphlet, and the minister or one of his friends came out with a reply. For his "Proper reply to a late scurrilous libel" (Craftsman, 1731), an answer to "Sedition and defamation displayed," he was challenged to a duel by Lord Hervey; for another, "An answer to one part of an infamous libel entitled remarks on the Craftsman's indication of his two honourable patrons," he was in July 1731 struck off the roll of privy councillors and dismissed from the commission of the peace in several counties. In print Pulteney was inferior to Bolingbroke alone among the antagonists of Walpole, but in parliament, from which Bolingbroke was excluded, he excelled. When the sinking fund
Sinking fund
A sinking fund is a fund established by a government agency or business for the purpose of reducing debt by repaying or purchasing outstanding loans and securities held against the entity. It helps keep the borrower liquid so it can repay the bondholder....

 was appropriated in 1733 he led the denunciation; when the excise scheme in the same year was stirring popular feeling to its lowest depths the passion of the multitude broke out in his oratory. Walpole managed to avoid the fall of his ministry. Bolingbroke withdrew to France on the suggestion, it is said, of Pulteney, and the opposition was weakened by the dissensions of the leaders.

From the general election of 1734 until his elevation to the peerage, Pulteney sat for Middlesex
Middlesex (UK Parliament constituency)
Middlesex is a former United Kingdom Parliamentary constituency. It was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of England then of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1885....

. For some years after this election the minister's assailants made little progress in their attack, but in 1738 the troubles with Spain supplied them with the opportunity which they desired. Walpole long argued for peace, but he was feebly supported by his own cabinet, and the frenzy of the people for war knew no bounds. In an evil moment for his own reputation he consented to remain in office and to gratify popular passion with a war against Spain. His downfall was not long deferred. War was declared in 1739, a new parliament was summoned in the summer of 1741, and over the divisions on the election petitions the ministry of Walpole fell to pieces.

The task of forming the new administration was after some delay entrusted to Pulteney, who offered the post of First Lord of the Treasury
First Lord of the Treasury
The First Lord of the Treasury is the head of the commission exercising the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer in the United Kingdom, and is now always also the Prime Minister...

 (Prime Minister) to the Earl of Wilmington
Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington
Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington KG, KB, PC was a British Whig statesman who served continuously in government from 1715 until his death. He served as the nominal head of government from 1742 until his death in 1743, but was merely a figurehead for the true leader of the government, Lord...

, and contented himself with a seat in the cabinet and a peerage, still hoping to retain his supremacy in the ministry. This made him unpopular, and his influence dwindled to nothing.

Horace Walpole asserts that when Pulteney wished to withdraw from the peerage it was forced upon him by the king, and another chronicler of the times records that when Walpole and Pulteney met in the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, the one as Earl of Orford
Earl of Orford
Earl of Orford is a title that has been created three times. The first creation came in the Peerage of England in 1697 in favour of the naval commander Edward Russell, who served three times as First Lord of the Admiralty. He was created Baron Shingay and Viscount Barfleur at the same time...

, the other as Earl of Bath, the remark was made by Orford: "Here we are, my lord, the two most insignificant fellows in England." On 14 July 1742 Pulteney was created Baron Pulteney of Heydon, Viscount Pulteney of Wrington, Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, and Earl of Bath
Earl of Bath
Earl of Bath was a title that was created five times in British history, three times in the Peerage of England, once in the Peerage of Great Britain and once Peerage of the United Kingdom...

. On 20 February he had been restored to his rank in the privy council. At Wilmington's death in 1743 he made application to the king
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

 for the post of First Lord of the Treasury, only to find that it had been conferred on Henry Pelham
Henry Pelham
Henry Pelham was a British Whig statesman, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 27 August 1743 until his death in 1754...

.

Prime minister

On 10 February 1746, Pelham's administration resigned en masse, and the king turned to Bath to form an alternative ministry. He accepted the seals of office and made nominations
Short-lived Ministry
The Short-lived Ministry, also known as the Bath-Granville Ministry was a British government that existed briefly. On 10 February 1746, following the resignation of the government of Henry Pelham, the Earl of Bath undertook the formation of a ministry...

 to the most senior posts, but it quickly became clear that he did not have enough support to form a viable government, and after "48 hours, three quarters, seven minutes, and eleven seconds" he abandoned the attempt, forcing the king to accept Pelham's terms for resuming office. As the office of Prime Minister did not then officially exist, it is a matter of controversy whether Bath should be considered to have been Prime Minister by virtue of his two-day ministry.

Bath's failed attempt to form a government brought him much ridicule. Horace Walpole recorded the joke that "Granville
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville
John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville, 7th Seigneur of Sark, KG, PC , commonly known by his earlier title as Lord Carteret, was a British statesman and Lord President of the Council from 1751 to 1763.-Family:...

 and Bath were met going about the streets, calling 'Odd Man', as the hackney chairmen do when they want a partner", and a contemporary pamphlet satirically praised him for "the most wise and honest of all administrations, the minister having ... never transacted one rash thing; and, what is more marvellous, left as much money in the T[reasur]y as he found in it."

Death and legacy

An occasional pamphlet and an infrequent speech were afterwards the sole fruits of Bath's talents. His praises whilst in retirement have been sung by two bishops, Zachary Pearce
Zachary Pearce
Zachary Pearce, sometimes known as Zachariah , was an English Bishop of Bangor and Bishop of Rochester. He was a controversialist and a notable early critical writer defending John Milton, attacking Richard Bentley's 1732 edition of Paradise Lost the following year.-Life:Pearce was born the son of...

 and Thomas Newton
Thomas Newton
Thomas Newton was an English cleric, biblical scholar and author. He served as the Bishop of Bristol from 1761 to 1782....

. He was buried on 17 July 1764, in his own vault in Islip chapel, Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. He married on 27 December 1714 Anna Maria, daughter and co-heiress of John Gumley of Isleworth
Isleworth
Isleworth is a small town of Saxon origin sited within the London Borough of Hounslow in west London, England. It lies immediately east of the town of Hounslow and west of the River Thames and its tributary the River Crane. Isleworth's original area of settlement, alongside the Thames, is known as...

, commissary general to the army who was often satirized by the wits of the day (Notes and Queries
Notes and Queries
Notes and Queries is a long-running quarterly scholarly journal that publishes short articles related to "English language and literature, lexicography, history, and scholarly antiquarianism". Its emphasis is on "the factual rather than the speculative"...

, 3rd S. iI. 40 2-403, ~ 490). She died on 14 September 1758, and their only son William Pulteney
William Pulteney, Viscount Pulteney
William Pulteney, Viscount Pulteney was a British Whig politician and soldier.He was the only son of William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath and his wife Anna Maria Gumley, daughter of John Gumley. Pulteney was educated at Westminster School from 1740 to 1747 and began his Grand Tour in the following...

 died unmarried at Madrid on 12 February 1763. Pulteney's vast fortune came in 1767 to Frances, wife of William Johnstone and daughter and co-heiress of his cousin, Daniel Pulteney
Daniel Pulteney
Daniel Pulteney was an English government official and Member of Parliament.Pulteney was the son of John Pulteney , MP for Hastings and Commissioner of Customs, and Lucy Colville. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford, matriculating in 1699.He was one of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations...

, a bitter antagonist of Walpole in parliament, and had taken the name of Pulteney.

Of business he was never fond, and the loss in 1734 of his trusted friend John Merrill, who had supplied the qualities which he lacked, was lamented by him in a letter to Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

. His chief weakness was a passion for money.

The town Poultney, Vermont
Poultney, Vermont
Poultney is a village in Rutland County of the U.S. state of Vermont. The village is entirely within the town of Poultney. The population was 1,612 at the 2010 census...

and Poultney River were named for him.
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