I tell you, Citizens, we mean to new-dress the Constitution, and turn it, and set a new Nap upon it.
Robespierre’s Reign of Terror spawned an evil little twin in William Pitt the Younger’s Reign of Alarm, 1792-1798 … Many lives and careers were ruined in Britain as a result of the alarmist regime Pitt set up to suppress domestic dissent while waging his disastrous wars against republican France. Liberal young writers and intellectuals whose enthusiasm for the American and French revolutions raised hopes for Parliamentary reform at home saw their prospects blasted. Over a hundred trials for treason or sedition (more than ever before or since in British history) were staged against ‘the usual suspects’ - that is, political activists. But other, informal, vigilante means were used against the ‘unusual suspects’ …: jobs lost, contracts abrogated, engagements broken off, fellowships terminated, inheritances denied, and so on and on. As in the McCarthy era in 1950s America, blacklisting and rumor-mongering did as much damage as legal repression. Dozens of ‘almost famous’ writers saw their promising careers nipped in the bud: people like Helen Maria Williams, James Montgomery, William Frend, Gilbert Wakefield, John Thelwall [pictured by Gillray, above], Joseph Priestley, Dr. Thomas Beddoes, Francis Wrangham and many others…From the blurb to a book I haven’t read yet, Unusual Suspects: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s, by Kenneth R. Johnston (2013).
The Home Secretary at the time was the Duke of Portland. This is what his biographer has to say about “Pitt’s Terror”:
The [Parliamentary Secret Committee, 1799] concluded … that there existed ‘the clearest proofs of a systematic design … to overturn the laws, constitution and government’ of Britain and Ireland … Although historians have not accepted the full extent of the committee’s arguments … the insurrectionary dangers of the later 1790s are no longer dismissed as alarmist delusions or cynical inventions. The ensuing round of repressive legislation, though offensive to liberal consciences, appeared justified to many contemporaries. Indeed, the tone of recent analysis has not turned so much upon disputes about the seriousness of the threat, as upon the individual historian’s viewpoint on the question whether the avoidance of revolution in Britain was a lamentable misfortune or a commendable triumph.From The Duke of Portland, by David Wilkinson (2003).
The coalition between Portland and Pitt certainly played a significant role in the prevention of revolution in Britain. The most serious accusation against this ministry is that unnecessarily repressive policies actually created the revolutionary danger which in turn necessitated further repression. There is some validity in this interpretation, but it hinges on the notion that gradual and progressive change was both desirable and feasible at this time. Although the British reform movement, by and large, expressed genuine abhorrence at revolutionary violence in its early stages, it nevertheless constituted a radical threat to established authority. Parliamentary reform was not a viable option under prevailing circumstances. Patriotism provided a potent line of argument that reform was a damaging distraction during wartime. Extra-parliamentary pressure could not elicit sufficient support at Westminster: the disintegration of the Whig party and the formation of the Pitt-Portland coalition made that fact patently obvious. Agitation if left unchecked must therefore have led to conflict with parliament and the crown … The mass protests of 1795 could not be ignored; and, sweeping as the provisions of the Gagging Acts undoubtedly were, they embodied an honourable objective of minimising the encroachment on civil liberties. Likewise, powers under the suspension of habeas corpus were exercised, in George III’s phrase, ‘with the greatest moderation’.
Francis II,William Pitt
manga by tetsuya hasegawa
You’re my bess mate, you are… lessgo fight the French.
You may remember you promised me the use of your Anderson’s Dictionary of Commerce, which you fancied was in your London collection. If you can find it and spare it, and will trust me with it, pray send it to Savile Street. Send me word at the same time that I shall see you at Brighton. I shall be in town to-morrow, and probably set out on Thursday.
Brighthelmstone, Wednesday, Aug 6, 1783.Dear Wilberforce,
Anderson’s Dictionary I have received, and am much obliged to you for it. I will return it safe, I hope not dirtied, and possibly not read.
Ever sincerely yrs,
William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, (1738–1809). Served as First Lord of the Treasury (ie Prime Minister) in 1783 (as a Whig - this was the famous Fox-North coalition), and again from 1807 to 1809 (as a Tory). The 24 years between these two terms is the longest gap between terms of office of any Prime Minister.
When he took office for the second time, in March 1807, these verses appeared in the Morning Chronicle:
BY THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Full well I know the people say,
That “P——-d’s Duke has had his day,
”He totters on a crutch;
“His brain, by sickness long depressed,
“Has lost the sense it once possessed,
Though that’s not losing much.
“Let him, in his official seat,
“Again attempt to lie and cheat,
”To fawn and lick the dust;
“He’s too well known to be believed,
“And none, you know, can be deceived
”By him whom none can trust.”
But spite of all the world can say,
My talents yet feel no decay,
They’re what they were before;
And now, at sixty nine, I still
Can fold my paper, point my quill;—
And when did I do more?
Large parties, too, I still invite,
Nor these as services too slight,
Ye Tory friends, contemn;
The Whigs, those Whigs who knew me well
For thirty tedious years, can tell
I did no more for them.
Then what’s such idle talk about,
Think ye that age shall keep me out,
No! if so old I grow,
Less time to lose I thence infer,
And as to friends and character,
I lost them long ago.
Really possessed of powers to explore and touch the finest strings of the human heart, and bound by his sacred profession to devote those powers to the service of religion and virtue, he every where discovers a studious solicitude to excite indecent ideas. We turn away our eyes with disgust from open immodesty: but even this is less mischievous than that more measured style, which excites impure images, without shocking us by the grossness of the language. … Instead of employing his talents for the beneﬁt of his fellow-creatures, they were applied to the pernicious purposes of corrupting the national taste, and of lowering the standard of manners and morals. The tendency of his writings is to vitiate that purity of mind, intended by Providence as the companion and preservative of youthful virtue; and to produce, if the expression may be permitted, a morbid sensibility in the perception of indecency. An imagination exercised in this discipline, is never clean, but seeks for and discovers something indelicate in the most common phrases and actions of ordinary life. If the general style of writing and conversation were to be formed on that model, to which Sterne used his utmost endeavours to conciliate the minds of men, there is no estimating the effects which would soon be produced on the manners and morals of the age.
Sterne’s sales after this (I suspect):
Amazing Grace: William Pitt [INTJ]
Introverted Intuition (Ni): discarding excess information to focus on a single goal, planning for the future
Extroverted Thinking (Te): taking swift, judgmental action, to change events in the world around them
Introverted Feeling (Fi): the need to remain true to one’s personal beliefs, no desire to negotiate
Extroverted Sensing (Se): living in the moment, enjoying dangerous experiences
William Pitt sets out to become the youngest Prime Minister in history, and makes it happen (Ni-Te). His forward-focus is both an asset to his friend Wilberforce and to his political career, as he is forever preparing for the next war or upheaval in the House of Commons (Ni). He develops a lifelong intention to assist Wilberforce in abolishing the slave trade (Ni), but prefers to work behind the scenes so as not to damage his career (Te). He is a man of action, driven to practical, real-life application and solutions (Te).
His reasons for supporting abolition are personal and rarely shared with anyone else; despite their common goal, Pitt has very different ideas than Wilberforce and has no problems stating them (Fi). He is quick to seize opportunities when he sees them and enjoys testing the limits of his strength now and again, but finds it difficult to live in the moment (inferior Se).
From what I remember of Amazing Grace, this is a fair assessment of Pitt’s character in the film. But I’m more interested in the real Pitt, so I hopped over to Wikipedia to read up about MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), Masterminds and the INTJ personality type.
This is from the article on Masterminds, who correlate primarily with the INTJ type, and make up about 1% of the population. Anyone who has studied Pitt will find much of this description strangely familiar:
Masterminds are introspective, logical, rational, pragmatic, clear-headed, directive, and attentive. As strategists, they are better than any other type at brainstorming approaches to situations. Masterminds are capable but not eager leaders, stepping forward only when it becomes obvious to them that they are the best for the job. [Yeah, maybe not that bit.] Strong-willed and very self-assured, they may make this decision quickly, as they tend to make all decisions. But though they are decisive, they are open to new evidence and new ideas, flexible in their planning to accommodate changing situations. They tend to excel at judging the usefulness of ideas and will apply whatever seems most efficient to them in accomplishing their clearly envisioned goals. To Masterminds, what matters is getting it done—but also learning the principles of how to get it done efficiently and well, that is, at a professional level of quality. However, they may not give much thought to the social cost of getting there, “focusing so tightly on their own pursuits [that] they can ignore the points of view and wishes of others.”
Masterminds are highly pragmatic, and they will put forth a great deal of time and effort to implement effective ideas. They are driven to solve complex problems and to create organized, decided, and executed solutions. Masterminds tend to make positive statements instead of negative ones, focusing on how to make the organization more efficient in the future rather than dwelling on past mistakes.
Masterminds are also highly theoretical, and one of the more open-minded of the 16 role variants. Before Masterminds adopt a theoretical notion, they insist on researching all the available data and checking the idea against reality. Masterminds are suspicious of theories based on poor research and will discard ideas that cannot be effectively implemented.
As leaders, Masterminds are skilled in contingency planning and entailment organizing, which are directive activities that tell the planner what activities to do and in what order to do them. Once in a position of power, Masterminds are known for their efficiency and willingness to adopt useful ideas.
INTJ is one of MBTI’s 16 personality types, characterised as follows:
I – Introversion preferred to extraversion: INTJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy).
T – Thinking preferred to feeling: INTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference or sentiment. When making decisions they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.
J – Judgment preferred to perception: INTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability, which to perceptive types may seem limiting.
So far so fairly Pitt-like. I’m not so sure about ‘N’, though:
N – Intuition preferred to sensing: INTJs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus their attention on the big picture rather than the details and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.
Well OK, you don’t last very long as Prime Minister if you don’t get the big picture. But Pitt’s real strength was his supreme ability to drill down - to comprehend and assimilate the complex details of a problem, and then use that acquired knowledge to solve it. So I think in this respect he had at least as much ‘S’ as ‘N’ in his make up:
S – Sensing preferred to intuition: ISTJs tend to be more concrete than abstract. They focus their attention on the details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities.
So - which character type does your fave historical person belong to?