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George III

Ministries of North and the Younger Pitt

Only in 1770 did George find in Frederick, Lord North, a chief minister who was able to manage Parliament and willing to follow royal leadership. Although North achieved financial consolidation at home and imposed closer government control over the East India Company by the Regulating Act (1772), his 12-year ministry is remembered chiefly for his policy of coercion against the American colonists that led finally to the American Revolution. This policy of course reflected the views of the king, whose refusal to accept the loss of the colonies prolonged the war. Opposition in Parliament to what was regarded as increasing royal influence finally forced George to accept the resignation (1782) of North and the formation of ministries first by Lord Rockingham and then by the earl of Shelburne, who concluded the Treaty of Paris (1783), granting independence to the United States.

Shelburne's ministry was brought down (1783) by the surprising coalition of George's old friend Lord North and his leading Whig opponent Charles James Fox. This alliance so incensed the king that he exerted his influence in the House of Lords to secure defeat of Fox's East India Bill (1783) and thus forced the ministry out, replacing it with one formed by the younger William Pitt. Despite the furious reaction to the king's action among Whigs, Pitt won control of Parliament in the 1784 election and was to retain power until 1801 and then hold it again from 1804 to 1806.

After Pitt's appointment George retired from active participation in government, except for taking an interest in such major issues as Catholic Emancipation, which he defeated in 1801. Pitt was able to improve trade, reform the governments of Canada and India, and unite the kingdoms of Ireland and England (1800). He also managed the wars with France (see French Revolutionary Wars; Napoleon I).

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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