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HENRY PELHAM (1696-1754)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 67 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HENRY PELHAM (1696-1754), prime minister of England, younger brother of Thomas Holies Pelham, duke of Newcastle, was born in 1696. He was a younger son of Thomas, 1st Baron Pelham of Laughton (1650-1712; Cr. 1706) and of Lady Grace Holies, daughter of the 3rd earl of Clare (see above). He was educated by a private tutor and at Christ Church, Oxford, which he entered in July 1710. As a volunteer he served in Dormer's regiment at the battle of Preston in 1715, spent some time on the Continent, and in 1717 entered parliament for Seaford, Sussex. Through strong family influence and therecommendation of Walpole he was chosen in 1721 a lord of the Treasury. The following year he was returned for Sussex county. In 1724 he entered the ministry as secretary of war, but this office he exchanged in 1730 for the more lucrative one of paymaster of the forces. He made himself conspicuous by his support of Walpole on the question of the excise, and in 1743 a union of parties resulted in the formation of an administration in which Pelham was prime minister, with the office of chancellor of the exchequer; but rank and influence made his brother, the duke of Newcastle, very powerful in the cabinet, and, in spite of a genuine attachment, there were occasional disputes between them, which led to difficulties. Being strongly in favour of peace, Pelham carried on the war with languor and indifferent success, but the country, wearied of the interminable struggle, was disposed to acquiesce in his foreign policy almost without a murmur. The king, thwarted in his favourite schemes, made overtures in 1746 to Lord Bath, but his purpose was upset by the resignation of the two Pelhams (Henry and Newcastle), who, however, at the king's request, resumed office. Pelham remained prime minister till his death on the 6th of March 1754, when his brother succeeded him. His very defects were among the chief elements of Pelham's success, for one with a strong personality, moderate self-respect, or high conceptions of statesmanship could not have restrained the discordant elements of the cabinet for any length of time. Moreover, he possessed tact and a thorough acquaintance with the forms of the house. Whatever quarrels or insubordination might exist within the cabinet, they never broke out into open revolt. Nor can a high degree of praise be denied to his financial policy, especially his plans for the reduction of the national debt and the simplification and consolidation of its different branches. He had married in 1726 Lady Catherine Manners, daughter of the 2nd duke of Rutland; and one of his daughters married Henry Fiennes Clinton, 2nd duke of Newcastle. See W. Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration. (2 vols., 1829). For the family history see Lower, Pelham Family (1873); also the Pelham and Newcastle MSS. in the British Museum.
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