PITT, William Morton (1754-1836), of Kingston House, nr. Dorchester, Dorset

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1780 - 1790
1790 - 2 Feb. 1826

Family and Education

b. 16 May 1754, 1st and o. surv. s. of John Pitt† of Encombe, Dorset and Marcia, da. of Mark Anthony Morgan of Cottlestown, co. Sligo. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1772; L. Inn 1774. m. (1) 26 Oct. 1782, Margaret (d. 6 Nov. 1818), da. of John Gambier, lt.-gov. Bahamas, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) 16 Nov. 1819,1 Grace Amelia, da. of Henry Seymer of Hanford, Dorset, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1787. d. 28 Feb. 1836.

Offices Held

Capt. Dorset militia 1778, maj. 1798, lt.-col. 1799-1712.

Biography

Despite his philanthropic endeavours, Pitt, a kinsman of the late prime minister, was an almost silent supporter of the Liverpool administration in the Commons.2 He apologized for his recent absences, but, disproving rumours to the contrary, declared himself fit enough to continue as a county Member on offering again for Dorset at the general election of 1820; there being no likelihood of an opposition, he was returned unopposed.3 In his last Parliament, his contribution to the House was slight, and no evidence of activity has been found for the 1820 session. He voted against condemning ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., repeal of the additional malt duty, 5 Apr., reducing the grant for the adjutant-general’s office, 11 Apr., and omitting the arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 21 June 1821. He divided against disqualifying civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr., and parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821. He voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., reduction of the salt duties, 28 Feb. 1822, and repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. 1823. In February he stayed neutral during the Dorset by-election, which he did not attend.4 He defended the governor of Millbank penitentiary from interference by the committee of superintendence, of which he was himself a member, in the press in April, and gave oral and written evidence on this to a Commons select committee, 12, 16, 24 June 1823.5 He corresponded on such topics with Peel, the home secretary, and was named with him to the select committee on prisons, 18 Mar. 1824.6 He was ‘inaudible’ in speaking a few words on the game bill, 25 Mar. 1824.7 He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and (as he had on 28 Feb. 1821 and 30 Apr. 1822) against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825.

That year he participated in attempts to provide relief for those affected by storms and shipwrecks on the Dorset coast.8 Although Henry Bankes, Member for Corfe Castle, had despaired that Pitt ‘seemed likely to resign his seat only with his life’, he announced his retirement in September 1825, when a dissolution was expected.9 He relinquished his seat at the start of the 1826 session, deeming this the most convenient time to pass on the seat to Bankes, who publicly praised him for his ‘amiable, humane and benevolent’ character and his studious devotion to county affairs.10 Thereafter Pitt played little part in local politics, though he voted for Benjamin Lester Lester* and Henry Charles Sturt* in the Poole contest at the general election that year. In the two Dorset contests in 1831, he voted for the Tory Bankes and the Whig Edward Portman* at the general election in the spring, and for the anti-reformer Lord Ashley* in the autumn.11 He died in February 1836, widely respected for being a man whose

time and exertions were unremittingly devoted to the public good ... He passed through life distinguished by the possession of the purest virtues, and by the exercise of a diffusive philanthropy and extensive practical benevolence.12

By his will, dated 12 Jan. 1836, he provided for his wife’s immediate necessities and left the bulk of his estate, which included personal wealth sworn under £10,000, to his only son William Grey Pitt (1821-67).13

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Stephen Farrell

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