William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708 – 1778) (Pitt the Elder) was a British Whig statesman. He entered parliament in February 1735, and was appointed as paymaster general in 1746. While it had been the usual practice of previous paymasters to appropriate to themselves the interest of all money under their control, and to take a commission on all foreign subsidies, Pitt refused to profit in this manner. He thus established a reputation for honesty and placing the interests of the nation before his own. He became known as The Great Commoner and was extremely popular with the British public, despite his frequent run-ins with three King Georges and various Prime Ministers.
He governed Britain from 1757 to 1761, and secured victory in the Seven Year’s War. He was renowned for single-minded devotion to victory over France, and his antagonism toward Spain, Britain's rivals for colonial power. The London Magazine of 1766 offered 'Pitt, Pompadour, Prussia, Providence' as the reasons for Britain's success in the war.
Pitt had an impressive command of rhetoric and debate. He was also well known for his opposition to corruption in government. His advocacy of British greatness, expansionism and colonialism has earned him the label of the first Imperialist in modern English history.
In 1766 King George III tasked Pitt with forming a new government. Pitt chose for himself the office of Lord Privy Seal, and became Earl of Chatham and Viscount Pitt. He resigned in 1768.
Dr. Johnson is reported to have said that "Walpole was a minister given by the king to the people, but Pitt was a minister given by the people to the king." Pitt understood the importance of public opinion as the paramount power in the state, and used it throughout his political career.
His son, William Pitt the Younger, went on to become Prime Minister at a young age and lead Britain for more than twenty years.