Lord North

A hard-working and sound administrator, North had served in the governments of Newcastle and Chatham, rising to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was loyal to King George III, who liked his moderate policies and used North to act as a pro-Royalist pressure group in the Commons. North was pressurised into forming a government in 1770. This administration was to become dominated by the ongoing problems in the American colonies, now reaching boiling point. He appreciated that the real issue at stake was not just taxation but power, and led Britain into the War of Independence, with the full approval of King George III.

Unfortunately, the prosecution of the war was to be something of a disaster. North made tactical errors that led to heavy British losses, including the defeats at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. He was also unable to prevent the French and Spanish from siding with the colonists and throwing in their diplomatic and military strength with the rebels.

He pleaded in vain with George III to allow him to resign, but he was not allowed this escape route until the war was over, allowing the blame to rest firmly with him. Things were not much better on the domestic front. In 1780 anti-Catholic unrest known as the Gordon Riots broke out in London. The rioters were agitating for the repeal of the Catholic Relief Act. He finally resigned in 1782 after a vote of no confidence.

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by Stephen Luscombe