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George Grenville

Brother-in-law to William Pitt, the Elder, Grenville served as treasurer of the navy from 1757 to 1762, staying on under Newcastle after Pitt resigned in 1761, protesting non-support by Parliament and George III for his plan to declare war on Spain.

Grenville served as secretary of state under Newcastle from May - October, 1762, when he was replaced by Henry Fox. He was first lord of the admiralty under Bute from October 1762 to April, 1763 and succeeded Bute as first lord of the treasury (1763-65) and as prime minister.

Grenville takes unwanted credit for initiating the "North Briton" prosecution in 1763. This was a case brought against John Wilkes, publisher or contributor to "The North Briton" a weekly periodical (June 1762-April, 1763). The publication, No. 45 (23 April 1763) attacked Bute peace treaty designed to bring an end to the Seven Years' War, Grenville and claimed that the kings speech before parliament contained a lie. Grenville began proceedings against Wilkes for seditious libel under a general warrant. Grenville lost the case, and in the losing, general warrants were ruled illegal and Wilkes became a champion of the mob. He had not only criticized the establishment and won, his case brought into question issues that included free elections and freedom of the press.

Grenville next attempted to lower taxes in Britain and by doing so raise his popularity ratings. He reduced military expenditures and shifted more of the tax burden to the colonies with the passage of the Stamp Act in February 1765. The laws gave rise to widespread protests in America that eventually boiled over into the War for Independence. Grenville's government was bouncing from one problem to the next and Grenville was proving equally incapable of dealing with the social upheaval and challenges to authority on both sides of the Atlantic.

The final straw came when he failed to include George III mother in a bill creating a regency council that had been suggested by the King in case he fell ill again and suffered another episode of mental incompetence. The King asked the Duke of Cumberland to help organize a new ministry. Cumberland found a willing party in the person of Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham. While Rockingham negotiated with Pitt in a failed attempt to have him join the new government, Grenville resigned. In July, 1765 Rockingham became first minister, with the support of Newcastle and Cumberland.


1763 - The Seven Years' War ends in Europe with the Peace of Paris. In the American theatre, the French and Indian War comes to an end. Indians near Detroit move east in force. British government is provided for Quebed, Florida and Grenada by act of law. Voltaire publishes "Treatise on Tolerance." New York and New Jersey Chambers of Commerce are formed. In London, the "St. James Chronicles" are published.
1764 - The Sugar Act, taxing the colonies, is amended. London houses are numbered for the first time. The London Literary Club is founded. James Watt invents the condenser. St. Louis' first permanent settlement is established. Czar Ivan VI is murdered in prison.
1765 - The Stamp Act is passed, taxing the colonies. Virginia Assembly questions the British government's right to tax. Delegates from nine colonies meet in New York to draft a declaration of rights and liberties.

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