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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 9 (February 25, 1927)

Sir Robert Walpole

Sir Robert Walpole.

Sir Robert Walpole was the first statesman in Britain's history to whom the title Prime Minister could properly be applied. He was born at Haughton in Norfolk on 26th August, 1676 and was educated at Eton and Cambridge (King's College). In 1701, at the age of twenty-five, he was elected to the House of Commons as representative for King's Lynn. He soon became a powerful and prominent figure in Parliament and assumed, in 1721, the leadership of the Administration as first Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. For the next twenty years Walpole retained the leadership (the longest period for which the office has been held in the history of England) and guided the fortunes of his country with such fine statesmanship that he kept it prosperous and at peace for almost the whole of that time. “The most pernicious circumstances in which this country can be are those of war,” is one of his famous declarations. In domestic politics he was ever on the side of freedom. It is interesting to note that he is credited with having originated the Saturday half-holiday. A great financier, Walpole rendered conspicuous services to his country after the disastrous financial panic known as the South Sea Bubble. So great was Walpole's fame that the King was wont to say that he could turn stones into gold. Throughout his life Walpole worked to promote the peace of Europe. In Thackeray's words he “gave Englishmen no conquests, but he gave them peace and ease and freedom.” He died on 18th March, 1745.

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William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.

William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.

William Pitt, first Earl of Chatham, was born on 15th November, 1708. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he entered Parliament at the age of twenty-seven. Pitt soon distinguished himself through his great powers of oratory which he employed in the cause of numerous reforms. In 1746 he became joint vice-Treasurer of Ireland, Paymaster-General of the Forces, and Privy Councillor. Ten years later he was nominated a Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons. By 1760 Pitt, the “Great Commoner,” was the most powerful man in England. He was a thorough patriot, putting his trust in the people who placed their fullest confidence in him. Under his wise leadership Canada was added to the Empire and the power of Britain increased throughout the world. He was a man of great integrity, and, in a corrupt age, had the honourable distinction that he never accepted a bribe. Had Pitt's advice been taken we would not have lost the American colonies, for he opposed the American War with all the eloquence for which he was so famed. Indeed his death was brought about by his insisting on delivering a last oration against this war. England has had no greater Prime Minister than the elder Pitt. He died on 11th May, 1778.