Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, KG, PC (13 May 1730 – 1 July 1782), styled The Hon. Charles Watson-Wentworth before 1733, Viscount Higham between 1733 and 1746, Earl of Malton between 1746 and 1750 and The Earl Malton in 1750, was a British Whig statesman, most notable for his two terms as Whig Prime Minister of Great Britain. He served in only two high offices during his lifetime (Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Lords), but was nonetheless very influential during his one and a half years of service.
The king's dislike of Grenville, as well as his general lack of parliamentary support, led to his dismissal in 1765, and, following negotiations conducted through the medium of the king's uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, Lord Rockingham was appointed Prime Minister. Rockingham appointed his allies Henry Seymour Conway and the Duke of Grafton as secretaries of state. Also at this time, Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, became his private secretary and would remain a life-long friend, political ally and advisor until Rockingham's premature death in 1782. During his term of office, he repealed the Stamp Act, reducing the tax burden on the colonies. However, internal dissent within the cabinet led to his resignation and the appointment of Lord Chatham as Prime Minister (the Duke of Grafton was appointed First Lord of the Treasury, one of the few cases in which those two offices were separate).
Rockingham spent the next sixteen years in opposition. He was a keen supporter of constitutional rights for colonists, and backed the claim for American independence. In 1782 he was appointed Prime Minister for a second time (with Charles James Fox and Lord Shelburne as secretaries of state) and, upon taking office, acknowledged the independence of the United States, initiating an end to British involvement in the Revolutionary War. However, this term was short-lived, for Lord Rockingham died 14 weeks later.
Rockingham County, New Hampshire, Rockingham County, North Carolina, and Rockingham County, Virginia in the United States are named in his honour. Additionally, the city of Rockingham, North Carolina, which is not in Rockingham County but is rather the seat of Richmond County, was named in his honour.
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