Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford
(13 April 1732 – 5 August 1792), more often known by his courtesy title, Lord North
, which he used from 1752 until 1790, was Prime Minister
of Great Britain
from 1770 to 1782, the tenth man formally to hold this post. He led Great Britain
through most of the American War of Independence
Early Life (1732-1754)
Lord North was born at Wroxton Abbey. Lord North's strong physical resemblance to George III, suggested to his contemporaries that the Prince may have been North's real father (and North the King's brother), a theory supported by the Prince's reputation but by little else.
He was descended from the 1st Earl of Sandwich and was related to Samuel Pepys and the 3rd Earl of Bute. He was educated at Eton College between 1742 and 1748, and at Trinity College, Oxford where in 1750 he was awarded an MA. After leaving Oxford he travelled in Europe, visiting Leipzig where he studied at the University of Leipzig. He visited Vienna, Milan, and Paris, returning to England in 1753.
Early Political Career (1754-70)
He served as a Member of Parliament from 1754 to 1790 and first joined the government as a junior Lord of the Treasury on 2 June 1759 during the Newcastle
coalition. North was appointed Joint Paymaster of the Forces
in Chatham's ministry and became a Privy Counsellor
in 1766. In December 1767, he succeeded Charles Townshend
as Chancellor of the Exchequer
. He developed a reputation as a good administrator, parliamentarian and was generally liked by his colleagues.
Prime Minister (1770-82)
When the Duke of Grafton
resigned as Prime Minister
, North formed a government on 28 January 1770. His ministers and supporters tended to be known as Tories, though they were not a formal grouping.
His Ministry had an early success during the Falklands Crisis
in 1770 in which they faced down a Spanish attempt to seize the Falkland islands
, nearly provoking a war. The government's prestige and popularity were boosted by the incident.
American War of Independence
Most of his government was focused first on the growing problems with the American colonies and later on conducting the American War of Independence
which broke out in 1775. North deferred overall strategy of the war to his key subordinates Lord Germain
and Lord Sandwich
. In 1778 the French allied themselves with the American rebels, joined by Spain
in 1779 and the Dutch Republic
in 1780. The British found themselves fighting a global war on four continents.
North holds the rather dubious distinction of being the first prime minister, in Britain or indeed anywhere else in the world, to be forced out of office by a motion of no confidence, resigning on 20 March 1782 on account of the British defeat at Yorktown the year before. In an attempt to end the war, he proposed the Conciliation Plan, in which he promised that Britain would eliminate all disagreeable acts if the colonies ended the war. The colonies rejected the plan, as their motivation was independence.
Fox-North Coalition (1783)
In April 1783, North returned to power as Home Secretary
in an unlikely coalition with the radical Whig leader Charles James Fox
known as the Fox-North Coalition
under the nominal leadership of the Duke of Portland
. King George III
, who detested the radical and republican Fox, never forgave this supposed betrayal, and North never again served in government after the ministry fell in December 1783. One of the major achievements of the coalition was the signing of the Treaty of Paris
which formally ended the American War of Independence
The new Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger was not expected to last long and North, a vocal critic of his, still entertained hopes of regaining high office. In this he was to be frustrated, as Pitt dominated the British political scene for the next twenty years, leaving both North and Fox in the political wilderness.
Later Life (1783-92)
He left his seat in Parliament when he went blind in 1790, shortly before succeeding his father as Earl of Guilford, spending his final years in the House of Lords
. He died in London
and was buried at All Saints
' Church, Wroxton
(Oxfordshire) near his family home of Wroxton Abbey
Ironically, North's family home, Wroxton Abbey is now owned by Fairleigh Dickinson University, an American college. The now modernized abbey currently serves as a location for American students to study abroad.
Lord North is today predominantly remembered as the Prime Minister "who lost America".
Guilford County, North Carolina is named after the father of Lord North. It was established in 1771, and today contains the cities of Greensboro and High Point, being the third most populous county in North Carolina. A preserved 18th century door on display in Edinburgh Castle shows a hangman's scaffold labelled "Lord Nord" carved by a prisoner captured during the American revolutionary war.
Marriage and family
Lord North married Anne Speke (before 1741-1797) on 20 May 1756. They had at least six children:
- George Augustus North, 3rd Earl of Guilford (11 September 1757-20 April 1802), who married, firstly, Maria Frances Mary Hobart-Hampden (died 23 April 1794), daughter of the 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire, on 30 September 1785 and had issue. He married, secondly, Susan Coutts (died 24 September 1837), on 28 February 1796.
- Catherine Anne North (1760-1817)
- Francis North, 4th Earl of Guilford (1761-1817)
- Lady Charlotte North (died 25 October 1849), who married Lt. Col. The Hon. John Lindsay (15 March 1762-6 March 1826), son of the 5th Earl of Balcarres, on 2 April 1800.
- Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford (1766-1827)
- Lady Anne North (before 1783-18 January 1832), who married the 1st Earl of Sheffield on 20 January 1798 and had two children
Titles from birth to death
- The Hon. Frederick North (1732-1752)
- Lord North (1752-1754)
- Lord North, MP (1754-1766)
- The Rt. Hon. Lord North, MP (1766-1772)
- The Rt. Hon. Lord North, KG, MP (1772-1790)
- The Rt. Hon. Lord North, KG (1790)
- The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Guilford, KG, PC (1790-1792)
"Oh my God! It's all over" - upon hearing news of the surrender at Yorktown
- Butterfield, Herbert. George III, Lord North, and the People, 1779-80 (1949)
- Charles Daniel Smith. The Early Career of Lord North, the Prime Minister, (1979)
- Valentine, Alan. Lord North (1967, 2 vol.), the standard biography
- Lord North, The Correspondence of King George the Third with Lord North from 1768 to 1783 ed by George, William Bodham Donne, ed. (1867) online edition