English Whig politician. He held a succession of offices in Robert Walpole's cabinet 1721-42, and was prime minister 1743-54. His influence in the House of Commons was based on systematic corruption rather than ability. He concluded the War of the Austrian Succession and was an able financier.
Having held a number of posts in the Treasury, Pelham was appointed secretary for war in 1724, and in 1743 First Lord of the Treasury and chancellor of the Exchequer, despite the opposition of Walpole's successor John Carteret (1690-1763). Pelham's period in office was one of general pacification. Opposition (including that of King George II) was overcome, an alliance was forged with the Dutch in 1744, and then peace concluded with the French in the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. This having been established, Pelham devoted himself wholeheartedly to the reduction of national expenditure and the reorganization of the finances.
The younger son of Thomas, 1st Baron Pelham, Henry Pelham was educated at Westminster public school and Oxford. After a short military career, he won the Seaford by-election in 1717. Subsequently he became member of Parliament for Sussex, which he continued to represent for the rest of his life. In the House of Commons he acted as a consistent supporter of the Whig party under Walpole and Charles Townsend (1674-1738), both of whom he was related to by marriage.
Relations with Newcastle
As secretary for war, Pelham proved valuable as a mediator between his brother Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, and Walpole, whose mutual jealousy led to frequent disputes. In 1730 he was promoted to the post of paymaster of the forces. The years after 1743 were spent in collusion with Newcastle, counteracting the Hanoverian policy of Carteret, who was seeking to attain Tory support. Moreover, although Pelham was nominally prime minister, his brother's parliamentary influence and superior rank led to conflict when their views diverged.
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