'Saviour of Europe' Pitt the Younger's most important State Papers are for sale

Five lots in the Roy Davids Collection to be sold at Bonhams on March 29th are undoubtedly the most important State Papers by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806) and are estimated to make about £13,000-18,000 ($29,250) in total all together.

If those items had been comparable ones by some of Pitt's American contemporaries they would more likely to make $20m, probably more. A letter by George Washington has made $3.2m. Even in 2008 a letter by Abraham Lincoln brought $3m.

Pitt was the man whom Foreign Secretary William Hague reminds us in his fine biography of his political hero was 'Prime Minister of Britain in a turbulent period of history, and faced some of the greatest crises which peace or war in their turn could bring.'

Had Churchill not had to deal with the Second World War, Pitt would rank as the greatest British Prime Ministers, parliamentary orators, and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Britain can sometimes be careless about its historical collectibles. Even in the case of Churchill, arguably the strongest collection of his memorabilia was formed by the American Steve Forbes, and the most expensive Union Jack ever sold (from Nelson's ship) likewise went across the pond.

William Pitt went to Cambridge at the astonishing age of 14, and was made Prime Minister aged just 24, in what was assumed to be a stop-gap measure. In fact, by the time of Pitt's very premature death aged 46, he had spent 20 of those 22 years as Prime Minister.

Pitt manuscript Sinking Fund Income Tax
Pitt manuscript referring to the Sinking Fund and Income Tax

Pitt built Britain's finances into an exceptionally strong position, dissolving the national debt using a 'sinking fund' (a skill which might be useful now). This allowed Britain to weather a series of crises in the following years, especially the madness of King George III, the impact of the French Revolution and the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte.

 Pitt was credited by his contemporaries as being 'The Saviour of Europe' and perhaps deserves to be collected with something of the reverence that is offered to his contemporary, George Washington. His collectibles might even be seen as an investment as Britain comes to look more closely at its history.


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