British Prime Ministers: Lord North

An acceptable minister in peace-time, Lord North’s misfortune was to hold office at the time of the American Revolution and War, as Eric Robson here shows.

Lord North was never a Prime Minister in the modern sense of the words: eighteenth-century politicians, acting together in small groups, were averse from such a sole or superintending minister. In Lord North’s day, the term “Prime Minister” was still one of abuse, its bearer exposed to suspicion and attack. A Prime Minister could only take the place of the King as chief of the executive after the development of organized, disciplined parties. Lord North’s daughter recalled in 1839 that he would never allow his family to call him Prime Minister, because there was no such thing in the British Constitution: he himself told Fox in 1779 that he should be considered in two lights, as head of a very important department (First Lord of the Treasury, 1770-1782), “where I acknowledge I am solely answer-able for Whatever is transacted,” and as working in concert with others in His Majesty’s confidential councils.

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