Biography of NORTH, Frederick - Archontology
NORTH, Frederick

Frederick North

b. 13 Apr 1732, London
d. 5 Aug 1792, London

Ministerial offices: Lord Commissioner of the Treasury (2 Jun 1759 - 10 Jul 1765, 12 Oct 1767 - 6 Feb 1770)
Joint Paymaster of the Forces (19 Aug 1766 - 1767)
Chancellor of the Exchequer (7 Oct 1767 - 27 Mar 1782)
Leader of the House of Commons (Jan 1768 - 27 Mar 1782)
First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury (28 Jan 1770 - 27 Mar 1782)
Home Secretary (2 Apr 1783 - 22 Dec 1783)
Names/titles: Lord North of Kirtling and Baron Guilford; 2nd Earl of Guilford [from 4 Aug 1790]

Frederick North descended from traditional Tory family, which belonged to the peerage since the 16th century. He attended Eton and received his master's degree from the Trinity College, Oxford. In 1754, North was first elected to Parliament (MP, 1754-1790) for the family borough of Banbury. He took up his first ministerial post as a Lord of the Treasury (1759-1765) in the government of the Duke of Newcastle. He also served under the Earl of Bute and George Grenville. Later North joined the government as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1767-1782), the office he held for almost 15 years. When his cousin, the Duke of Grafton, resigned in early 1770, North formed his government as First Lord of the Treasury (1770-1782) and Leader of the House of Commons (1768-1782). He was a hard working and sound administrator. His membership of the Commons and friendship with George III together with his equitable temperament and his essentially moderate politics helped ensure support for him. However, he believed that ministers should be personally responsible for their departments and confided to the King that he did not really have the leadership qualities to be head of an administration. In turn, the King played on North's sense of duty, persuading him to continue in office, whereby the King was assured of an orderly House of Commons. His first years as prime minister were dominated by the American problem, where ultimately, and too late, he sought to follow conciliatory tactics. The defeat of the British at Saratoga (17 Oct 1777) insured his last years in office would increasingly be regarded a failure. The anti-Catholic (Gordon) riots in 1780, in which rioters agitated for repeal of the Catholic Relief Act, reflected his unsatisfactory domestic policy. After the King finally accepted his resignation on 20 Mar 1782, he continued to be influential through the Fox-North Coalition, which supported the Duke of Portland under whom he served as Home Secretary (1783). Struck by blindness, he was a member of the House of Lords for his last two years (1790-1792). Biography source: [1, pp. 58-63]

[1] Englefield, Dermot; Seaton, Janet; White, Isobel (eds.) Facts About the British Prime Ministers: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1995. online
Image: detail of a portrait of Lord North by Sir Nathanial Dance-Holland.