Study Guide

George Grenville in Stamp Act

By British Parliament, King George III

George Grenville

Americans should be grateful for George Grenville. Not because he was good at his job…but because he was so very bad at it.

So Who is This Grenville Guy?

Grenville had a promising enough start. He was part of a faction in the Whig Party called "Cobham's Cubs," a group of younger politicians under his uncle Richard, the Viscount Cobham, formed around opposing the government of Sir Robert Walpole. (Wow. How British is that last sentence?)

And this was all well and good until Walpole's government collapsed in 1742. Grenville hung on getting to be Treasurer of the Navy, but was fired by the Duke of Newcastle in 1755…only to be rehired the following year in the same job.

During Newcastle's government, Grenville joined a new faction. These were the Leicester House Set, which were forming around the power they'd get when Frederick, Prince of Wales got to be king. Grenville had some amazing political instincts, or just rotten luck. Frederick died unexpectedly before ever becoming king, which cleared the way for his son, George III.

So What Did This Grenville Guy Do?

As Treasurer of the Navy, Grenville had the ear of the king and he, along with the Earl of Bute, was one of those urging to end the Seven Years War. The king listened. He should have stopped right there, but he didn't. This forced Grenville's enemies out of government, namely the Duke of Newcastle and Pitt the Elder.

In 1763, Bute asked Grenville to take over as Prime Minister. Grenville agreed. He was terrible at his job. Though he was, by all accounts, a good administrator, he was...well...kind of a jerk. He had no sense of humor to speak of, he was pointlessly vindictive, and put pressure on the king to honor these weird grudges. The king was not a fan.

In order to pay for the Seven Years War, Grenville had some ideas. Since, under Newcastle, the colonies had mostly been ignored for taxation, Grenville helped create the Sugar Act. He followed that up with the Stamp Act. Dude had a thing for Acts.

This was such a disaster that George III asked him to resign in 1765. Since anyone who says no to a king generally ends up a head shorter, Grenville agreed.

Grenville retired into the role of an elder statesman. A terrible elder statesman. He had some minor effects as a leader of the opposition, but in 1770 he got sick. He never recovered and died in November of that year.

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