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Lord Frederick North Tory 1770 to 1782
13 April 1732, Piccadilly, London
5 August 1792, London
Dates in office
1770 to 1782
Tea Act 1773: which sparked the Boston Tea party and led to the American Revolution in 1776.
North was in office when the United States of America declared independence.
“Men may be popular without being ambitious, but there is hardly an ambitious man who does not try to be popular.”
Best known as the man who lost Britain’s American colonies, Lord North served for a disastrous 12 years as prime minister.
He was fiercely loyal to King George III, who liked his moderate policies and used him to lead the party of royal allies he had nurtured in the Commons.
Against Lord North’s own inclinations, the King persuaded him to form a government in 1770. His time as Prime Minister was dominated by ongoing problems in the American colonies, now reaching boiling point.
He appreciated that the real issue at stake was not just taxation but power, and led Britain into the War of Independence, with the full approval of King George III. The war turned out to be a disaster; Lord North made tactical errors that led to heavy British losses, including the defeats at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781.
He pleaded with George III to allow him to resign, but he was not allowed this escape route until the war was over, allowing the blame to rest firmly with him.
Things went from bad to worse at home as well as abroad. In 1780 anti-Catholic unrest, known as the Gordon Riots, broke out in London, with rioters agitating for the repeal of the Catholic Relief Act. Lord North watched the riots from his home at 10 Downing Street. In 1782 he resigned after a vote of no confidence.