Whitehall. December 30, 1757. pp. plus integral blank, marked "Duplicate" at the top of the first page. Written in a secretarial hand and signed by Pitt. Docketed on verso. Folio. Old folds. Minor splits along the central vertical fold, otherwise quite neat and clean. Very good plus. Item #WRCAM62856
A retained copy, marked “duplicate,” of a manuscript signed by William Pitt the elder as leader of the House of Commons and effective head of the British government, informing the Royal Governor of South Carolina of Lord Loudoun's replacement as Commander-in-Chief of England's armies in North America during the French and Indian War. Pitt informs Governor William Henry Lyttleton of Loudoun’s replacement by James Abercromie, and directs him to obey all orders and provide whatever aid required by the new leader.
The first few years of the French and Indian War had gone poorly for the British in North America, and the unpopular Loudoun was recalled after the disastrous loss of Fort William Henry. In the present letter, Pitt writes to William Lyttleton, governor of South Carolina, to inform him of the change:
"The King having judged proper, that the Earl of Loudoun should return to England, & His Majesty having been pleased to appoint Major Gen'l Abercromby to succeed His Lordship as Commander in Chief of the King's Forces in North America, with the same Power & Authorities, I am commanded to signify to you His Majesty's Pleasure, that you do apply to, & correspond with, Major Gen'l Abercromby on all matters relating to the King's Service; that you do obey such Orders as you shall receive from him in the same manner as you were directed to do with regard to the several former Commanders in Chief in North America; & you will from Time to Time, give Mr. Abercromby all the Assistance & Lights in your Power, in all matters relative to the Command, with which the King has honoured him."
Upon arriving in North America, Loudoun discovered that, even two years into the war, American merchants were still trading with the French. In response, he ordered all American ports temporarily closed - a move which unsurprisingly drew the ire of the colonists. Pitt's letter intimates that there were difficulties enforcing the order, that the decision was nonetheless approved of by the British government, and that colonial administrators should be diligent in the event that it became necessary again. He writes that he is "particularly to signify to You His Majesty's Pleasure, that in case Major Gen'l Abercromby, or the Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Forces, shall, at any time, apply to you, to lay an Embargo on all Ships within your Province, you do strictly comply with the said Request, for so long a time as the Commander in Chief shall desire." Pitt closes the letter by requesting Lyttleton's assistance and cooperation with the navy as well as the army.
Unfortunately for the British, Abercrombie was to prove no more successful than his predecessor, and was himself recalled before the end of 1758. As for Governor Lyttleton, the burdens placed upon him by this letter were unlikely to be onerous at the time. South Carolina had little involvement with the first years of the war, though the governor would soon have his hands full when the Cherokee War broke out to the north and swiftly spread into his territory.
A significant letter conveying important orders from the British government to its officials in the American colonies during the tempestuous early years of the French and Indian War, signed by William Pitt the elder.