It happened today - January 19, 2016
On this date in history, William Pitt the Younger became the youngest prime minister in British history at age 24, on Jan. 19, 1783. Whereas by the time I was 24 I had, um, won a one-third share in a scholarship worth $100. Each, I mean. Close enough to call it a tie, right?
Plus he didn’t become “prime minister” because there was no such job. So there. Mind you, he sort of defined a job that didn’t exist yet which some people might call an accomplishment. (Others might do the reverse, calling its subtle introduction a crucial step in the Executive achieving the pernicious domination of the legislature that it enjoys today.) But what else did he do, besides a few minor matters like extricating the nation from the American Revolution, reorganizing the national finances (including an early Laffer Curve-style reduction in tariff rates to increase revenue), winning the first round of the Napoleonic Wars, overseeing the banning of the slave trade within the British Empire, and dying of overwork at age 46 in 1806?
Did I mention that by 24 I had also won 3rd place in the “C” category at the Toronto Open chess tournament and pocketed a cool $120?
Incidentally they don’t call him “the Younger” because he was younger than a great number of less distinguished people. It’s to distinguish himself from his father, a great leader in the Seven Year’s War who regrettably succumbed to gout and intermittent madness during the run-up to the American Revolution, though he recovered in time to champion the cause of liberty in the colonies before dying in 1778.
It is worth noting in this overly democratic age that Pitt would not have made it into Parliament at all had he not secured the support of the 1st Earl of Lonsdale who had significant influence over several “rotten boroughs” including Appleby. Pitt himself later turned on rotten boroughs. But a more diverse system that put higher priority on knowing what to do in office than how to get there had some important virtues.
Of course a large part of it was that Pitt himself was a truly extraordinary individual. History does produce them periodically. And in free societies, it’s often for the best.
So let’s clench our inferior teeth and cheer for William Pitt the irritatingly young and accomplished.