Today, Robert Walpole is considered as being the first British ‘prime minister’ even though the position wasn’t defined when he was in office. He was born in August of 1676 and he received his education from Eton College and then Cambridge University. His first taste of office came after the death of his father in 1700 when he took over his father’s land as well as his seat as MP for Castle Rising. During his time in Parliament Robert made many personal connections which he used to influence official business He did so because throughout his time in office Walpole stayed away from conflict, war and often used appeasement to settle arguments. The more influential he was the less he had to deal with conflict, war, etc. By the time Robert retired in 1742 he was the most powerful man in the Office. In addition, he was head of the King’s Cabinet. Robert gained his beliefs from his father who was a supporter of the ‘Glorious Revolution’, this Revolution gave Britain a constitutional monarchy. Like his father, Robert was a supporter of the Whig party.
Walpole’s rise to power was an efficient one; by 1708, only 8 years after taking office, he had achieved the seat of Secretary of War and then two years later he was Treasurer of the Navy. In 1710 Robert Walpole saw the inside of a cell after being a part of the prosecution of a Tory preacher. Instead of hurting his career after being released he was seen as a martyr for the Whig party, only adding to his political pull. When King George ascended the throne in 1714 the Whigs regained governmental power and in turn so did Walpole. With this Walpole was appointed First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the Whig party split Robert followed his brother-in-law into opposition and he didn’t resume office until 1720. He returned first as paymaster general and then was Lord of the Treasury for the second time in 1721.
Because Walpole chose to avoid many forms of confrontation he gained multiple critics over the years, including but not limited to Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Swift. One of the biggest political control issues Walpole had was when he was forced to declare War with Spain, everyone knew he had no business leading a war effort nor did he want too. This set him on rocky seas in 1739 and could be considered the start of his political downfall. Walpole’s response to the Atterbury Plot in 1745 was what really set Walpole ahead of his competitors. He used this to brand all Tories as Jacobites and this, in turn, kept the Torries out of office even after Walpole died. This lasted until 1770 when the Tories finally won and gained political influence once again. In 1742 Walpole resigned from the House of Commons and became a member of the House of Lords. He died in 1745 as the first prime minister to reside at 10 Downing Street, the close proximity to Parliament is believed to have added to his health during his life.
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