Under current restrictions, our shops are closed to the public, but we are still processing online, telephone and email orders as normal.

PITT, William, the Younger.

Autograph letter signed ("W Pitt") to William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland.

Downing Street: 2 November, 1787 Stock Code: 122705
Reserve Ask us a question

Autograph letter signed to Pitt's close advisor William Eden, at the time at the height of his influence as envoy to France, in which Pitt attempts to gauge potential French support for the early Abolitionist movement spearheaded by his friend and political ally, William Wilberforce. "You have had a letter from my friend Wilberforce, on a scheme which may appear to some people chimerical but which I really believe may with proper management be made practicable. If it can, I am sure it is an object well worth attending to and perhaps you may be able to learn the private sentiments of the French Government upon it to Judge whether it can be carried further. I mean the idea of the two nations agreeing to discontinue the villainous traffic now carried on in Africa". 1787 saw the foundation of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and was also the year in which Wilberforce took political leadership of the Abolition movement. Although Pitt's support for the movement to abolish slavery was unflagging throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, the eventual abolition of the trade would not occur until a year after his death, in 1807.

In December 1785 the penal reformer and diplomatist William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland (1744-1814) was sent by Pitt the Younger to serve "as an envoy to negotiate a commercial treaty with France, a task which particularly suited Eden's expertise in matters of finance and commerce. This step inaugurated the most important and successful phase of Eden's career" (ODNB). The skill and delicacy with which he cajoled both Britain and France through the Versailles negotiations eventually resulted in the signing of the final treaty in September 1786, as well as two further commercial agreements between the countries, one to resolve the disputes between the British and French East India companies. However, Eden's peers viewed his successes as proof of his francophile leanings, and he was swiftly reassigned as ambassador to Madrid. "Following the end of his diplomatic career Auckland remained a political figure of some significance. He was still close to Pitt, and his public pronouncements were often regarded as reflecting the thinking of the prime minister Pitt was indeed so close to Auckland and his family at this time that he came very near to marrying Auckland's daughter Eleanor Eden (1777-1851) in 1796-7 only to break off his dalliance suddenly and mysteriously, for reasons which are not fully understood to this day. Although this episode curtailed the social relationship between Auckland and Pitt they remained politically close. In 1798 Auckland was appointed by Pitt to the position of joint postmaster-general and he was one of Pitt's closest advisers on the prospective union with Ireland in the years 1798-1800" (ODNB).

Confused? Read our glossary


Single sheet, quarto (239 x 196 mm), hand written in ink across two pages.


Remains of verso guard where laid down overwritten in another hand, annotated at foot of second page in a later hand, "(To Lord Auckland.)" Browned with a few areas of discolouration or marks, tiny wear and puncture to left edge not obscuring text, else i


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book