Chesterfield NH Historical Society
Chesterfield NH Historical Society

Philip Stanhop, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

22 September 1694 – 24 March 1773

“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness; no laziness; no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

While Earl Chesterfield never set foot in Chesterfield or on the continent at all, it is noteworthy to learn a bit about the man who the town is named after.  In 1735, the area that is now almost identical to Chesterfield was granted by Massachusetts Charter.  But, it was noted as Fort #1, first in a line of forts bordering the Connecticut River in what was at the time the frontier.  After the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was fixed, the town was Chartered on February 11, 1752 by Governor B. Wentworth and named for the 4th Earl of Chesterfield. (However, the grantees of Chesterfield were unable to carry out the provision of the Charter within the specified 5 years.  The French and Indian Wars made it too dangerous.  So that their rights would not be forfeited, they requested an extension of time .  Their request was granted, and The Charter was renewed and lenghten for a year in 1760.)


Why Chesterfield?  Short answer:  He may have been a friend of Gov. Wentworth.  Long answer:  In 1752, he was considered by many of his contemporaries as a statesman, diplomat, a man of letters and wit.  He greatly distinguished himself during debates in Parliament on establishing a definitive calendar for Britain and its possessions.  The Calendar (New Style) Act of 1750 standardized the British calendar.  The Act had two parts.  First it established that the new legal year would begin on January 1st instead of March 25th.  And secondly, the realm would formally adopt the Gregorian calendar which was already used in most of Western Europe.  This Act was also called “The Chesterfield Act”.


The Earl’s political career had its ups and downs.  He would falll out of the King's favor and won it back again.  During one of these falling out periods, he toured the continent and met with influential men of the Age of Enlightenment, such as Voltaire and Montesquieu.  The Earl was an author of several books and pamphlets and a patron of several struggling authors.  He is best known for “Letters to a Son on the Fine Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman” (1774).  This correspondence to his illegitimate son over a 30 year period was never intended for publication.  It contained over 400 letters and in three different languages to help his son’s literary abilities. It should be noted that his son’s impoverished mother published them after both the Earl’s and her son’s deaths. 


“Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours,

but give the time when you are asked.”

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