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in some late cases sufficient marks of partiality may be found to put us on our guard against committing to them the power they would derive from this bill, of judging the right of latent or dormant titles, when their verdict would be of such immense importance. If gentlemen will not be convinced by argument, at least let them not shut their ears to the dreadful example of former times; let them recollect that the overweening disposition of the great barons, to aggrandize their own dignity, occasioned them to exclude the lesser barons, and to that circumstance may be fairly attributable the sanguinary wars which so long desolated the country.
WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM
CHATHAM's speeches were not of the debating sort. They made a profound and prodigious effect because they appealed to the hearts and consciences of his hearers. He was a statesman with a long-sighted policy, not aiming at immediate results, but taking a wide grasp of the present, and projecting his gaze far into the future. He had a serious and sober conviction that he, and he alone, could save the country. By saving it he did not merely mean protecting it against invasion. He regarded the extension of British power in America and India as essential to the permanence of England in her position among the leading nations of the world. He emancipated himself from the European tradition, the view that this country had simply to hold its own in the balance of continental forces. His doctrine that France could be successfully encountered both east and west of Europe was altogether beyond the range of contemporary ideas. How far he deliberately and consciously carried it out, how far he was drawn beyond his original designs by the progress of events, has often been disputed. He is entitled to be judged by results. Although Chatham's career is anything rather than consistent if tried by ordinary standards, it has a unity of spacious greatness if submitted to the test of what precedes and what followed it. He had the imagination which stands for knowledge of the future, which takes the place of prophecy, which enables its possessor to discern the tendency of movements too gradual to be measured by human instruments. If he did not talk about the expansion of England, that was the idea which always filled his mind. Among contemporary statesmen he seemed unfixed, incalculable, hard to classify or understand. He had not the knowledge or the method by which men commonly succeed in public business. But he had the gift of discerning
the direction which events would take. He felt that the greatness of this country would lie not in successful rivalry on the Continent, but in the creation of communities and the establishment of dominions beyond the scope of diplomatic intrigue. His is a character to be judged by history, and by achievement, not by the temporary failures or triumphs recorded against him or in his favour from year to year. Chatham will stand ordeals which other statesmen, in some respects his equals or superiors, cannot for a moment bear.
It must always be remembered that Chatham spoke through Parliament to the nation, and that his speeches were therefore framed with a very different art from that which makes an immediate impression in debate. He intended that what he said should be remembered, and he chose his words, as well as his topics accordingly. When he referred to Magna Charta, the Petition of Right, and the Bill of Rights, as the Bible of the English Constitution, he was appealing to the love of liberty, of the liberty which he thought would be crushed by the American War. His view of that struggle was peculiarly his own. Until France joined in it, he regarded it as purely a domestic quarrel in which American rebels and Whigs at home were alike engaged in contending against personal government. His famous declaration that the British Parliament had no right to tax the American colonies may not be theoretically sound. But it rested upon the practical doctrine that people are only to be taxed by their own representatives, and Chatham accompanied it by the argument that grants to the Crown were from the Commons alone. It was characteristic of Chatham that he laid down this proposition in the House of Lords, where it naturally met with little favour. When we consider what the representation of the people was in the eighteenth century, we must acknowledge that it required no small courage to insist upon a point which, though silently recognised, was kept in the background, even by the House of Commons, except at grave constitutional emergencies. Neither it nor the right of taxing the colonies has ever been formally decided by Parliament. It remains within the competence of Parliament to override every Colonial Legislature, just as the House of Lords may refuse its assent to the imposition or the repeal of any tax.
Pitt's first speech against the subsidy of Hanoverian troops is interesting as a good specimen of his early manner. It is vigorous, spirited, and energetic, less oratorical and more like debating than his speeches afterwards became. The reputation which he acquired in the House of Commons, though slow
in rising to its full height, was brilliant from the first. Pitt | did not attempt to follow closely the arguments of previous speakers. He aimed rather at striking out sudden sparks, and at the adoption of memorable phrases, which impressed his hearers at once, and were not soon forgotten. Hanover of course was an obvious and tempting theme, because it raised the whole question of George the Second's German engagements, and the influence they exercised upon the policy of this country in Europe. Pitt was not always consistent, but at this time he inveighed against Hanoverian entanglements with a fine flow of patriotic fervour. He was undoubtedly sincere. He had joined, on coming into Parliament, the Whig Opposition to Walpole, which was founded on jealousy of prerogative, and a belief that the Hanoverians were no more to be trusted than the Stuarts. In the course of his long supremacy over the King and the Cabinet Walpole had aroused a spirit of resistance which, though it may have originated in personal motives, developed into a definite party, combining the profession of Whig principles with the practice of antagonism to the House of Hanover.
Few passages of Pitt's oratory are better known than his comparison of the coalition between Fox and Newcastle to the junction of Rhone and the Saone. But, famous as it is now, its success at the time was not so complete as tha which some his other phrases achieved. Fox afterwards asked Pitt whether he himself were the Rhone or the Saone, and received the unexpected answer, “You are Granville.” Lord Granville, better known as Lord Carteret, was a member of the Coalition Government. But he was not included in the simile, and Fox was, of course, the Rhone. Between him and Pitt there had been fierce and eager rivalry. Henry Fox, the first Lord Holland, father of Charles James, was devoid of political principle, but an able administrator, and a consummately dexterous debater, who possessed just the Parliamentary qualities that Pitt lacked. The Duke of Newcastle had chosen him to lead the House of Commons, believing that he was the only man who could stand up against the "terrible cornet of horse," as Walpole had called Pitt long before. Chatham's fame is so immeasurably greater than Lord Holland's that we find it difficult to realise the possibility of their having been regarded as competitors. But there can be no doubt of the fact. Fox, whatever else may be thought of him, had the faculties, at least the intellectual faculties, which enable a politician to hold his own in the House of Commons. If he had had Pitt's character, or Pitt's imagination, he might occupy a much more conspicuous place in history.
Reply to Horace Walpole
The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the Honourable Gentleman has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience.
Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not assume the province of determining : but surely age may become justly contemptible, if the opportunities, which it brings have passed away without improvement and vice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided. The wretch who, after having seen the consequences of a thousand