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LORD CHATHA M.
The narze of CHATHAM is the representative, in our language, of whatever is boll and commanding in eloquence. Yet his speeches are so imperfectly reported, that is is not so much from them as from the testimony of his contemporaries, that we have gained our conceptions of his transcendent powers as an orator. We measure his greatness, as we do the height of some inaccessible cliff, by the shadow it casts be hind. Hence it will be proper to dwell more at large on the events of his politica life; and especially to colect the evidence which has come down to us by tradition of his astonishing sway over the British Senate.
WILLIAM Pitt, first Earl of Chatham was descended from a family of high re spectability in Cornwall, and was born ai London, on the 15th of November, 1708 At Eton, where he was placed from boyhood, he was distinguished for the quick ness of his parts and for his habits of unwearied application, though liable, much of his time, to severe suffering from a hereditary gout. Here he acquired that love of the classics which he carried with him throughout life, and which operated so pow. crfully in forming his character as an orator. He also formed at Eton those habits of easy and animated conversation for which he was celebrated in after life. Cut off by disease from the active sports of the school, he and Lord Lyttleton, who was a greater invalid than himself, found their chief enjoyment during the intervals of study, in the lively interchange of thought. By the keenness of their wit and the brilliancy of their imaginations, they drew off their companions, Fox, Hanbury Williams, Fielding, and others, from the exercises of the play-ground, to gather around them as eager listeners; and gained that quickness of thought, that dexterity of reply, that ready self-possession under a sudden turn of argument or the sharpness of retort, which are indispensable to success in public debate. Almost every great orator has been distinguished for his conversational powers.
At the age of eighteen, Mr. Pitt was removed to the University of Oxford. Hero, in connection with his other studies, he entered on that severe course of rhetorical training which he often referred to in after life, as forming so large a part of his early discipline. He took up the practice of writing out translations from the ancient orators and historians, on the broadest scale. Demosthenes was his model ; and we are told that he rendered a large part of his orations again and again into English, as the best means of acquiring a forcible and expressive style. The practice was highly recommended by Cicero, from his own experience. It aids the young orator far more effectually in catching the spirit of his model, than any course of mere reading, however fervent or repeated. It is, likewise, the severest test of his command of language. To clothe the thoughts of another in a dress which is at once "close and easy" (an excellent, though quaint description of a good translation) is a task of extreme difficulty. As a means of acquiring copiousness of diction and an exact choice of words, Mr. Pitt also read and re-read the sermons of Dr. Barrow, till he knew many of them by heart. With the same view, he performed a task to which, perhaps, no other student in oratory has ever submitted. He went twice through the folio Dictionary of Bailey (the best before that of Johnson), examining each word attentively, dwelling on its peculiar import and modes of construction, and thus en: deavoring to bring the whole range of our language completely under his control At this time, also, he began those exercises in elocution by which he is known to have obtained his extraordinary powers of delivery. Though gifted by nature with a commanding voice and person, he spared no effort to add every thing that art could confer for his improvement as an orator. His success was commensurate with his zeal. Garrick himself was not a greater actor, in that higher sense of the term in which Demosthenes declared action to be the first, and second, and third thmg in oratory. The labor which he bestowed on these exercises was surprisingly great. Probably no man of genius since the days of Cicero, has ever submitted to an equal amount of drudgery..
Leaving the University a little before the regular time of graduation, Mr. Pitt traveled on the Continent, particularly in France and Italy. During this tour, he enriched his mind with a great variety of historical and literary information, making every thing subservient, however, to the one great object of preparing for public life. “He thus acquired,” says Lord Chesterfield, “a vast amount of premature and useful knowledge.” On his return to England, he applied a large part of his slender patrimony to the purchase of a commission in the army, and became a Cornet of the Blues. This made him dependent on Sir Robert Walpole, who was then Prim Minister; but, with his characteristic boldness and disregard of consequences, he took his stand, about this time, in the ranks of Opposition. Walpole, by his jeal. ousy, had made almost every man of talents in the Whig party his personal enemy His long continuance in office, against the wishes of the people, was considered a kind of tyranny; and young men like Pitt, Lyttleton, &c., who came fresh from college, with an ardent love of liberty inspired by the study of the classics, were naturally drawn to the standard of Pulteney, Carteret, and the other leading " Patriots,” who declaimed so vehemently against a corrupt and oppressive government The Prince of Wales, in consequence of a quarrel with his father, had now come out as head of the Opposition. A rival court was established at Leicester House, within the very precincts of St. James's Palace, which drew together such an assemblage of wits, scholars, and orators, as had never before met in the British empire. Jar obites, Tories, and Patriots were here united. The insidious, intriguing, but highlygifted Carteret; the courtly Chesterfield ; the impetuous Argyle; Pulteney, with a keenness of wit, and a familiarity with the classics which made him as brilliant in conversation as he was powerful in debate ; Sir John Barnard, with his strong sense and penetrating judgment; Sir William Wyndham, with his dignified sentiments and lofty bearing; and “the all-accomplished Bolingbroke, who conversed in language as elegant as that he wrote, and whose lightest table-talk, if transferred to paper, would, in its style and matter, have borne the test of the severest criticism" --these, together with the most distinguished literary men of the age, formed the court of Frederick, and became the intimate associates of Mr. Pitt. On a mind so ardent and aspiring, so well prepared to profit ky mingling in such society, so gifted with the talent of transferring to itself the kindred excellence of other minds, the company of such men must have acted with extraordinary power; and it is probable that all his rhetorical studies had less effect in making him the orator that he was, than his intimacy with the great leaders of the Opposition at the court of the Prince of Wales.
Mr. Pitt became a member of Parliament in 1735, at the age of twenty-six. For nearly a year he remained silent, studying the temper of the House, and waiting for a favorable opportunity to come forward. Such an opportunity was presented by the marriage of the Prince of Wales, in April, 1736. It was an event of the highest interest and joy to the nation ; but such was the King's animosity against his son, that he would not suffer the address of congratulation to be moved, as usual, by the ministers of the Crown. The motion was brought forward by Mr. Pulteney; and it shows the high estimate put upon Mr. Pitt, that, when he had not as yet opel oc! his lips in Parliament, he should be selected to second the motion, in preference to some of the most able and experienced members of the House. His speech vas received with the highest applause, and shows that Mr. Pitt's imposing manner and fine command of language gave him from the first that sort of fascination for his audience, which he seemed always to exert over a popular assembly. The speech, which will be found below, if understood literally, is only a series of elegant and high-sounding compliments. If, however, as seems plainly the case, there ruus throughout it a deeper meaning; if the glowing panegyric on “ the filial virtue" of the Prince, and “the tender paternal delight” of the King, was intended to reflect on George II. for his harsh treatment of his son—and it can hardly be otherwise-we can not enough admire the dexterity of Mr. Pitt in so managing his subject, as to give his compliments all the effect of the keenest irony, while yet he left no pretense for taking notice of their application as improper or disrespectful. Certain it is that the whole speech was wormwood and gall to the King. It awakened in his mind a personal hatred of Mr. Pitt, which, aggravated as it was by subsequent attacks of a more direct nature, excluded him for years from the service of the Crown, until ne was forced upon a reluctant monarch by the demands of the people.
Sir Robert Walpole, as might be supposed, listened to the eloquence of his youthfui opponent with anxiety and alarm; and is said to have exclaimed, after hearing the speech,“ We must, at all events, muzzle that terrible Cornet of Horse.” Whether he attempted to bribe him by offers of promotion in the army (as was reported at the time), it is impossible now to say ; but finding him unalterably attached to the Prince and the Opposition, he struck the blow without giving him time to make an. other speech, and deprived him of his commission within less than eighteen days. Such a mode of punishing a political opponent has rarely been resorted to, under free governments, in the case of military and naval officers. It only rendered the Court more odious, while it created a general sympathy in favor of Mr. Pitt, and turned the attention of the public with new zest and interest to his speeches in Parliament. Lord Lyttleton, at the same time, addressed him in the following lines, which were eagerly circulated throughout the country, and set him forth as already leader of the Opposition.
Long had thy virtues marked thee out for fame,
He took, and bade thee lead the Patriot Band. As a compensation to Mr. Pitt for the loss of his commission, the Prince appointed him Groom of the Bed-chamber at Leicester House.
Thus, at the age of twenty-seven, Mr. Pitt was made, by the force of his genius and the influence of concurrent circumstances, one of the most prominent members of Parliament, and an object of the liveliest interest to the great body, especially the middling classes, of the English nation. These classes were now rising into an im portance never before known. They regarded Sir Robert Walpole, sustained as he was in power by the will of the sovereign and the bribery of Parliament, as their natural enemy. Mr. Pitt shared in all their feelings. He was the exponent of their principles. He was, in truth, “ the Great Commoner.” As to many of the measures for which Walpole was hated by the people and opposed by Mr. Pitt, time has shown that he was in the right and they in the wrong. It has also shown, that nearly all the great leaders of the Opposition, the Pulteneys and the Carterets, were unprincipled men, who played on the generous sympathies of Pitt and Lyttleton, and lashed the prejudices of the nation into rage against the minister, simply to obtain his place. Still the struggle of the people, though in many respects a bund ono, was prompted by a genuine instinct of their nature, and was prophetic of an onward movement in English society. It was the Commons of England demanding their place in the Constitution; and happy it was that they had a leader like Mr. Pitt, to represent their principles and animate their exertions. To face at once the Crown and the Peerage demanded not only undaunted resolution, but something of that imperious spirit, that haughty self-assertion, which was so often complained of in the greatest of English orators. In him, however, it was not merely a sense of personal superiority, but a consciousness of the cause in which he was engaged. He was sct for the defense of the popular part of the Constitution.
In proceeding to trace briefly the course of Mr. Pitt as a statesman, we shall divide his public life into distinct periods, and consider them separately with refer ence to his measures in Parliament..
The first period consists of nearly ten years, down to the close of 1744. During the whole of this time, he was an active member of the Opposition, being engaged for nearly seven years in unwearied efforts to put down Sir Robert Walpole, and when this was accomplished, in equally strenuous exertions for three years longer, to resist the headlong measures of his successor, Lord Carteret. This minister had rendered himself odious to the nation by encouraging the narrow views and sordid policy of the King, in respect to his Continental possessions. George II. was born in Hanover, and he always consulted its interests at the expense of Great Britain ; seeking to throw upon the national treasury the support of the Hanoverian troops during his wars on the Continent, and giving the Electorate, in various other ways, a marked preference over the rest of the empire. To these measures, and the minister who abetted them, Mr. Pitt opposed himself with all the energy of his fervid argumentation, and the force of his terrible invective. It was on this subject that he first came into collision, December 10th, 1742, with his great antagonist Murray, afterward Lord Mansfield. Mr. Oswald, a distinguished literary man who was present, thus describes the two combatants : “Murray spoke like a pleader, who could not dives! himself of the appearance of having been employed by others. Pitt spoke like a gentieman-like a statesman who felt what he said, and possessed the strongest desire of conveying that feeling to others, for their own interest and that of their country. Murray gains your attention by the perspicuity of his statement and the elegance of his diction ; Pitt commands your attention and respect by the nobleness and greatness of his sentiments, the strength and energy of his expressions, and the certainty of his always rising to a greater elevation both of thought and sentiment. Por, this talent he possesses, beyond any speaker I ever heard, of never falling from the beginning to the end of his speech, either in thought or expression. And as in this session he has begun to speak like a man of business as well as an orator, he will in all probability be, or rather is, allowed to make as great an appearance as ever man did in that House.”
Mr. Pitt incessantly carried on the attack upon Carteret, who, strong in the King's favor, was acting against the wishes of his associates in office. He exclaimed against him as “a sole minister, who had renounced the British nation, and seemed to have drunk of that potion described in poetic fictions, which made men forget their country." He described the King as “hemmed in by German officers, and one English minister without an English heart.” It was probably about this time that he made his celebrated retort on Sir William Yonge, a man of great abilities but flagitious life, who had interrupted him while speaking by crying out “Question Question !" Tuning to the insolent intruder with a look of inexpressible diegust he exclaimed, “ L'ardon me, Mr. Speaker, my agitation! When that gentleman call: for the question, I think I hear the knell of my country's ruin.” Mi. Pitt soos gained a complete ascendency over the House. No man could cope with him. few ventured even to oppose him; and Carteret was given up by all as an object of merited reprobation. Under these circumstances, Mr. Pelham, who had now be. come head of the government, opened a negotiation for a union with Mr. Pitt and the dismissal of Carteret. The terms were easily arranged, and a memorial was at once presented to the King by Lord Hardwicke, supported by the rest of the ministry, do. inanding the removal of the obnoxious favorite. The King refused, wavered, tergporized, and at last yielded. Mr. Pelham formed a new ministry in November, 1744, with the understanding that Mr. Pitt should be brought into office at the earli est moment that the King's prejudices would permit. During the same year, the Duchess of Marlborough died, leaving Mr. Pitt a legacy of £10,000,“ on account of his merit in the noble defense of the laws of England, and to prevent the ruin of the country." This was a seasonable relief to one who never made any account of money, and whose circumstances, down to this time, were extremely limited. It may as well here be mentioned, that about twenty years after, he received a stil more ample testimony of the same kind from Sir William Pynsent, who bequeathed him an estate of £2500 a year, together with £30,000 in ready money.
We now come to the second period of Mr. Pitt's political life, embracing the ten years of Mr. Pelham's ministry down to the year 1754. So strong was the hostility of the King to his old opponent, that no persuasions could induce him to receive Mr. Pitt into his service. On the contrary, when pressed upon the subject, he took decided measures for getting rid of his new ministers. This led Mr. Pelham and his associates, who knew their strength, instantly to resign. The King was now powerless. The Earl of Bath (Pulteney), to whom he had committed the formation of a ministry, could get nobody to serve under him ; the retired ministers looked with derision on his fruitless efforts; and some one remarked sarcastically, “ that it was unsafe to walk the streets at night, for fear of being pressed for a cabinet counselor.” The Long Administration came to an end in just forty-eight hours! The King was compelled to go back to Mr. Pelham, and to take Mr. Pitt along with him ; he stipu lated, however, that the man who was thus forced upon him should not, at least for a time, be brought into immediate contact with his person. He could not endure the mortification of meeting with him in private. Mr. Pitt, therefore, received
provisionally the situation of Joint Treasurer of Ireland. He now resigned the of· fice of Groom of the Chamber to the Prince of Wales, and entered heartily into the
interests of the Pelham ministry. A contemporary represents him as “swaying the House of Commons, and uniting in himself the dignity of Wyndham, the wit of Pulteney, and the knowledge and judgment of Walpole.” He was "right (con. ciliatory) toward the King, kind and respectful to the old corps, and resolute and contemptuous to the Tory Opposition.” Abont a year after (May, 1746), on the death of Mr. Winnington, he was made Paymaster of the Forces, as originally agreed on.
In entering upon his new office, Mr. Pitt gave a striking exhibition of disinterestedness, which raised him in the public estimation to a still higher level as a man, than he had ever attained by his loftiest efforts as an orator. It was then the cus. tom, that £100,000 should constantly lie as an advance in the hands of the Pay. master, who invested the money in public securities, and thus realized about £4000 a year for his private benefit. This was obviously a very dangerous practice; for i! the funds were suddenly depressed, through a general panic or any great public ca. lamity, the Paymaster might be unable to realize his investments, and would thue becoine a public defaulter. This actually happened during the rebellion of 1745, when the army, on whose fidelity depended the very existence of the government was for a time left without pay Mr. Pitt, therefore, on assuming the duties of Pay