Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/15

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Lord Chatham as an Orator

speeches, have left so deep an impress of eloquence as the elder Pitt, who was not reported at all.... His utterances with a sort of wireless telegraphy seemed to thrill the nation which neither heard nor read them.'

We have perhaps been too lavish in quotation, but you would blame me if I did not give you a few of the epigrammatic words of the Irish Grattan, who had the good fortune to hear the great English orator with his own ears. Grattan's language, once heard or read, is not easily forgotten or put aside.

'The Secretary', he says, 'stood alone. Modern degeneracy had not reached him. Original and unaccommodating, the features of his character had the hardihood of antiquity. With one hand he smote the House of Bourbon, and wielded in the other the democracy of England. His eloquence was an era in the senate, peculiar and spontaneous, familiarly expressing gigantic sentiments and instinctive wisdom.' 'He lightened upon his subject, and reached the point by the flashings of his mind, which, like those of his eye, were felt but could not be followed.'


III

Let us now put to some kind of test some of these emphatic judgements, by turning to the Orator himself. I propose to recall, though with very different degrees of fullness, two debates in the House of Commons, dated November, 1755, and January, 1766; and again six debates in the House of Lords, dated respectively January, 1770, May, 1774, January, 1775, May, 1777, November, 1777, April 7, 1778.

I shall offer you just enough of historical framing to account for the object, the tone, and the language used; but I shall ask you to bear in mind that our aim is not to criticize statesmanship, or to revive history, or to