Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/19

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
14
Lord Chatham as an Orator

History, he spoke in this place to an eager audience of friends and foes, all on that great day his friends:

'It is well known that the administration of the first William Pitt was a period of unanimity unparalleled in our annals. Popular and antipopular parties had gone to sleep together. The great Minister wielded the energies of the whole united nation. France and Spain were trampled in the dust; Protestant Germany saved; all North America was the dominion of the British Crown; the vast foundations were laid of our empire in India.'

Add to this one significant sentence from Macaulay, 'the Journals of the House of Commons, during four sessions, contain no trace of a division on a party question.'

But it is not in halcyon days of calm that we expect to meet the Orator. Eloquence loves, and almost needs, the storm.

Let us pass over five years. Let us come from 1761, when Pitt was turned out of office, to 1766. How much has happened in the interval! Throughout the next four years counsels very different from his prevailed. Tares were sown, destined to issue in fatal harvests. During much of this period Pitt was tormented by gout, and absent from the tumult of politics. But in 1766 he returned, and his return 'made history'.


IV

Let me, then, lead you, however abruptly, to his latest speech in the House of Commons, January 14, 1766. The Bill for the Repeal of George Grenville's Stamp Act was being pressed through the House by Lord Rockingham's Ministers. A sentence of Macaulay's makes it live for us. 'Two great orators and statesmen', he says, 'belonging to two different generations repeatedly put forth all their powers in defence of the