Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/20

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15
Lord Chatham as an Orator

Bill. The House of Commons heard Pitt for the last time and Burke for the first time, and was in doubt to which of them the palm of eloquence should be assigned. It was indeed a splendid sunset and a splendid dawn.'

The occasion was truly critical. The ill-starred measure of Grenville, dating from March, 1765, had done its work. The Colonies, hitherto so loyal, were furious. In August grave disturbances broke out. The news of the riots reached England in the course of the autumn. The violence of the rioters was everywhere denounced. The House of Commons met on January 14. Mr. Pitt spoke early in the debate. There was keen excitement to know what line the Great Commoner would adopt. For two years he had been rarely heard in Parliament. When he rose to speak, he began, we are told, in a low tone of voice. But the low tone was not long maintained. He was in no mood for soft words or suppressed convictions.

Turning to his brother-in-law, George Grenville, who had been dismissed from the Premiership half a year before, and now sat on the bench close to him, he observed, as it were incidentally, 'As to the late Ministers, every capital measure they took was—entirely wrong! As to the present gentlemen,' that is, Lord Rockingham's short-lived colleagues, 'I have no objections. I have never been made a sacrifice to any of them. Their characters are fair, and I am always glad when men of fair character engage in His Majesty's service.... But notwithstanding—for I love to be explicit—I cannot give them my confidence. Pardon me, gentlemen,' bowing to the Ministry, 'confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom'—he was then a little over 57—'youth is the season of credulity.'