Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/26

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Lord Chatham as an Orator

of Palmerston. I should start, and almost wonder where I was, if I heard it from the second Pitt, from Sir Robert Peel, from Lord Shaftesbury, from Mr. Gladstone.


V

I fear, my friends, if any friend is still remaining, that I may have wearied you with these long extracts from a single speech. If it was an error of judgement, it was an error deliberately hazarded. I wished to show you Chatham at his best; and this his last speech in the House of Commons has always seemed to me at least equal to any of those which have been well reported, and one which most vividly portrays the man. To venture on a rather vulgar phrase, it is Chatham all over. His fire, his intrepidity, his passion for freedom, his self-confidence, his contempt for opponents, his terse, crisp, simple, idiomatic words, all are here. You feel as you listen to him, that there is behind him, so to speak, a rich hinterland—a grand historic Past. As General Conway said of him in this very debate, 'Whatever falls from that gentleman falls from so great a height as to make a deep impression.'

Something of the same kind was felt, so I seem to remember, between the summer of 1846 and the fatal 28th of June, 1850, when Sir Robert Peel, driven from what is called 'power', spoke at rare intervals on matters of grave moment. He had become, as only the greatest become, a historical as well as a political figure. He spoke with authority. He had done great things, and not a few hoped that he might live to do more.

So it was with Pitt in 1766, and for a time the general expectation seemed likely to be gratified. On the 18th