It would seem that at Cambridge a hundred and fifty years ago there was a gracious custom that whenever our great Cambridge orators, Prime Ministers or ex-Prime Ministers, were to make great speeches in Parliament, their sons were allowed a College Exeat for the night for the purpose of reporting to the University on the proficiency or consistency of their fathers.
If, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, such a custom has prevailed in your Colleges since the days that Oxford began to breed Prime Ministers, I can imagine that some youthful members of some famous College, perhaps some Ireland Scholars or some brilliant Presidents of the Union, may have availed themselves so habitually of this special privilege during the last hundred years, as to perplex the most indulgent Tutor and the least suspicious Dean.
It was, you will remember, in January, 1775, that Chatham delivered what I may be permitted to call his 'Tuque prior, tu parce' speech.
The next morning we find young Pitt, even then a critic, thus reporting to his mother, Lady Chatham:
'I can now tell you correctly. My father has slept well, without any burning in the feet or restlessness. He has had no pain, but is lame in one ankle near the instep, from standing so long. No wonder he is lame. His first speech lasted above an hour, and the second half an hour—surely the two finest speeches that ever were made before, unless by himself.'
Such is the criticism of a dear, a loving, and a wondrously gifted son, a boy of fifteen. The other critic is a very different personage, a man of full age, the shrewd, inventive, oracular American, Benjamin Franklin, the great man who, among many other oracular replies, settled one social question for ever without appeal.