Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/42

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37
Lord Chatham as an Orator

Arnold is describing the debate in the Roman Senate on the harsh terms of peace proposed by King Pyrrhus. Appius Claudius, the famous Censor, was now in extreme old age, and had been for many years blind. He now desired to be carried to the Senate, and was borne in a litter by his slaves through the Forum.

When it was known that Appius Claudius was coming, his sons and sons-in-law went out to the steps of the Senate-house to receive him, and he was by them led into his place. The whole Senate kept the deepest silence as the old man arose to speak.

And then follows what I think I may call not only the touching but the characteristic comment of Dr. Arnold, who was so suddenly taken away from the eyes of your fathers on June 12, exactly seventy years ago. 'No Englishman', he writes, 'can have read so far without remembering the scene, in all points so similar, which took place within our fathers' memory in our own House of Parliament. We recollect how the greatest of English statesmen, bowed down by years of infirmity like Appius, but roused, like him, by the dread of approaching dishonour to the English name, was led by his son and son-in-law into the House of Lords, and all the Peers with one impulse arose to receive him.

'We know the expiring words of that mighty voice, when he protested against the dismemberment of this ancient monarchy, and prayed that, if England must fall, she might fall with honour. The real speech of Lord Chatham against yielding to the coalition of France and America will give a far more lively image of what was said by the blind Appius in the Roman Senate than any fictitious oration which I could either copy from other writers or endeavour myself to invent; and those who would wish to know how Appius spoke should read the dying words of the great orator of England.'