Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/22

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Lord Chatham as an Orator

forced him to resign—'but the man of that country wanted wisdom, and held principles incompatible with freedom.'

But so far our leader has only been skirmishing. Now he brings up his battalions closer to the point of attack. America alone is now his theme—the Taxation of America; the fierce rebellion in America, which the last mails have announced; the present attempt of Ministers to repeal the abominable Stamp Act.

He begins, as often, with a touch of not ungraceful egotism. I think we may say that in political speeches egotism, if it does not disgust, is rather a favourite. Even in dull ears there is an involuntary pricking up at the most delicate overture of a 'l'État c'est moi'. But the egotist must be a Somebody, if not quite a Louis XIV.

'It is a long time, Mr. Speaker,' so Mr. Pitt begins, 'since I have attended in Parliament. When the resolution was taken in this House of Commons'—that is, as we have seen, early in 1765 by his brother-in-law George Grenville—'I was ill in bed.' The gout, as we shall see, and the crutch play a prominent part in Pitt's later oratory.

'If,' he continues, 'if I could have endured to be carried in my bed, so great was the agitation of my mind, I would have solicited some kind hand to have laid me down on this floor, to have borne my testimony against it! It is now an Act that has passed. I would speak with decency of every Act of this House, but I must beg the indulgence of the House to speak of it with freedom.'

Then he proceeds to give his now well-known opinion of what we should call the unconstitutional character of the Stamp Act.

'It is my opinion that this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the Colonies.... The colonists are