Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/30

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Lord Chatham as an Orator

interests us all. They deserve to be remembered. They are worth all the Classics. Let us not, then, degenerate from the glorious example of our ancestors. Those Iron Barons (for so I may call them when compared with the Silken Barons of modern days) were the guardians of the people; yet their virtues, my Lords, were never engaged in a question of such importance as the present. A breach has been made in the constitution. The battlements are dismantled, the citadel is open to the first invader. The walls totter. The place is no longer tenable. What then remains for us but to stand foremost in the breach, to repair it, or to perish in it?'

Am I disrespectful to a great name if I dare to fancy that some of the more cynical of my audience—if indeed there can be any cynics in Oxford on a May day like this—may be tempted to say of these last sentences what Mr. Burke said of Chatham more generally, 'He talks fustian'? Even if this harsh verdict be recorded, it will hardly be extended to one other short sentence with which we will take leave of this once celebrated speech:

'My Lords, I am sensible of the importance and difficulty of this great crisis. At a moment such as this we are called upon to do our duty without dreading the resentment of any man. But if apprehensions of this kind are to affect us, let us consider what we ought to respect most, the representative or the collective body of the people. My Lords, five hundred gentlemen are not ten millions; and if we must have a contention, let us take care to have the English nation on our side.'

It will, I think, be agreed that in these last words there is no 'fustian'.


This speech was, as we have seen, delivered early in the January of 1770. It was followed up by at least four other speeches in the same year on pressing