Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/40

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Lord Chatham as an Orator

Strong as this language is, that of Mr. Lecky[1] is scarcely less emphatic. 'There was one man to whom, in this hour of panic and consternation, the eyes of all patriotic Englishmen were turned.... Lord North, the Prime Minister, implored the King to accept his resignation, and to send for Chatham. Bute, the old Tory favourite, breaking his long silence, spoke of Chatham as now indispensable. Lord Mansfield, the bitterest and ablest rival of Chatham, said, with tears in his eyes, that unless the King sent for Chatham, the ship would assuredly go down.'

But the experiment was not to be tried. On April 6, 1778, the old man wrote a short and gentle letter to the Duke of Richmond, whom he esteemed, saying that he hoped to be in his place 'to-morrow' in the House of Lords, and to express his sentiments on his Grace's motion, which was practically to recognize American independence.

He was led into the House on that memorable 'morrow'—how often have we heard and been thrilled by the story—by two young men, his son-in-law Lord Mahon, and his younger son William. He was dressed in a rich suit of black velvet, and covered to the knees in flannel. He supported himself on crutches. The Lords stood up and made a lane for him to his seat. He bowed to them on his way.

The Duke of Richmond made his motion, to which Chatham listened with profound attention. Soon after, he rose from his seat slowly and with difficulty, leaning on his crutches, and supported by his two young kinsmen.

You will allow me to give you just the opening and the closing sentences. Taking one hand from his crutch, he raised it, and, casting his eyes towards heaven,

  1. History, vol. iv, chap, xiv, p. 80.