Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/9

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Lord Chatham as an Orator

Cardinal Newman[1] has shrewdly observed that the proverb is true of matters of judgement but not of matters of conscience.

A third authority, having it must be owned little in common with either the Poet of the Troades or the great Fellow of Oriel, wrote almost reproachfully in 1797 to the son of Lord Chatham: 'I never assent till I am convinced what is proposed is right, and then I keep. Then I never allow that to be destroyed by after-thoughts, which on all subjects tend to weaken, never to strengthen, the original proposal.' This, Sir, was the ethical judgement of King George III,[2] based upon a long and surely consistent personal experience.

In my own unhappy dilemma, what was I to do? Conscience said, 'Keep faith with the Vice-Chancellor.' Judgement said, plainly and more plainly, 'It would be hopeless in one hour's address, even before the most indulgent audience, to deal even tolerably with a period in which at least fifteen orators of the highest class were mighty in Parliament, Chatham, Burke, Charles Fox, William Pitt, Sheridan, Grattan, Plunket, Canning, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Brougham, Lord Derby, Macaulay, John Bright, Disraeli, Gladstone.

As I gazed wistfully on this grand gallery of portraits, it became more and more clear that I could not obey both conscience and judgement; and so, as is so often the case, conscience had to give way to judgement, and to throw itself on some dispensing power for a gracious, if not a plenary, absolution.

I think I may say that the Vice-Chancellor, who has known the penitent for fifty years, has already in part absolved him. It remains to be seen if his audience will be equally indulgent to a stranger, and whether, in their presence, he may dare to appeal from the rough Aeschy-

  1. Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iv. 36.
  2. Pitt and Napoleon, p. 240, Dr. Holland Rose.