Page images


The following remarkable speech, which is given unabridged, as it appears in the Biographia Brittanica, did not fail in its effect. Richard Cromwell never appeared in public again, after it as delivered. "This impetuous torrent," says one of Vane's biographers, "swept everythi g oefore it. Oratory, genius, and the spirit of liberty, never achieved a more complete triumphIt was signal and decisive, instantaneous and irresistible. It broke, and forever, the power of Richard and his party." Sir Henry Vane was born in Kent, England, in 1612; was the fourth Governor of the colony of Massachusetts, in 1636; and was executed for high treason on Tower Hill, in 1662.

MR. SPEAKER, -Among all the people of the universe, I know none who have shown so much zeal for the liberty of their country as the English at this time have done; - they have, by the help of divine Providence, overcome all obstacles, and have made themselves free. We have driven away the hereditary tyranny of the house of Stuart. at the expense of much blood and treasure, in hopes of enjoying hereditary liberty, after having shaken off the yoke of kingship; and there is not a man among us who could have imagined that any person would be so bold as to dare to attempt the ravishing from us that freedom which cost us so much blood, and so much labor. But so it happens, I know not by what misfortune, we are fallen into the error of those who poisoned the Emperor Titus to make room for Domitian; who made away Augustus that they might have Tiberius; and changed Claudius for Nero. I am sensible these examples are foreign from my subject, since the Romans in those days were buried in lewdness and luxury, whereas the people of England are now renowned all over the world for their great virtue and discipline; and yet,-suffer an idiot, without courage, without sense, nay, without ambition, to have dominion in a country of liberty! One could bear a little with Oliver Cromwell, though, contrary to his oath of fidelity to the Parliament, contrary to his duty to the public, contrary to the respect he owed that venerable body from whom he received his authority, he usurped the Government. His merit was so extraordinary, that our judgments, our passions, might be blinded by it. He made his way to empire by the most illustrious actions; he had under his command an army that had made him a conqueror, and a People that had made him their General. But, as for Richard Cromwell, his son, who is he? what are his titles? We have seen that he had a sword by his side; but did he ever draw it? And, what is of more importance in this case, is he fit to get obedience from a mighty Nation, who could never make a footman obey him? Yet, we must recognize this man as our King, under the style of Protector!—a man without birth, without courage, without conduct! For my part, I declare, Sir, it shall never be said that I made such a man my master!

37. HOW PATRIOTS MAY BE MADE.-On a motion for dismissing him from his Majesty's Council, 1740. Sir Robert Walpole. Born, 1676; died, 1745.

Ir has been observed, Mr. Speaker, by several gentlemen, in vindication of this motion, that, if it should be carried, neither my life,

liberty nor estate, will be affected. But do the honorable gentlemen consider my character and reputation as of no moment? Is it no inputation to be arraigned before this House, in which I have sat forty years, and to have my name transmitted to posterity with disgrace and infamy? I will not conceal my sentiments, that to be named in Parliament as a subject of inquiry, is to me a matter of great concern; but I have the satisfaction, at the same time, to reflect that the impression to be made depends upon the consistency of the charge, and the motives of the prosecutors. Had the charge been reduced to specific allegations, I should have felt myself called upon for a specific -defence. Had I served a weak or wicked master, and implicitly obeyed his dictates, obedience to his commands must have been my only justification. But, as it has been my good fortune to serve a master who wants no bad Ministers, and would have hearkened to none, my defence must rest on my own conduct. The consciousness of innocence is sufficient support against my present prosecutors.

Survey and examine the individuals who usually support the measures of Government, and those who are in opposition. Let us see to whose side the balance preponderates. Look round both Houses, and see to which side the balance of virtue and talents preponderates. Are all these on one side, and not on the other? Or are all these to be counterbalanced by an affected claim to the exclusive title of patriotism? Gentlemen have talked a great deal about patriotism. A venerable word, when duly practised! But I am sorry to say that of late it has been so much hackneyed about, that it is in danger of falling into disgrace. The very idea of true patriotism is lost; and the term has been prostituted to the very worst of purposes. A patriot, Sir!- Why, patriots spring up like mushrooms! I could raise fifty of them within the four-and-twenty hours. I have raised many of them in one night. It is but refusing to gratify an unreasonable or an insolent demand, and up starts a patriot. I have never been afraid of making patriots; but I disdain and despise all their efforts. This pretended virtue proceeds from personal malice, and from disappointed ambition. There is not a man amongst them whose particular aim I am not able to ascertain, and from what motive he has entered into the lists of opposition!

38. AGAINST MR. PITT, 1741. — Id.

SIR, -I was unwilling to interrupt the course of this debate while it was carried on, with calmness and decency, by men who do not suffer the ardor of opposition to cloud their reason, or transport them to such expressions as the dignity of this assembly does not admit. I have hitherto deferred to answer the gentleman who declaimed against the bill with such fluency of rhetoric, and such vehemence of gesture, who charged the advocates for the expedients now proposed with having no regard to any interest but their own, and with making laws only to consume paper, and threatened them with the defection

of their adherents, and the loss of their influence, upon this new dis covery of their folly, and their ignorance. Nor, Sir, do I now answer him for any other purpose than to remind him how little the clamors of rage, and the petulaney of invectives, contribute to the purposes for which this assembly is called together; - how little the discovery of truth is promoted, and the security of the Nation estallished, by pompous diction, and theatrical emotions. Formidable sounds and furious declamations, confident assertions and lofty periods, may affect the young and inexperienced; and perhaps the gentleman may have contracted his habits of oratory by conversing more with those of his own age than with such as have had more opportunities of acquiring knowledge, and more successful methods of commun cating their sentiments. If the heat of his temper, Sir, would suffer him to attend to those whose age and long acquaintance with business give them an indisputable right to deference and superiority, he would learn, in time, to reason rather than declaim, and to prefer justness of argument, and an accurate knowledge of facts, to sounding epithets, and splendid superlatives, which may disturb the imagination for a moment, but which leave no lasting impression on the mind. He will learn, Sir, that to accuse and prove are very different; and that reproaches, unsupported by evidence, affect only the character of him that utters them. Excursions of fancy, and flights of oratory, are, indeed, pardonable in young men, but in no other; and it would surely contribute more, even to the purpose for which some gentlemen appear to speak (that of depreciating the conduct of the administration), to prove the inconveniences and injustice of this Bill, than barely to assert them, with whatever magnificence of language, or appearance of zeal, honesty, or compassion.

39. REPLY TO SIR R. WALPOLE, 1741.-William Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham. William Pitt, first Earl of Chatham,-one of the greatest orators of modern times, and especially endeared to Americans for his eloquent appeals in their behalf against the aggressions of the Mother Country, was born on the 15th of November, 1708, in the parish of St. James, in the city of Westminster, England, and died on the 11th of May, 1778. His second son was the celebrated William Pitt, whose fame equals, though it does not eclipse, that of his father. "Viewing the forms of the two Pitts, father and son," says a biographer of the latter, “as they stand in History, what different emotions their images call forth! The impassioned and remai tic father seems like a hero of chivalry; the stately and classical son, as a Roman dictator, compelled into the dimensions of an English minister!" "The principle," says Hazlitt, "by which the Earl of Chatham exerted his influence over others, was sympathy. He himself evidently had a strong possession of his subject, a thorough conviction, an intense interest; and this communicated itself from his manner, from the tones of his voice, from his commanding attitudes, and eager gestures, instinctively and unavoidably, to his hearers." The first sound is said to have terrified Sir Robert Walpole, who immediately exclaimed, "We must muzzle that terrible cornet of horse." Sir Robert offered to promote Mr. Pitt in the army, provided he gave up his seat in Parliament. Probably Mr. Pitt was unwarrantably severe in the following reply to the foregoing remarks of Sir Robert. The reply appeared originally in Dr. Johnson's Register of Debates, and probably received many touches from his pen.

SIR, The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honorable gentleman has, with such spirit and decency, charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny; but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their

youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experiencc Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not, Sir, assume the province of determining;- but surely age may become justly contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings have passed away without improvement, and vice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided. The wretch who, after having seen the consequences of a thousand errors, continues still to blunder, and whose age has only added obstinacy to stupidity, is surely the object of either abhorrence or contempt, and deserves not that his gray hairs should secure him from insult. Much more, Sir, is he to be abhorred, who, as he has advanced in age, has receded from virtue, and becomes more wicked with less temptation; who prostitutes himself for money which he cannot enjoy, and spends the remains of his life in the ruin of his country.

But youth, Sir, is not my only crime: I have been accused of acting a theatrical part. A theatrical part may either imply some peculiarities of gesture, or a dissimulation of my real sentiments, and an adoption of the opinions and language of another man. In the first sense, Sir, the charge is too trifling to be confuted, and deserves only to be mentioned, to be despised. I am at liberty, like every other man, to use my own language; and though, perhaps, I may have some ambition to please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself under any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his diction or his mien, however matured by age or modelled by experience. If any man shall, by charging me with theatrical behavior, imply that I utter any sentiments but my own, I shall treat him as a calumniator and a villain; - nor shall any protection shelter him from the treatment he deserves. I shall, on such an occasion, without scruple, trample upon all those forms with which wealth and dignity intrench themselves, nor shall anything but age restrain my resentment; age, which always brings one privilege, that of being insolent and supercilious without punishment. But with regard, Sir, to those whom I have offended, I am of opinion that, if I had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoided their censure: the heat that offended them is the ardor of conviction, and that zeal for the service of my country which neither hope nor fear shall influence me to suppress. I will not sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor look in silence upon public robbery. I will exert my endeavors, at whatever hazard, to repel the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, whoever may protect them in their villany, and whoever may partake of their plunder.

[ocr errors]

40. IN REPLY TO MR. GRENVILLE, 1766.—Earl of Chatham.

SIR, a charge is brought against Gentlemen sitting in this House of giving birth to sedition in America. Several have spoken their sentiments with freedom against this unhappy act, and that freedom has become their crime. Sorry I am to hear the liberty of speech in

this House imputed as a crime. But the imputation shall not dis courage me. The Gentleman tells us, America is obstinate; America is almost in open rebellion. I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to let themselves be made slaves would have been fit instruments to make slaves of all the rest. I come not here armed at all points with law cases and acts of Parliament, with the statute-book doubled down in dogs' ears, to defend the cause of liberty. I would not debate a particular point of law with the Gentleman. I know his abilities. But, for the defence of liberty, upon a general principle, upon a Constitutional principle, it is a ground on which I stand firm, — on which I dare meet any man.

The Gentleman boasts of his bounties to America. Are not those bounties intended finally for the benefit of this Kingdom? If they are not, he has misapplied the national treasures. He asks, When were the Colonies emancipated? I desire to know when they were made slaves! But I dwell not upon words. I will be bold to affirm that the profits of Great Britain from the trade of the Colonies, through all its branches, are two millions a year. This is the fund that carried you triumphantly through the last war. This is the price America pays for her protection. And shall a miserable financier come, with a boast that he can fetch a pepper-corn into the Exchequer, by the loss of millions to the Nation? *

A great deal has been said, without doors, of the power, of the strength, of America. It is a topic that ought to be cautiously meddled with. In a good cause, the force of this country can crush America to atoms. I know the valor of your troops; I know the skill of your officers. But on this ground, -on the Stamp Act, when so many here will think it a crying injustice, I am one who will lift up my hands against it. In such a cause, even your success would be hazardous. America, if she fell, would fall like the strong nian. She would embrace the pillars of the State, and pull down the Constitution along with her. Is this your boasted peace? To sheathe the sword, not in its scabbard, but in the bowels of your countryinen? Will you quarrel with yourselves, now the whole House of Bourbon is united against you? While France disturbs your fisheries in Newfoundland, embarrasses your slave-trade to Africa, and withholds from your subjects in Canada their property stipulated by treaty? while the ransom for the Manillas is denied by Spain? The Americans have been wronged. They have been driven to madness by injustice. Will you punish them for the madness you have occasioned? Rather let prudence and temper come first from this side! I will undertake for America that she will follow the example.

[ocr errors]

"Be to her faults a little blind ;
Be to her virtues very kind."

Let the Stamp Act be repealed; and let the reason for the repeal

Mr. Nugent had said that a peppercorn in acknowledgment of the right to tax America was of more value than millions without it.

« PreviousContinue »