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From The National Review. Beside the general reasons just spoken THE YOUNGER PITT AS AN ORATOR.
of, which have tended to lower the repuWILLIAM PITT the younger has not tation of Pitt, there have been certain been fortunate in his reputation. To the special reasons (even apart from the mea. great majority of cultivated persons it greness of their reports) why his speeches would, we believe, sound absurd in the should be held in less esteem now than present day to claim for him a place nearly they were in his own day. Regarded sim- . on a level with that which his father holds. ply as literary compositions, they would Of Chatham, if no other monument re not quite fall in with our modern judg. mained, the balf-dozen passages which ment. And it is very curious to notice Carlyle has dedicated to him in his “ Fred- how, in the course of Macaulay's biograerick ” would alone be a lasting memorial. phy of Pitt, the private opinion of the Yet in the very form of these panegyrics critic seems to be at war with the prediupon the father, the “one king England lections of the historian – of an historian, has had, this king of four years since the too, who is fond of painting his pictures Constitutional system set in," there is in very vivid colors. We first hear of implied a slight upon the memory of the Pitt's almost miraculous gift of eloquence ;
To a larger audience, Macaulay is of how men used to go away from the the oracle of their political judginents. House of Commons after one of his great No one who takes his ideas from Macau- displays, wondering whether it were poslay is in danger of falling into an excessible for human powers to attain a higher sive hero-worship: a fact to which some fight; and then, again, Macaulay sug. part of the writer's popularity is attributa. gests often enough that there was a good ble. But in his short notice of William deal very artificial and unspontaneous in Pitt, the essayist has adopted a tone more this style of oratory, in “those stately patronizing than his wont. His essay on periods of which he seemed to have an Chatham by no means gives that great almost unlimited command," and in the statesman his due; but it is far more character of a speaker “ who could have worthy of the subject than is the short written a king's speech off-hand; biographical notice which in after years he hints pretty plainly that the unchecked he wrote of the younger Pitt.
flow of Fox's oratory would have been a Many circumstances have contributed good deal more to his mind. It is probto Pitt's decline in reputation after death. able that, judging from a purely literary But undoubtedly the most direct cause of standpoint, Macaulay is right. it was his treatment at the hands of his
In truth, Pitt's speeches are interesting owo immediate followers. Immediately to us not as productions from a literary after his death, Pitt underwent a fantastic point of view, the best in their kind, but sort of apotheosis whereby he was sol as some of the best speeches that have emoly set apart to be the Mumbo-Jumbo ever been delivered by one who fully of the Tory party, and of the most bigoted understood the responsibilities of statessection of it. And the Tory party, as its manship. By that last expression is meant best friends must own, did in the early something which in these Midlothian days years of this century contain some strange we can scarcely understand. Mr. Gladexamples of bigotry and ignorance. We stone has defined, in one of his beautiful know that fifty or sixty years ago it was and picturesque phrases, the business of almost impossible for a man who laid an orator as he apprehends it. * The claim to a fair share of “ culture,” or who speaker,” he says, "gives back to his professed to be on terms of familiarity hearers in a rain what he has received with the Zeitgeist, to frankly own himself
opinion in England is the judgment of M. Guizot: "Je a Tory; and as the younger Pitt was iden- puis admettre la superiorité dramatique de Lord Chattified with Toryism in all its questionable ham, mais je regarde la superiorité politique et morale shapes, it was equally impossible for the de M. Pitt comme incontestable. C'est à mon avis le
plus grand ministre qui a jamais gouverné en AngleZeitgeist to have any fair dealings with
Au milieu des tempêtes revolutionnaires il l'a lim.*
tenue dans l'ordre, et il l'a laissée plus grande en la
laissant libre." (Preface to his translation of Lord • How different from all this consensus of literary Stanhope's “Life of Pitt.”)
from them in a mist.”. But in more homely | father's admiration for Chatham. His language, what is this but to say that now- brother, his brother-in-law, and his first adays the orator is expected to utter the cousin were all three either in the House thoughts of his auditors, and not his own ? of Lords or the heirs to peerages. It need not be repeated that Pitt under- It is undoubtedly to these advantages stood his functions as something very of birth that Pitt in a great measure owed 'different. Fox was a speaker much more two characteristics which always distioafter the modern pattern; he was, in this guished him, and which were throughout as in almost every other particular, the his career his best allies — I mean his true forerunner of the modern Liberal self-confidence and his freedom from van
Fox never spoke with a sense of ity. I do not, of course, imply that birth responsibility. He never minded contra- necessarily confers these good traits, but dicting in one speech the opinions which I think that it is certainly rare to fiod one he had emphatically advanced in a foriner who has been the entire architect of his speech. He did not aspire to be digni- own fame and fortune who has not suffied: a demagogue can do without dignity. fered from one or other of the disabilities And with all these moral and intellectual from which Pitt was specially free. Great defects, it is probable that to an intel. genius will compel a man to rise in despite lectual connoisseur Fox's speeches would of his own modest fears; but the want of have afforded choicer food than those of self-confidence which so often distin. his rival.
guishes men of genius is an injury to Even as compared with his father, Pitt themselves and a cause of loss to the must from the first have been uoduly world. On the other hand, where there hampered by a sense of responsibility. has been no lack of self-trust to keep a From bis childhood, almost, he may be man from rising, he is generally weighted said to have had his eye upon office. In by an inordinate vanity, which is more a sepse different from that of Mr. Brown- harmful to himself and to the world than ing's hero, he was a man born to be king. any excess of diffidence could be. A He must have felt that, with his father's strong strain of personal vanity was one reputation to support his own abilities and among the defects which marred the matraining, the premiership of England - jestic nature of Lord Chatham. That it even then its real kingship was almost was absent from that of his son I consider as certainly within his grasp as if he were due to the position which Lord Chatham to succeed to a hereditary monarchy. He himself had bequeathed. Some of the had, in consequence, most of the merits, earliest speeches of the younger Pitt do, associated with some of the faults, which indeed, display a touch of egotism and characterize those who are born in the self-importance: but these defects were purple. He was - thanks to his father- very soon laid aside. That he was, upon something very different from the poor the whole, remarkably free from vanity
cornet of horse " who had first made the appears most strongly from his private name of Pitt famous. His social position correspondence. was an assured and a distinguished one, After some displays of oratory which long before his own abilities had begun to were rather of the nature of fence than acshed any increased lustre on it; and social tual combat, the real Parliamentary battle position counted for much in those days. began for Pitt upon the formation of the There had been a time when Chatham had famous Coalition. In the ministry of been looked down upon by the great peers Lord Shelburne, which the Coalition was with whom he acted. But that time bad formed to pulled down, Pitt held his first been long forgotten. From being the office as chancellor of the exchequer. Great Commoner he had been for many Now for the first time he was subjected to years the most distinguished peer in En- a formidable criticism ; and, perhaps, the gland. Men like the Duke of Rutland first important speech which he delivered (Granby's son) were proud to claim the must be accounted one on the peace with friendship of Pitt on account of their | America, spoken while he still held his
the peace :
first office of State. Lord Stanhope ac- up their minds. There was, on the one counts it one of the greatest that Pitt ever hand, the danger from the ambition of delivered. To my thinking it shows far Fox, who, by means of his East India Bill, too much self-consciousness on the part of had sought to secure for himself a posi. the orator; and I have no doubt that had tion of power and patronage superior to he been such a mark for the ridicule of the vicissitudes of party, to reign – as the Whigs as he became in the next ses. was always the Whig ideal — indepension, this air of self-importance would dent of the crown. But, on the other have been more noticed. But Fox and hand, there was the danger to the country his friends did not yet realize what a for. from the undue power of the crown is the midable rival stood before them. This is king were to be allowed to dismiss a min. the speech in which "in the name of the istry through back-stairs influence, and to public safety," Pitt "sorbade the banns ”retain one in defiance of a hostile major. of the Coalition marriage - rather theatri-ity in the House of Commons. In their cally, as I will take leave to think. Far doubt about their conduct people instincmore to my mind is the graceful reference tively turned to the one who showed by to Shelburne, as one whose merits “are his own self.command that he had the as far above my praise, as the arts to capacity of leading men. "I am a king which he owes his defamation are below when I rule myself,” says the old Stoic my notice,” or the following passage upon proverb. And it is in this way, too, that
men vindicate their right of kingship over In short, Sir, whatever appears dishonorable others. With one false move, one mo. or inadequate in the peace on your table, is ment of weakness, one sign of fear, and strictly chargeable to the noble ford in the blue Pitt would have lost his cause, for that ribbon, whose profusion of the public's money, time at least. Possibly Fox inight have whose notorious temerity and obstinacy in been found in office when the Revolutionprosecuting the war, which originated in his ary war broke out; and we can guess pernicious and oppressive policy, and whose what kind of governance England would utter incapacity to fill the station he occupied, have had then. rendered a peace of any description indis
In this hard-fought struggle Pitt really pensable to the preservation of the State.
does comport himself, and finally issues A sentence which shows that Pitt had thence clothed — at least in the eyes of from the first that rounded and balanced those who sympathize with his cause – in style, which was always so characteristic something of the victorious valor of a of his oratory. In itself that rounded youthful St. George; such an style, to the extent to which Pitt used it, Donatello has fashioned for us. And in would be a defect. But it suited so well this light he was regarded by his contemwith his lofty and unbending character braries, who, in a majority of ten to one, that it becomes in his case a grace, just came to be entirely upon his side and as the rather pompous periods of Lord against the Coalition. When first a new Chatham's speeches become a grace in writ was moved for Pitt's seat of Appleby, him.
on the ground that the sitting member All this was in the first days of the con., nad accepted the offices of first lord of fict, before the Coalition had come into the reasury and chancellor of the exoffice and soon after been driven thence. chequer, loud and indecorous laughter The hardest stress of battle began when, wroke from the opposition benches, where after the fall of the Coalition ministry, , sat the lately dismissed ministers of the Pitt appeared in the House of Commons Coalition. When these found that the charged with the office of first minister of all of their opponents and their own re. the crowo. The battle of the Coalition turn to power were not so immediate as
Pite's Lodi or his Arcola, not less they had expected, their merriment turned momentous to his fortunes than to those to the most bitter resentment. of Napoleon was bis Italian campaign. Pitt was allowed scarce a moment's When the war began people bad oot made l breathing-time before attacks were opened
upon him from all sides. Fox spoke in Auence, he told the House that "he came high contempt of the “ weakness of young up no back stairs." He knew of no secret men who accepted office under the pres- influence, and his own integrity would be ent circumstances, and whose youth was his guardian against that danger. But the the only excuse for their rashness; ” and House might rest assured that when he Erskine, whom Pitt had put down a few discovered any he would not stay a monights before, took his revenge by read- ment longer in office. “I will neither ing him a long lecture on the same head. have the meanness to act upon the advice “The public was now reaping the fruits of others, nor the hypocrisy, to pretend, of the intemperate praises which had been when the measures of an administration lavished upon the prime minister “in in which I have a share are deserving the previous session. ' If he had attended of censure, that they were measures not to the precept of Solomon, . It is good for of my advising. If any former ministers a man to bear the yoke in his youth,' be take these charges to themselves, to them would not at so early a period have de. be the sting.” clared against a subordinate situation. One would have supposed that most But he had declared against being a sub- wisdom lay in showing that these remarks ordinate, and set himself up to be the did not carry any sting. But Lord North first, which, for a time at least (the House was unable to control himself so far.. lo would take care that it should not be for his reply, he pronounced the "attack of long), disturbed and distracted all the the righi honorable gentleman” to be the operations of government. . . . How dif- "most gross and scandalous that was ferent had been the career of his right ever heard in Parliament" (which it cerhonorable friend (Fox), who had borne tainly cannot be called); and Sheridan, the yoke in his youth, and had now risen not to be outdone when strong language by natural process to a superiority in was toward, declared that “the right honpolitical wisdom
and comprehension orable gentleman bad behaved that day which the House with delight acknowl. not only with the greatest hypocrisy and edged !”
meanness, but had held language the most At another time Fox, with more of sar. insulting and unconstitutional that he had casni and less of spleen (but always on ever heard.” This gives some picture of the one topic, Pitt's youth), said, referring the temper of the times. It might not to an observation of Piti's that there was have been so hard to deal blow for blow; no member of this government which had but Pitt had to accomplish another and a promoted the American war, that he sup. much more difficult task. posed he meant in the House of Com. It was in a House led by men in such a mons; and, as for that, the prime minister temper as this that Pitt had to attempt to was the only membei of the Cabinet in conduct the affairs of government;' and the House of Commons, and certainly he before such opponents he rose on the 14th might be acquitted of any share towards of January, 1784, to introduce his East inor against the promotion of the American dia Bill, and to make the first of a long
series of great ministerial speeches. On Pitt replied to irony by irony. “So far rising, he spoke with his customary haughas he could notice,” he told the House, tiness. He told the House that “the principal thing complained of was he was neither deterred by the circumstances his youth, a fault which he would attempt of the time, nor by the appearance of agitation neither to palliate nor deny."
in that assembly, in rising to move the introHe had already shown Erskine that he duction of a new Bill settling the Government was not to be overawed, even by Fox's of India; because he knew it to be the most great reputation, when he spoke of him in immediate concern of the country, and that these terms:
which, before all things, calied for the consid
eration of Parliament. Revering as I do the abilities of the right honorable gentleman, I lament, in common
The whole speech, unfolding the prowith the House, when those abilities are mis. visions of his measure, is a masterpiece employed, as in the present question, to inflame of luminous exposition — the qualiiy in the imagination and mislead the judgment which Pitt always shone beyond all others am told, Sir, he does not envy me the triumph — and considering the circumstances in of my situation this day; a sort of language which the measure was brought forward, which becomes the candor of the honorable the almost certainty that it would not gain gentleman as ill as his present principles,
a decent hearing, the speech may be In answer to the insinuation that he counted among the very greatest achieve. had come into power through secret in- ments of the minister, for all the time he
was speaking he did not disguise bis ex. | ical constellation, it does not appear that pectation of the result.
he had very much regard for their abili. He was aware [he said) that in the present his conversations with me,” says Bishop
ties, excepting only those of Fox. “In circumstances of the time, any proposition that came from him was not likely to be treated Tomline, " Mr. Pitt always spoke of Mr. with much lenity; and, indeed, from what he Fox as by far the ablest of the opposition, had previously heard, he might be permitted as a speaker, in the House of Commons.' to apprehend, not likely to be treated with This may have been, in part, the effect of impartiality or justice ; for they had already old association ; for, as a boy, Pitt bad excited a clamor against what they conceived begun to look up to the other as his future to be his ideas, and had already condemned alls, and as in some sort his exemplar. without knowing his system.
He scarcely ever used towards Fox the Explaining that his measure had been contemptuous and sarcastic tone which he submitted to the board of directors, and employed towards so many of his rivals; bad obtained their entire approval and, on the other hand, Fox for many
He knew [he continued] the clamor which years spared him the intemperate abuse would be excited from the members who sat which it was the delight of the other behind the right honorable gentleman (Fox). / Whigs and their principal solace to be. He knew how capable they would be of de. stow. ciding on the subject from the notions they
“I venerate the character of the young would receive from him. . . . But he confessed man who holds the reins of government at himself to be so miserably weak and irresolute present. I admire his virtues and respect as not to venture to introduce a Bill into the his ability," was one of Fox's references House on the foundations of violence and cor.
to Pitt almost at the same time that Sher. ruption.
idan bad been telling the house that he Aod then, in a more conciliatory tone, behaved with the greatest hypocrisy and he pleads for the principles of his meas. meanness, and Erskine had been comure, showing how impossible it was in a plaining of “his childish impertinent incountry so situated as India to construct consistencies ; " while Pitt, on bis side, in ao ideally perfect government.
one of those graceful, polished sentences. Into such a government there could be in which add such a charm to his oratory, troduced no theoretical perfection. It must
spoke of his rival as “the right honorable: be a choice of inconveniences; and therefore gentleman whose eloquence and abilities, he trusted that, in the examination of the ideas would lend a grace to deformity," or as which he should submit to them, they would one whose extraordinary talents make take into consideration all these difficulties, him an exception to every rule where hu-and always remember that whatever was sug. man abilities are in question.” gested, however specious, however proovising But for his other opponents he had not it might be, must be tried by the event rather the same respect. Even Burke, of whom than by speculation. I am not guided by considerations of per- veneration, came in at this time for his
in after years Pitt always spoke with high sonal interest nor of personal fame. I have introduced the plan as the deliberate convico share of contemptuous notice. Burke tion of my mind, made up on the most serious did not take a great part in the early atconsideration of the most intelligent men. tacks upon Pitt. But on one occasion be Accept the ideas if they are worth your notice; was overborne by the electric condition of strengthen them with your wisdom; mature the opposition atmosphere to indulge in them with your experience; or, in their room, language beyond the bounds of Parliaestablish a more adequate system, and I am mentary license. Pitt rose to order. “In bappy.
any attacks upon myself I seldom think it The measure, of course, was rejected, worth while to interrupt the right honor. as Pitt anticipated; but in each division able member, or, indeed, to make him any which was taken, the majority of the oppo. reply; but when the acts of the House sition grew smaller and smaller. At last Sheridan he seems to have considcame the dissolution. In the new Parlia. ered of very small account, which, indeed, ment the government was firmly seated from the weakness of his character, he: by an enormous majority, and Pitt's long was. But it was Erskine whom he sin. reign began.
gled out as the special butt for his irony. Although Pitt was opposed by a pha. Some of these sayings of Pitt on Erskine lanx of speakers who afterwards bestowed have become proverbial. As when, fol. upon themselves the complimentary title lowing upon a more than usually confused of “ All the talents,” and whom 'Whig and blundering speech of Erskine - of literature has since raised to form a polit. whom so many speeches in the House of