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THE EARL OF CHATHAM
Hazlitt says, “The principle 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."
REMOVE THE BOSTON GARRISON [No stronger words could hare been spoken in defense of the American colonists on their own shores than those which the aged Chatham uttered in the British House of Lords. In 1774 he denounced the measure for quartering troops on the people of Boston, and in January, 1775, made the potable speech from which we quote.]
When your lordships look at the papers transmitted to us from America, when you consider their firmness, decency, and wisdom, you cannot but respect their cause and wish to make it your own. For myself, I must affirm, declare, and avow that, in all my reading and observation (and it has been my favorite study, for I have read Thucydides, and have studied and admired the master-states of the world), I say, I must declare that, for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of difficult circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the General Congress at Philadelphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships that all attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal.
We shall be forced, ultimately, to retract. Let us retract while we can, not when we must. I say we must necessarily undo these violent, oppressive acts. They must be repealed. You will repeal them. I pledge myself for it that you will, in the end, repeal them. I stake my reputation on it. I will consent to be taken for an idiot if they are not finally repealed.
[Speaking of the state of affairs in Boston, and the preparations for resistance, he said :)
Had the early situation of the people of Boston been attended to, things would not have come to this. But the infant complaints of Boston were literally treated like the capricious squalls of a child, who, it was said, did not know whether it was aggrieved or not.
But full well I knew, at that time, that this child, if not redressed, would soon assume the courage and voice of a man. Full well I knew that the sons of ancestors, born under the same free constitution and once breathing the same liberal air as Englishmen, would resist upon the same principles and on the same occasions.
THE EARL OF CHATHAM
What has Government done? They have sent an armed force, consisting of seventeen thousand men, to dragoon the Bostonians into what is called their duty; and, so far from once turning their eyes to the policy and destructive consequence of this scheme, are constantly sending out more troops. And we are told, in the language of menace, that if seventeen thousand men won't do, fifty thousand shall.
It is true, my lords, with this force they may ravage the country, waste and destroy as they march; but, in the progress of fifteen hundred miles, can they occupy the places they have passed ? Will not a country which can produce three millions of people, wronged and insulted as they are, start up like hydras in every corner, and gather fresh strength from fresh opposition ?
Nay, what dependence can you have upon the soldiery, the unhappy engines of your wrath? They are Englishmen, who must feel for the privileges of Englishmen. Do you think that these men can turn their arms against their brethren ? Surely no. A victory must be to them a defeat, and carnage a sacrifice.
But it is not merely three millions of people, the produce of America, we have to contend with in this unnatural struggle ; many more are on their side, dispersed over the face of this wide empire. Every Whig in this country and in Ireland is with them.
In this alarming crisis I come with this paper in my hand to offer you the best of my experience and advice ; which is, that a humble petition be presented to his Majesty, beseeching him that, in order to open the way towards a happy settlement of the dangerous troubles in America, it may graciously please him that immediate orders be given to General Gage for removing his Majesty's forces from the town of Boston.
Such conduct will convince America that you mean to try her cause in the spirit of freedom and inquiry, and not in letters of blood.
There is no time to be lost. Every hour is big with danger. Perhaps, while I am now speaking the decisive blow is struck which may involve millions in the consequence. And, believe me, the very first drop of blood which is shed will cause a wound which may never be healed.
THE WAR IN AMERICA [On November 18, 1777, Chatham, a few months only before his death, made a notable speech on the same subject. He spoke with impassioned eloquence against the employment of Indians in the war with the colonists, alluded to the probability of an alliance between the United States and France, and continued as follows.]
The people whom they (the ministers) affect to call rebels, but whose growing power has at last obtained the name of enemies : the people with
THE EARL OF CHATHAM
whom they have engaged this country in war, and against whom they now command our implicit support in every measure of desperate hostility ; this people—despised as rebels—are acknowledged as enemies, are abetted against you, supplied with every military store, their interests consulted, and their ambassadors entertained by your inveterate enemy. And our ministers dare not interpose with dignity and effect. Is this the honor of a great kingdom? Is this the indignant spirit of England, who but yesterday gave law to the House of Bourbon ? The dignity of nations demands a decisive conduct in a situation like this.
The desperate state of our arms abroad is in part known. I love and I honor the English troops. No man thinks more highly of them than I do. I know they can achieve anything except impossibilities ; and I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, I venture to say, you cannot conquer America.
Your armies in the last war effected everything that could be effected, and what was it? It cost a numerous army, under the command of a most noted general, now a noble lord in this House, a long and laborious campaign, to expel five thousand Frenchmen from French America. My lords, you cannot conquer America! What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst, but we know that in the three campaigns we have done nothing and suffered much. We shall soon know, and in any event have reason to lament, what may have happened since.
As to conquest, my lords, I repeat,-it is impossible! You may swell every expense and every effort still more extravagantly ; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little, pitiful German prince who will sell his subjects to the shambles of a foreign power! Your efforts are forever vain and impotent; doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely. For it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies, to overrun them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder, devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty. If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop remained in my country I never would lay down my arms; never, never, never!
EDMUND BURKE (1730-1797)
S the United States possessed, in the days of the great slavery
and revenue agitation, three orators of the finest powers,
Webster, Clay and Calhoun, so England was graced, in the exciting days of the American War, with three orators of similar brilliancy,--Chatham, Burke and Fox. Greatest among these, in certain of the most important elements of oratory, was Burke. He had not the impetuous and splendid eloquence of Chatham, nor the remarkable skill in debate of Fox, but in learning, in the power of clothing great thoughts in the most appropriate words, and of producing speeches which are even more interesting and effective when read than they were when delivered, he far surpassed them both. Macaulay speaks of him as, “ In aptitude of comprehension and richness of imagination, superior to every orator, ancient or modern.”
Edmund Burke, while of Norman descent, was of Irish birth, his native place being the city of Dublin. Entering Parliament in 1766, he at once took an active part in the discussion on American affairs, and continued it throughout the subsequent war, joining Chatham in his eloquent support of the cause of the colonists. He was especially distinguished for his thorough mastery of American affairs and his intelligent foresight of the probable result of the attempt to force taxation on the colonists.
Perhaps the most brilliant part of his career was that devoted to affairs in India, the oppression and cruelty of Warren Hastings and other East India officials having filled his soul with the deepest indignation. The prosecution of Warren Hastings, the most remarkable of English trials, was due to his denunciations, and his utmost powers of intellect were exerted in the effort to bring retribution upon
the culprit, during the nearly ten years over which the case extended. Burke's final work as an orator was his fervid opposition to the Revolution in France, whose results he foresaw with what has been called “the most magnificent political prophecy ever given to the world.” He lived long enough to see his prophecy fulfilled.
THE IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS [Rarely has any orator had a greater effect upon an audience than that of Burke in the speech in which he depicted the cruelties inflicted upon the victims of the irresponsible Governor-General of India. Hastings himself afterward said of it: “For half an hour I looked upon the orator in a reverie of wonder, and actually thought myself the most culpable man in the world.” This speech is far too long for our space, and we confine our selection to Burke's vigorous impeachment of the great culprit.]
In the name of the Commons of England, I charge all this villainy upon Warren Hastings, in this last moment of my application to you.
My Lords, what is it that we want here to a great act of national justice? Do we want a cause, my Lords? You have the cause of oppressed princes, of undone women of the first rank, of desolated provinces, and of wasted kingdoms.
Do you want a criminal, my Lords? When was there so much iniquity ever laid to the charge of any one ? No, my Lords, you must not look to punish any other such delinquent from India. Warren Hastings has not left substance enough in India to nourish such another delinquent.
My Lords, is it a prosecutor you want? You have before you the Commons of Great Britain as prosecutors, and I believe, my Lords, that the sun, in his beneficent progress round the world, does not behold a more glorious sight than that of men, separated from a remote people by the material bonds and barriers of nature, united by the bond of a social and moral community—all the Commons of England resenting, as their own, the indignities and the cruelties that are offered to the people of India.
Do we want a tribunal ? My Lords, no example of antiquity, nothing in the modern world, nothing in the range of human indignation, can supply us with a tribunal like this. My Lords, here we see virtually, in the mind's eye, that sacred majesty of the Crown, under whose authority you sit and whose power you exercise.
We have here all the branches of the royal family, in a situation between majesty and subjection, between the sovereign and the subjectoffering a pledge, in that situation, for the support of the rights of the Crown and the liberties of the people, both of which extremities they touch.