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william wilBERForce 501
indeed, a system so big with wickedness and cruelty; it attains to the fullest measure of pure, unmixed, unsophisticated wickedness; and, scorning all competition and comparison, it stands without a rival in the secure, undisputed possession of its detestable pre-eminence. But I rejoice, sir, to see that the people of Great Britain have stepped forward on this occasion and expressed their sense more generally and unequivocally than in any instance wherein they have ever before interfered. I should in vain attempt to express to you the satisfaction with which it has filled my mind to see so great and glorious a concurrence, to see this great cause triumphing over all lesser distinctions, and substituting cordiality and harmony in the place of distrust and opposition. Nor have its effects amongst ourselves been in this respect less distinguished or less honorable. It has raised the character of Parliament. Whatever may have been thought or said concerning the unrestrained prevalency of our political divisions, it has taught surrounding nations, it has taught our admiring country, that there are subjects still beyond the reach of party. There is a point of elevation where we get above the jarring of the discordant elements that ruffle and agitate the vale below. In our ordinary atmosphere, clouds and vapors obscure the air, and we are the sport of a thousand conflicting winds and adverse currents; but here we move in a higher region, where all is pure, and clear, and serene, free from perturbation and discomposure—
“As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Here, then, on this august eminence, let us build the temple of benevolence; let us lay its foundation deep in truth and justice, and let the inscription on its gates be, “Peace and good-will towards men.” Here let us offer the first-fruits of our prosperity; here let us devote ourselves to the service of these wretched men, and go forth burning with a generous ardor to compensate, if possible, for the injuries we have hitherto brought on them. Let us heal the breaches we have made. Let us rejoice in becoming the happy instruments of arresting the progress of rapine and desolation, and of introducing into that immense country the blessings of Christianity, the comforts of civilized, the sweets of social life. I am persuaded, sir, there is no man who hears me, who wou d not join with me in hailing the arrival of this happy period; who does not feel his mind cheered and solaced by the contemplation of those delightful scenes.
WILLIAM PITT (1759–1806)
NAPOLEON'S GREAT ADVERSARY
N William Pitt, the younger, we possess an example of which I there are few instances in history, that of a great orator inheriting his power from a father famous in the same field. The fame of the younger Pitt equals, though it does not eclipse, that of his father, the celebrated Lord Chatham. They could, indeed, scarcely be spoken of as rivals, their style of oratory being radically different. “Viewing the forms of the two Pitts, father and son,” says a biographical writer, “as they stand in history, what different emotions their images call forth ! The impassioned and romantic father seems like a hero of chivalry; the stately and classical son, as a Roman dictator, compelled into the dimensions of an English minister.” Brougham ranks the younger Pitt with the world's great orators, crediting him, while possessing little ornament in rhetoric, variety in style or grace in manner, with unbroken fluency and fine declamation, by which he was able to seize and hold the attention of his audience till he chose to let it go. He is admitted to have been a consummate debater, and almost unequaled in sarcasm, yet, as Broughan says, “The last effect of the highest eloquence was for the most part wanting; we seldom forgot the speaker or lost the artist in
[The occasion which called forth the oratory of the younger Pitt was the excesses of the French Revolution, with the military triumphs of Napoleon that followed, and his strong and often unscrupulous ineasures for weakening the opposition of the hostile States. Against this Pitt fought with all his strength while his life lasted. The example of his oratory given is from his speech of June 7, 1799, on the question of granting a subsidy to the Russian army, “for the deliverance of Europe.”]
WILLIAM PITT 503
The honorable gentleman says he wishes for peace, and that he approved more of what I said on this subject towards the close of my speech, than of the opening. Now what I said was that, if by powerfully seconding the efforts of our allies, we could only look for peace with any prospect of realizing our hopes, whatever would enable us to do so promptly and effectually would be true economy. I must, indeed, be much misunderstood, if generally it was not perceived that I meant that whether the period which is to carry us to peace be shorter or longer, what we have to look to is not so much when we shall make peace, as whether we shall derive from it complete and solid security; and that whatever other nations may do, whether they shall persevere in the contest, or untimely abandon it, we have to look to ourselves for the means of defence; we are to look to the means to secure our Constitution, preserve our character, and maintain our independence, in the virtue and perseverance of the people.
There is a high-spirited pride, an elevated loyalty, a generous warmth of heart, a nobleness of spirit, a hearty, manly gaiety, which distinguish our nation, in which we are to look for the best pledges of general safety, and of that security against an aggressing usurpation, which other nations in their weakness or in their folly have yet nowhere found. With respect to that which appears so much to embarrass certain gentlemen, the deliverance of Europe, I will not say particularly what it is. Whether it is to be its deliverance under that which it suffers, or that from which it is in danger; whether from the infection of false principles, the corroding cares of a period of distraction and dismay, or that dissolution of all governments and that death of religion and social order which are to signalize the triumph of the French republic—if unfortunately for mankind she should, in spite of all opposition, prevail in the contest;—from whichsoever of these Europe is to be delivered, it will not be difficult to prove that what she suffers and what is her danger are the power and existence of the French Government. If any man says that the Government is not a tyranny, he miserably mistakes the character of that body. It is an insupportable and odious tyranny, holding within its grasp the lives, the characters, and the fortunes of all who are forced to own its sway, and only holding these that it may at will measure out to each the portion which from time to time it sacrifices to its avarice, its cruelty, and injustice. The French Republic is diked and fenced round with crime, and owes much of its present security to its being regarded with a horror which appals men in their approaches to its impious battlements. . .
In the application of this principle I have no doubt but the honorable gentleman admits the security of the country to be the legitimate
504 WILLIAM PITT
object of the contest; and I must think I am sufficiently intelligible on this topic. But, wishing to be fully understood, I answer the honorable gentleman when he asks: “Does the right honorable gentleman mean to prosecute the war until the French Republic is overthrown 2 Is it his determination not to treat with France while it continues a republic 2'' I answer: I do not confine my views to the territorial limits of France; I contemplate the principles, character, and conduct of France; I consider what these are ; I see in them the issues of distraction, of infamy and ruin, to every State in her alliance; and, therefore, I say that until the aspect of that mighty mass of iniquity and folly is entirely changed; until the character of the Government is totally reversed ; until, by common consent of the general voice of all men, I can with truth tell Parliament, France is no longer terrible for her contempt of the rights of every other nation; she no longer avows schemes of universal empire; she has settled into a state whose government can maintain those relations in their integrity, in which alone civilized communities are to find their security, and from which they are to derive their distinction and their glory, until in the situation of France we have exhibited to us those features of a wise, a just, and a liberal policy, I cannot treat with her. The time to come to the discussion of a peace can only be the time when you can look with confidence to an honorable issue; to such a peace as shall at once restore to Europe her settled and balanced constitution of general polity, and to every negotiating power in particular that weight in the scale of general empire which has ever been found the best guarantee and pledge of local, independence and general security. Such are my sentiments. I am not afraid to avow them. I commit them to the thinking part of mankind, and if they have not been poisoned by the stream of French sophistry, and prejudiced by her falsehood, I am sure they will approve of the determination I have avowed for those grave and mature reasons on which I found it. I earnestly pray that all the Powers engaged in the contest may think as I do, and particularly the Emperor of Russia, which, indeed, I do not doubt; and, therefore, I do contend that with that Power it is fit that the House should enter into the engagement recommended in his Majesty's message.