« AnteriorContinuar »
out smoke to discover it, till it thus bursts forth to consume me and my children? It will be wisdom for yourselves, for your posterity, and for the whole Kingdom, to cast into the fire these bloody and mysterious volumes of constructive and arbitrary treason, as the primitive Christians did their books of curious arts, and betake yourselves to the plain letter of the law and statute, that telleth us what is and what is not treason, without being ambitious to be more learned in the art of killing than our forefathers. It is now two hundred and forty years since any man was touched for this alleged crime, to this height, before myself. Let us not awaken these sleeping lions to our destruction, by taking up a few musty records that have lain by the wall so many ages, forgotten or neglected. May your Lordships please not to add this to my other misfortunes; let not a precedent be derived from me, so disadvantageous as this will be, in its consequences to the whole kingdom.
My Lords, the words for which I am here arraigned were not wantonly or unnecessarily spoken, but they were spoken in full Council, where, by the duty of my oath, I was obliged to speak according to my heart and conscience, in all things concerning the King's service. If I had forborne to speak what I conceived to be for the benefit of the King and People, I had been perjured towards Almighty God. And, for delivering my mind openly and freely, shall I be in danger of my life as a traitor? If that necessity be put upon me, I thank God, by His blessing, I have learned not to stand in fear of him who can only kill the body. If the question be, whether I must be traitor to man or perjured to God, I will be faithful to my Creator; and, whatsoever shall befall me from popular rage, or from my own weakness, I must leave it to that Almighty Being, and to the justice and honor of my judges.
My Lords, you are born to great thoughts; you are nursed up for the great and weighty employments of the Kingdom. But, if it be once admitted that a councillor, delivering his opinions with others at the council-table, under an oath of secrecy and faithfulness, shall be brought into question upon some misapprehension or ignorance of law,
- if every word that he speaks from a sincere and noble intention shall be drawn against him for the attainting of him, his children and posterity, I know not any wise or noble person of fortune who will, upon such perilous and unsafe terms, adventure to be councillor to the King! Opinions may make a heretic, but that they make a traitor I have never heard till now.
My Lords, what I forfeit myself is nothing; but that my indiscretion should extend to my posterity, woundeth me to the very soul. You will pardon my infirmity; something I should have added, but am not able; therefore let it pass. Now, my Lords, for myself, I have been, by the blessing of Almighty God, taught that the afflic tions of this present life are not to be compared to the eternal weight of glory which shall be revealed hereafter. And so, my Lords, even
so, with all tranquillity of mind, I freely submit myself to your judgment; and, whether that judgment be of life or death, Te Deum laudāmus!
35. ON REDUCING THE ARMY, 1732.-Wm. Pulteney. Born, 1682; died, 1764.
SIR, we have heard a great deal about Parliamentary armies, and about an army continued from year to year. I always have been, Sir, and always shall be, against a standing army of any kind. To me it is a terrible thing. Whether under that of a Parliamentary or any other designation, a standing army is still a standing army, whatever name it be called by. They are a body of men distinct from the body of the People. They are governed by different laws; and blind obedience, and an entire submission to the orders of their commanding officer, is their only principle. It is indeed impossible that the liberties of the People can be preserved in any country where a numerous standing army is kept up. By the military law, the administration of justice is so quick, and the punishment so severe, that neither officer nor soldier dares offer to dispute the orders of his supreme commander. If an officer were commanded to pull his own father out of this House, he must do it. Immediate death would be the sure consequence of the least grumbling. And if an officer were sent into the Court of Request, accompanied by a body of musketeers with screwed bayonets, and with orders to tell us what we ought to do, and how we were to vote, I know what would be the duty of this House; I know it would be our duty to order the officer to be taken and hanged up at the door of the lobby; but, sir, I doubt much if such a spirit could be found in this House, or in any House of Commons that will ever be in England.
Sir, I talk not of imaginary things; I talk of what has happened to an English House of Commons, and from an English army; not only from an English army, but an army that was raised by that very House of Commons, an army that was paid by them, and an army that was commanded by Generals appointed by them. Therefore, do not let us vainly imagine that an army, raised and maintained by authority of Parliament, will always be submissive to them. If any army be so numerous as to have it in their power to overawe the Parliament, they will be submissive as long as the Parliament does nothing to disoblige their favorite General; but, when that case happens, I am afraid that, in place of the Parliament's dismissing the army, the army will dismiss the Parliament, as they have done heretofore. We are come to the Rubicon. Our army is now to be reduced, or it never will be; and this Nation, already overburdened with debts and taxes, must be loaded with the heavy charge of perpetually supporting a numerous standing army, and remain forever exposed to the danger of having its liberties and privileges trampled upon by any future King or Ministry who shall take it in their heads to do so, and shall take a proper care to model the army for that purpose.
36. AGAINST THE SUCCESSION OF RICHARD CROMWELL TO THE PROTECTORATE, 1659.-Sir Henry Vane.
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 was delivered. "This impetuous torrent," says one of Vane's biographers, "swept everything before it. Oratory, genius, and the spirit of liberty, never achieved a more complete triumph. It 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 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.
IT 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 discovery 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 petulancy 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 established, 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 communicating 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 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!" "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