« PreviousContinue »
ELOQUENCE OF CHATHAM.
"hitherto have driven them, is the object which we ought to
"unite in attaining America is in ill-humour with
"France, on some points that have not entirely answered "her expectations; let us wisely take advantage of every "possible moment of reconciliation. Besides, the natural "disposition of America herself still leans towards England: '*to the old habits of connexion and mutual interest that "united both countries. This was the established sentiment "of all the continent; and still, my Lords, in the great and "principal part, the sound part of America, this wise and "affectionate disposition prevails; and there is a very con"siderable part of America yet sound — the middle and the "southern provinces. Some parts may be factious and blind "to their true interests; but if we express a wise and benevolent disposition to communicate with them those "immutable rights of Nature, and those Constitutional "liberties to which they are equally entitled with ourselves; "by a conduct so just and humane, we shall confirm the "favourable, and conciliate the adverse.
"As to the dispositions of foreign Powers, which is "asserted in the Speech from the Throne to be pacific and "friendly, letus judge, my Lords, rather by their actions, "and the nature of things, than by interested assertions. "The uniform assistance supplied to America by France, "suggests a different conclusion; the most important inter"ests of France in aggrandising and enriching herself with "what she most wants — supplies of every naval store — "from America, must inspire her with different sentiments. "The extraordinary preparations of the House of Bourbon "by land and by sea, from Dunkirk to the Straits, equally "ready and willing to overwhelm these defenceless islands, "should rouse us to a sense of their real disposition, and of "our own danger. Not 5000 troops in England! — hardly "3000 in Ireland! What can we oppose to the combined "force of our enemies? Scarcely twenty ships of the line "fully or sufficiently manned, that any Admiral's reputation "would permit him to take the command of. The river of Mahon, History. VI. 14
"Lisbon in the possession of our enemies! * The seas swept "by the American privateers; our Channel trade torn to "pieces by them! In this complicated crisis of danger, "weakness at home, and calamity abroad — unable to act in "America, or acting only to be destroyed — where is the "man with the forehead to promise or hope for success in "such a situation, or from perseverance in the measures "that have driven us to it? Who has the forehead to do "so? Where is that man? I should be glad to see his "face!"
In the debate which ensued, Lord Shelburne, Lord Camden, and the Duke of Grafton, spoke in favour of Lord Chatham's amendment. The difficult task of answering him devolved upon Lords Weymouth, Suffolk, and Sandwich. The latter declared that the number of our ships fit for immediate service had been grossly underrated. "We have "now," said the First Lord of the Admiralty, "forty-two "ships of the line in commission in Great Britain; thirty-five "of which are completely manned, and ready for sea at a
"minute's warning I do not believe that France or
"Spain entertain any hostile disposition towards us; but, my "Lords, from what I have now submitted to you, I am authorised to affirm that our navy is more than a match for that "of the whole House of Bourbon." It may be observed in passing, that the controversy as to the numbers of our ships was renewed by Lord Chatham, on another day, in the House of Lords, and by several Members upon the Navy Estimates, in the House of Commons.**
Lord Suffolk, in his speech, undertook to defend the employment of the savages. "The Congress," said he, "endeavoured to bring the Indians over to their side; and if "we had not employed them, they would most certainly "have acted against us." This statement, which at the
* This refers to the recent fall of the Marquis de Pombal, one of the first effects of which was a thorough reconciliation, and as it was feared, though it did not prove so, an entire union of councils between the Courts of Portugal and Spain. See the Ann. Regist. 1777, p. 182. '* Pari. Hist., vol. xix. pp. 450. 477, 4c.
ELOQUENCE OF CHATHAM.
time was doubted or denied, has been, it must be owned, in no small degree borne out by the documents that have subsequently come to light. Even several months later, we find the Congress in treaty to engage several parties of Indians in their service.* But instead of merely alleging this fact in mitigation, and defending the course pursued as the least of two evils, Lord Suffolk took up higher ground, and went the length of declaring that we were fully justified in exerting "every means to repel the attempts of our rebellious subjects — every means that God and Nature "have put into our hands!" — These last words called up Lord Chatham to reply: "My Lords, I did not intend to "have encroached again upon your attention; but I cannot "repress my indignation — I feel myself impelled by every "duty. We are called upon, as members of this House, "as men, as Christian men, to protest against such notions "standing near the Throne, polluting the ear of Majesty. "' That God and Nature have put into our hands!' I know "not what ideas that Lord may entertain of God and Na"ture; but I know that such abominable principles are "equally abhorrent to religion and humanity. What! to "attribute the sacred sanction of God and Nature to the "massacres of the Indian scalping knife — to the cannibal "savage, torturing, murdering, roasting, and eating — "literally, my Lords, eating — the mangled victims of his "barbarous battles!
"These abominable principles, and this more abomin"able avowal of them, demand the most decisive indigna"tion. I call upon that Right Reverend Band, those holy "ministers of the Gospel and pious pastors of our Church; I "conjure them to join in the holy work, and vindicate the "religion of their God; I appeal to the wisdom and the law "of this Learned Bench to defend and support the justice
* See Washington's Writings, vol. v. p. 273., and Appendix to vol. iii. p. 494. "Divesting them," says Washington, "of the savage customs ex"ereiaed in their wars against each other, I think they may be made of "excellent use as scouts and light troops, mixed with our own parties." But what more did the English ever design or desire?
"of their country. I call upon the Bishops to interpose the "unsullied sanctity of their lawn — upon the Judges to "interpose the purity of their ermine, to save us from this "pollution. I call upon the honour of your Lordships to "reverence the dignity of your ancestors and to maintain "your own; I call upon the spirit and humanity of my "country to vindicate the national character; I invoke the "genius of the Constitution. From the tapestry that adorns "these walls the immortal ancestor of this Noble Lord (the "Earl of Effingham) frowns with indignation at the disgrace "of his country.* In vain he led your victorious fleet "against the boasted Armada of Spain; in vain he defended "and established the honour, the liberties, the religion, "the Protestant religion of this country, against the arbitrary cruelties of Popery and the Inquisition, if these "more than Popish cruelties and Inquisitorial practices are "let loose among us; to turn forth into our settlements, "among our ancient connexions, friends and relations, the "merciless cannibal thirsting for the blood of man, woman, "and child! — to send forth the infidel savage — against "whom? — your Protestant brethren; to lay waste their "country; to desolate their dwellings, and extirpate their "race and name!"
! From the extracts, brief and imperfect though they be, which I have given of Lord Chatham's speeches, it will be seen how little either age or sickness had been able to^ quench his fire. The Duke of Grafton thus speaks in his Memoirs: — "It would be useless to attempt to describe the "brilliancy of Lord Chatham's powers as an orator on this "memorable occasion, for no relation can give more than "a faint idea of what he really displayed. In this debate he
* This appeal to the tapestry hangings, which has been often quoted and justly admired, was not entirely original. We may trace the germ of it in Lord Chatham's own mind., at an earlier period (Corresp. vol. iv. p. 55.); and thirty-two years before this speech, Lord Chesterfield had made a similar allusion in reference to the war of that time. According to Horace Walpole, "he turned with a most rhetorical allusion to the "tapestry, and said with a sigh, that he feared there were no historical "looms at work now!" (To G. Montagu, July 13. 1745.)
"exceeded all that I had ever admired in his speaking." This the Duke says more especially of Chatham's first speech; while of the splendid burst in reply — wholly unpremeditated as it must have been — his Grace declares that it "appeared to me to surpass all that we "have ever heard of the celebrated orators of Greece or "Rome."*
Notwithstanding its blaze of splendid eloquence, this reply was not deemed entirely conclusive. Earl Gower rose to express his wonder that those who had the conduct of the last war should forget the means by which it was conducted, and now condemn the measures they had formerly authorised, adding that Indians had been employed on our side during the former campaigns in Canada, that presents had been given, and treaties made with them. Up started Lord Chatham again: — "I do not forget," he cried; "I "well know they had been employed, for the necessary pur"pose of war as I presume, and not to be stretched far and "wide for murder and massacre, and all their concomitant "horrors. If the previous use of them by the French, our "natural enemy, and the inevitable necessities of our army "obliged us to employ them in military purposes to scour "the country, or cover our flanks, the General who then "commanded and acted from those necessities — the Gene"ral who has now a seat among your Lordships — will "account for them. To that General, here present, I ap"peal. Upon that General, I call to declare whether the "administration in that war ever directed or authorised the "use of the savages? whether ever a line from office had "given that measure a public or official sanction?" Lord Amherst, thus called upon, could not forbear to rise, but rose with great embarrassment. He had been the General, he was still the friend, of Chatham; but, on the other hand,
* See in my Appendix an extract from the MS. Memoirs, headed " Lord "Chatham and the Duke of Grafton, 1777." The reports of Lord Chatham's speeches in this debate, appear far superior to most others of the same period; they were supplied by Mr. Hugh Boyd. In Almon's Register the whole spirit evaporates.