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LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH In the House of Lords, on the Address to the Throne,
at the opening of Parliament, on the 18th of November, 1777.
I rise, my lords, to declare my sentiments on this most solemn and serious subject. It has imposed a load upon my mind, which, I fear, nothing can remove; but which impels me to endeavour its alleviation, by a free and unreserved communication of my sentiments.
In the first part of the address, I have the honour of heartily concurring with the noble earl who moved it. No man feels sincerer joy than I do; none can offer more genuine congratulation on every accession of strength to the succession of the house of Brunswick. I therefore join in every congratulation on the birth of another princess and the happy recovery of her majesty. But I must stop here. My courtly complaisance will carry me no further. I will not join in congratulation on misfortune and disgrace. I cannot concur in a blind and servile address, which approves, and endeavours to sanctify the monstrous measures which have heaped disgrace and misfortune upon us. This, my lords, is a perilous and tremendous moment! It is not a time for adulation. The smoothness of flattery cannot now avail; cannot save us in this rugged and awful crisis. It is now necessary to instruct the throne in the language of truth.
We must dispel the delusion and the darkness which envelope it; and display, in its full danger and true colours, the ruin that is brought to our doors.
This, my lords, is our duty. It is the proper function of this noble assembly, sitting, as we do, upon our honours in this house, the hereditary council of the crown. Who is the minister—where is the minister, that has dared to suggest to the throne the contrary unconstitutional language this day delivered from it?——The accustomed language from the throne has been application to parliament for advice,
and a reliance on its constitutional advice and assistance. As it is the right of parliament to give, so it is the duty of the crown to ask it. But on this day, and in this extreme momentous exigency, no reliance is reposed on our constitutional counsels! no advice is asked from the sober and enlightened care of parliament! but the crown, from itself, and by itself, declares an unalterable determination to pursue measures and what measures, my lords?—The measures that have produced the imminent perils that threaten
the measures that have brought ruin to our doors.
Can the minister of the day now presume to expect a continuance of support, in this ruinous infatuation? Can parliament be so dead to its dignity and its duty, as to be thus deluded into the loss of the one and the violation of the other? - To give an unlimited credit and support for the steady perseverance in measures not proposed for our parliamentary advice, but dictated and forced upon us-in measures, I say, my lords, which have reduced this flourishing empire to ruin and contempt!—“But yesterday, and England might have stood against the world: now none so poor as to do her reverence.” I use the words of a poet; but though it be poetry it is no fiction. It is a shameful truth, that not only the power and strength of this country are wasting away and expiring; but her well earned glories, her true honour, and substantial dignity are sacrificed. France, my lords, has insulted you; she has encouraged and sustained America; and whether America be wrong or right, the dignity of this country ought to spurn at the officious insult of French interference. The ministers and ambassadors of those who are called rebels and enemies, are in Paris; in Paris they transact the reciprocal interests of America and France. Can there be a more mortifying insult? Can even our ministers sustain a more humiliating disgrace! Do they dare to resent it? Do they presume even to hint a vindication of their honour, and the dignity of the state by requiring the dismission of the plenipotentiaries of
America? Such is the degradation to which they have reduced the glories of England! The people whom they affect to call contemptible rebels, but whose growing power has at last obtained the name of enemies; the people with 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, or 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 or effect. Is this the honour of a great kingdom? Is this the indignant spirit of England, who, “but yesterday,” gave law to the house of Bourbon? My lords, the dignity of nations demands a decisive conduct in a situation like this. Even when the greatest prince that perhaps this country ever saw, filled our throne, the requisition of a Spanish general on a similar subject, was attended to, and complied with. For, on the spirited remonstrance of the Duke of Alva, Elizabeth found herself obliged to deny the Flemish exiles all countenance, support, or even entrance into her dominions; and the Count le Marque, with his few.desperate followers, were expelled the kingdom. Happening to arrive at the Brille, and finding it weak in defence, they made themselves masters of the place: and this was the foundation of the United Provinces.
My lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we cannot act with success, nor suffer with honour, calls upon us to remonstrate in the strongest and loudest language of truth, to rescue the ear of majesty from the delusions which surround it. The desperate state of our army abroad is in part known: no man thinks more highly of it than I do. I love and honour the English troops. I know their virtues and their valour. I know they can achieve any thing except impossibilities; and I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, I venture to say it, you cannot conquer Ame
rica. Your armies last war effected every thing that could be effected; and what was it? It cost a numerous army, under the command of a most able 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
What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst; but we know, that in three campaigns we have done nothing and suffered much. Besides the sufferings, perhaps total loss, of the northern forcet; the best appointed army that ever took the field, commanded by sir William Howe, has retired from the American lines. He was obliged to relinquish his attempt, and with great delay and danger, to adopt a new and distant plan of operations. We shall soon know, and in any event have reason to lament, what may have happened since. As to conquest, there, fore, my lords, I repeat, it is impossible. 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, that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign despot; your efforts are for ever 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 overturn 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 was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms-never-nevernever.
SPEECH OF PATRICK HENRY. Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes
* Sir Jeffrey (now lord) Amherst, + General Burgoyne's army.
against a painful truth-and listen to the song of that syren, till she transforms us into beast's. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and havears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern our temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the house? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir: it will prove a snare to your feet.
Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation-the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains, which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years.