Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May 20th, 2013

Image

Read Full Post »

Image

Read Full Post »

Image

William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham (1708-1778)
Grandson of an adventurer who made his fortune in India he was brought up in less than ideal circumstances under which William inherited his parents instability,- and gout. “Diamond” Pitt had returned from India with a despotic temper who quarrelled violently with his wife and declared war on “that hellish confusion that is my family.” His stint in Eton College disciplined his temper and he acquired social polish and learned to be aloof and yet agreeable, to be politely insolent.
Representing a pocket borough with the use of his high connections, his early career however in the House didn’t augur well.
Pitt’s maiden speech in Parliament was so critical of the ministry that it provoked Walpole to deprive him of his military commission, to “muzzle this terrible young cornet of horse.”
Walpole at last fell from power in 1742 and was replaced by a ministry that included his old colleagues, and not before long Pitt was to get his opportunity.
In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), Pitt, a former warmonger, now vigorously opposed the sending of men and subsidies to check the French by protecting Hanover (the King’s territory in Germany) and earned the animosity of the king.
Like Winston Churchill in our own time, William Pitt was made by war-time England. Churchill had his ‘black dog periods so had he ‘gout of the mind.’ In the Jacobite rising of 1745 (the Forty-five Rebellion), Pitt gained new stature as an effective statesman.
An invalid and an aging bachelor, he suddenly fell in love with Lady Hester Grenville,marriage as in the case of Churchill was a happy one. She was eminently practical—particularly about money, arranging mortgages, satisfying creditors, and pouring away her own fortune, in his last years of grandiose extravagance, to protect him.
This happy union gave England another war-time statesman during the Napoleonic Wars where his son Pitt the Younger would lead the country. His family was “the infantry” in more than one sense. Now he was ready for his last big parliamentary fight for high office.
It came with the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War which began with heavy losses and considerable confusion of policy. The popular demand for Pitt became irresistible, and he declared, “I am sure I can save this country, and nobody else can.”
Pitt determined that it should be in every sense a national war and a war at sea. He revived the militia, reequipped and reorganized the navy, and sought to unite all parties and public opinion behind a coherent and intelligible war policy. He seized upon America and India as the main objects of British strategy: he sent his main expeditions to America, to ensure the conquest of Canada, and supported the East India Company and its “heaven-born general,” Robert Clive, in their struggle against the French East India Company.
He subsidized and reinforced the armies of Frederick the Great of Prussia to engage the French on the Continent, while the British Navy harassed the French on their own coasts, in the West Indies, and in Africa. Choosing good generals and admirals, he inspired them with a new spirit of dash and enterprise. His hand, eye, and voice were everywhere. By 1759, the “year of victories,” Horace Walpole, man of letters and son of Sir Robert Walpole, wrote with reluctant admiration, “Our bells are worn out threadbare with ringing for Victories.” Pitt, the “Great Commoner,” was known and feared throughout the world.
Pitt had given Britain a new empire besides preserving and consolidating the old. But, before the war ended, he had been forced to resign. In 1760 George III came to the throne resolved, as was his chief adviser, the Earl of Bute, to end the war. When Pitt failed to persuade his colleagues to declare war on Spain to forestall its entry into hostilities, he resigned in October 1761.
Pitt fell back on his gout and his gardening.
Engulfed in a black fit of insanity, Pitt withdrew completely and in 1768 resigned office. He acquired a group of followers in the House of Commons and, in an alliance with Lord Rockingham’s group of opposition Whigs, offered a threat to Lord North’s ministry, but this opposition was, in the end, without results.
Pitt’s last years were clouded by illness, yet he was to reappear in the House of Lords—with ever greater difficulty—as an elder statesman. He continued to plead for generous treatment of the American colonists though he did not wish to grant them independence, partly for fear of their falling into the hands of France; in 1775 he hurriedly introduced a bill designed to suspend repressive measures at Boston and to maintain the legislative authority of Parliament over the Colonies while using the Continental Congress established at Philadelphia as a body for assessing the monetary contributions of each colony. Although the bill was summarily rejected, it indicates how Pitt would have handled the American problem. His last speech, against any diminution of an empire based on freedom, closed a political career that had become devoted to a reconciliation of imperial power with constitutional liberty. Pitt died on May 11, 1778, falling back into the arms of his son William who was reading to him the passage in Homer’s Iliad on Hector’s farewell. He was buried in Westminster Abbey with all the funeral pomp he could have desired and with public grief.
England can truly pride in their Constitutional monarchy where the Parliament is the pit where each member may make their case where verbal thrusts have keenness and yet wit makes the deadly duel seem strangely captivating. Burke,Sheridan, Fox, Disraeli were all adept at it. Oratory has, in the convoluted politics of shaping the public opinion got entangled with totalitarian regimes of the 30s. Now it is viewed with alarm as synonymous with evil. Hitler, Mussolini, Huey Long in the USA were noted for their pyro-techniques on the rostrum that is altogether of a different league.

Tailpiece:
William Pitt’s classical education made him think, act, and speak in the grand Roman manner. His favourite poet was Virgil, and he never forgot the patriotic lessons of Roman history; he constantly read Cicero, the golden-tongued orator who could yet lash offenders with his indignation. Later, in Parliament, his organ-like voice could be distinctly heard outside the House.
This voice, perfect timing, and splendid gestures were worthy of David Garrick, the greatest actor of the day and a personal friend; Pitt’s lean, tall, commanding figure, combined with a Roman beaky nose and hawklike eyes—large and gray but turning black when he was roused—overwhelmed all onlookers. To his countrymen he was to become almost a divine portent, a voice from the Delphic oracle.(http:// http://www.britannica.com)

Read Full Post »