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THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM PITT,
ON HIS APOSTASY
FROM THE CAUSE
OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.
TO WHICH IS SUBJOINED
CONTAINING IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS ON THAT SUBJECT.
Audax venali comitatur CURIO lingua
Lucan, PHARSALIA, LIB. 1. I. 269–71.
FOUNDED ON PROPERTY, AND SUBVERSIVE OF OLIGARCHY
PUBLICATIONS on fugitive topics, though from their nature sometimes less dubiously useful to mankind than more permanent works, are so little a source of reputation, that their Authors have commonly thought it prudent to withhold their names. If an Author be obscure, such publications will not exalt him—if he be eminent, they may be supposed to derogate from the gravity of more serious occupations, or from the dignity of a more solid fame.
These common reasons may be sufficient for anonymous
publication, especially in a case like the present, which consists either of argument, which a name can neither strengthen nor impair ; or of facts, which are so acknow. ledged as to need no testimony for their support.
THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM PITT,
hat cinciples as these nert his ow!
History records too many examples of political apostasy to make any case of that sort new or singular. Yet with all your knowledge in that branch of history, to which congenial sentiments must have naturally pointed your studies, I doubt whether you can produce many instances in which the political apostate, instead of the language which becomes his situation, daręs to assume the tone of parade and of triumph; and with the most eccentric originality of insolence labors to convert his own desertion of principle into an argument against these principles themselves, instead of feeling the principles as a stigma on his desertion. We do not find that Curio was shameless enough, when he deserted the cause of his country, to urge against it the boldness of his own apostasy with the same confidence that Cato would have used in its support the authority of his virtue. The annals of ancient or modern apostasy contain nothing so flagrant. It was reserved for our days to add this variety to the various combinations of fraud and insolence, which have in former ages duped and oppressed mankind; and it was peculiarly reserved for a statesman, whose character reconciles the most repugnant extremes of political depravity, the pliancy of the most abject intrigue, with the vaunting of the most lofty hyprocrisy. It was reserved for him, not alone silently to abandon, not alone even publicly to abjure the doctrines of his former life ; not alone to oppose, with ardor, with vehemence, with virulence, those propositions from others, by which he himself had earned popularity, and climbed to unexampled.power; but
to convert into a source of obloquy against other men a measure which had been the basis of his own reputation and importance. It was reserved for such a man to repeat those very common-place objections to the measure, and those very common-place slanders against its movers, which had been urged against himself, and which he himself had justly despised, or victoriously refuted. It was reserved for him, unblushingly to renew all the clamor against novelty, and all those affectionate alarms for the British Constitution, which patriotic boroughmongers had so successfully employed against himself. Yes, Sir, it was reserved for the son of Chatham thus to stigmatise the « dying legacy” of his father, and thus to brand his own “virgin effort.”
You will have already perceived, that it is on your late conduct in the case of Parliamentary Reform, that I am to animadvert. Though I feel a dislike, not unmixed with contempt, for politics purely personal, and though I should be the last man to betray and degrade the great cause of Reform, by mingling it with the petty squabbles of party, yet when I see the authority of an apostate character opposed to the cause from which he apostatised, I think it at least fit that that obstacle should be removed, and that the vapor. ing language of such a delinquent should be counteracted by the merited brand of his crimes.
The cause of Reform demands that the nature of your present opposition to it should be understood. The interest of the people demands that they should well understand the character of him who may yet be likely, in some possible combination of events, to offer himself to them as the champion of Reform, and perhaps ul. timately to prove the leader in more extensive and dangerous measures. And it is generally fit that no signal example of triumphant apostasy should pass with impunity.
These are the public reasons, Sir, which lead me to call public attention to your conduct; reasons which have influenced one who has no respect for your principles, and no exaggerated opinion of your abilities, which he has sometimes admired without idolatry, and often opposed without fear. That I am in no abject or devoted sense a partizan, I trust even my present sentiments will prove. I am only, therefore, your enemy so far as I believe you to be the enemy of my country; and I am not unwilling to adopt for
1 See the debate on Mr. Pitt's motion for Parliamentary Reform on the 7th May, 1782. Cumpare the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the alarms and arguments of Mr. T. Pitt, proprietor of Old Sarunt, with his speech on the notice of Mr. Grey, the 30th April, 1792, in which he expresses those alarms which he had then scouted, and retails those arguments which , he had then contemned !_Ergo referens hæc nuncius ibit Pelide genitori !. .
, the creed of my personal politics the dying prayer of a great man, « Ut ita cuique eveniat ut quisque de Republica mereatur .?”
The three general grounds then on which I shall proceed to examine your conduct are, your apostasy-your present pretexts for opposing reform-and the probability of such a future conduct in you as may render it extremely important that the people should justly appreciate your character.
Your entrance into public life was marked by circumstances more favorable than any English statesman has ever experienced. With all the vigor of your own talents, with all the reflected lustre of your Father's character, you appeared at a moment when the ungracious toil of opposition was almost past, when little remained but to profit by the effect of other men's efforts, and to urge the fall of a tottering Ministry, whose misconduct had already been fatally proved by national misfortune. The current of popularity had already set strongly against the Minister. The illusions of American conquest and American revenue were dispelled. The eyes of the people were opened to the folly of the Cabinet.' You had only to declaim against it. The attention of the people was called to those defects in their Constitution, which permitted such a Cabinet so long to betray the public interest, and to brave the public opinion. You had only to put yourself at the head of the people, to declare yourself the leader of Reform. In this character you had recourse to the same means, and you were assailed by the same objections, with every past and every future Leader of Reform. Despairing that a corrupt body should spontaneously reform itself, you invited the interposition of the people. You knew that dispersed effort must be unavailing. You therefore encouraged them to associate. You were not deterred from appealing to the people by such miserable common places of reproach as those of advertising for griev. ances, diffusing discontents, and provoking sedition. You well knew that in the vocabulary of corrupt power inquiry is sedition, and tranquillity is synonimous with blind and abject obedience. You were not deterred from joining with the associations of the people by being told that they were to overawe Parliament. You knew the value of a jargon that does not deserve to be dignified by so high a name as sophistry. You felt for it that contempt which every man of sense always feels, and which every man of sincerity will always express.
As you were regardless of the clamor against the necessary means for the accomplishment of your object-as you knew that whoever would substantially serve the people in such a cause, must appeal to the people, and associate with the people ; you must have had a just and a supreme contempt for the sophistry which was opposed to the measure of reforming the Representation itself.