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father, was pure; and though the wits might scoff at the idea that genius and morality could exist together, his purity gave him a great advantage in self-control, in conscientious industry, in dignity of bearing, in the confidence of the community—especially of the middle
— classes-over his chief rival, who, though he had a
heart and noble sympathies, was a rake, a gambler, corrupt himself, and a corrupter of the youths about him. Of religion there was little to be had in those days; and of that little not much resided in Mr. Pretyman. Pitt was regular in his attendance at the college chapel. He also read theology with his tutor, and some would have us believe that he became a theologian at once most learned and most orthodox, armed at all points to maintain the Thirty-nine Articles against all heresies, whether on the side of Popery or Dissent; while, on the other hand, there is a tradition that, by his own arowal, Butler's "Analogy raised in his mind more doubts than it solved, wherein he would by no means have been unique. But it is plain that he had not that strong and present sense of things unseen by which the noblest characters have been sustained. So far as integrity and real desire of the public good would carry him, he could go; but when the great trial came, the trial which called for complete self-sacrifice, the sustaining force was wanting, conscience yielded to ambition, and the son of the morning fell.
As Chatham's son, Pitt entered public life as a Whig.
But Whig, by this time, meant little more than Guelf or Ghibelin. The Whigs were a party, and an illustrious party, while they were making the Revolution of 1688, and afterwards while they were
defending the Revolution settlement against Louis XIV. abroad and the Jacobites at home. But that struggle over, they became an oligarchy of great houses squabbling among themselves for the high offices of state. The long scene of degradation which ensued had, for a time, been broken by the rise of Chatham, a middleclass minister putting the oligarchy under his feet, though to do it he was obliged himself to connive at corruption, and allow a Duke to do for his government the work which the great Commoner abhorred. In this party government of ours, which we take for an eternal ordinance of nature, though it is but an accident of yesterday, everything depends on the existence of a real division of opinion on some important question. When the great questions are for the time out of the way, party government degenerates into chronic faction-fight between a connection which wants to get place and a connection which wants to keep it. At this time the great questions were out of the way, there was
no real division of parties, and a reign of cabal and corruption naturally ensued. All the factions alike used power for class purposes ; the nation had little interest in their scuffles, and no hope but that by some accident a man of heart and brain might get into his hands a measure of independent power, and use it partly for the public good.
Pitt took his seat when only just of age for the nomination borough of Appleby, and at once forward in debate. His command of rounded sentences was already fearful; assuredly no youth ever wrote such stately despatches to his mother. He gave the House without delay a taste of his oratoric training, and early showed his greatest gift as an orator, the power of lofty sarcasm, which, in a House not much in earnest, is so telling, both in its direct effect, and because, unlike open invective, it suggests a reserve of power. Those stately speeches of his, with their long rolling periods, were, no doubt, very imposing when they were delivered with an imperial bearing and haughty gestures from the summit of Parliamentary command. But the best of them, and those best reported, can scarcely be placed in the small number of orations which deserve to live beyond the hour. They contain few memorable words. That fusion of reason in the fire of passion, the attribute of the highest eloquence, is not there. They are the works of talent, but not of genius.
The war with the American Colonies had almost run its guilty and disastrous course, and was drawing near its shameful end. The North ministry tottered to its fall. It was upheld only by the personal support of the King, who, like kings in general, was still
Pitt went into strong opposition. He denounced the war with a vehemence which, we should have thought, would have seemed inexpiable to the King. He supported Burke's motion for retrenchment. He took up Parliamentary Reform warmly, and made the question his own.
This he did with his guns levelled directly against the corrupt influence of the court-- an influence,' he said, "which has been pointed at in every period as the fertile source of all our miseries—an influence which has been substituted in the room of wisdom, of activity, of exertion, and of
an influence which has grown with our growth, and strengthened with our strength, but which unhappily has not diminished with our diminution, nor English Essays III.
decayed with our decay.' The court was so discredited and detested that on his motion for a select committee Pitt was only beaten by 20. It has been remarked that the Reformers never had so good a division again till 1831. Pitt also voted for the motion of the Radical Alderman Sawbridge to shorten the duration of Parliaments. If this bright archangel of Toryism had sat long in opposition he might have become a minister of the Darker Power.
North fell; and over the prostrate favourite of the court Fox and Rockingham entered the royal closet by storm. On Rockingsham's death Fox pressed the Duke of Portland on the King as first minister, but the King carried Lord Shelburne, one of Chatham's old connections; and Pitt, whose aspiring boyhood had refused office without a seat in the cabinet under Rockingham, came into Shelburne's cabinet at twentythree as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The foot of Adam Smith was on the steps of power.
The Shelburne ministry had to make peace with the Americans, and with their allies, France and Spain; but on the preliminaries of peace the Government was overthrown by the profligate coalition of Fox and North. Profligate that coalition was, not so much because it violated political principle, for none of these factions had much political principle to violate, as because it violated personal honour. Fox had spoken of North in terms which made an alliance between them, manifestly concluded for the sake of getting back into place, equally infamous to them both. The king struggled; he turned to Pitt; and the dazzling offer of the premiership was refused by a farsighted youth of twenty-three. Then the king was forced to go under the yoke; but this time the nation was with him, and his defeat was a moral victory.
A constitutional monarchy, according to the classic aphorism of Mr. Thiers, is one in which the king reigns and does not govern; in the less pointed words of Lord North, one in which the king has only the appearance of power. This highly artificial arrangement—for highly artificial it is, when we consider that the king is treated, even in our addresses to Heaven, as though he were the real ruler, and we his obedient subjects-is commonly taken to be coeval with the monarchy of England. It came into existence a century and a half ago, and has not continued without interruption since that time. The feudal kings, like the Saxon kings before them, not only reigned but governed, and were deposed, and sometimes put to death, if they governed ill. The Tudors were despots. The Stuarts tried to be. William III., though foreigner, and dependent on the Whigs for his crown, was at the head of his own government, had no foreign minister but himself at a time when foreign policy was the most important department, and vetoed the Triennial Act. Anne changed the government and the policy of the country at the whim of her waiting
The first constitutional king was George I., a foreigner like William, very stupid, which William was not, unable to speak English, with a Pretender across the water, and absolutely in the hands of his Whig patrons. Georg II. was pretty much in the same case, and accordingly he was only one degree less constitutional than his father. But George III., as he told Parliament in graceful compliment to the shades of his ancestors, was born a Briton. What