The Worlds Famous Orations. Great Britain: II. (17801861). 1906.
II. On an Attempt to Force His Resignation
William Pitt (17591806)
Born in 1759, died in 1806; elected to Parliament in 1780; Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1782; Prime Minister in 17831801; secured the union of Ireland with Great Britain in 1800; Prime Minister again in 1804; formed the coalition with Russia and Austria against Napoleon, which was wrecked in 1815 at Austerlitz; Pitts health being completely ruined, his death followed soon afterward.
CAN1 anything that I have said, Mr. Speaker, subject me to be branded with the imputation of preferring my personal situation to the public happiness? Sir, I have declared, again and again, only prove to me that there is any reasonable hopeshow me but the most distant prospect that my resignation will at all contribute to restore peace and happiness to the country, and I will instantly resign. But, sir, I declare, at the same time, I will not be induced to resign as a preliminary to negotiation. I will not abandon this situation in order to throw myself upon the mercy of that right honorable gentleman. He calls me now a mere nominal minister, the mere puppet of secret influence. Sir, it is because I will not become a mere nominal minister of his creationit is because I disdain to become the puppet of that right honorable gentlemanthat I will not resign; neither shall his contemptuous expressions provoke me to resignation; my own honor and reputation I never will resign.
Let this House beware of suffering any individual to involve his own cause, and to interweave his own interests, in the resolutions of the House of Commons. The dignity of the House is for ever appealed to. Let us beware that it is not the dignity of any set of men. Let us beware that personal prejudices have no share in deciding these great constitutional questions. The right honorable gentleman is possessed of those enchanting arts whereby he can give grace to deformity. He holds before your eyes a beautiful and delusive image; he pushes it forward to your observation; but, as sure as you embrace it, the pleasing vision will vanish, and this fair phantom of liberty will be succeeded by anarchy, confusion, and ruin to the Constitution.
For, in truth, sir, if the constitutional independence of the Crown is thus reduced to the very verge of annihilation, where is the boasted equipoise of the Constitution? Dreadful, therefore, as the conflict is, my conscience, my duty, my fixed regard for the Constitution of our ancestors, maintain me still in this arduous situation. It is not any proud contempt, or defiance of the constitutional resolutions of this Houseit is no personal point of honor, much less is it any lust of power, that makes me still cling to office. The situation of the times requires of meand, I will add, the country calls aloud to methat I should defend this castle; and I am determined, therefore, I will defend it!