Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England

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Author: William Pitt

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JOHN ALMOND, Anecdotes of the Life of the Right Hon. William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, Vol. I, pp. 494–503. World History

IV.

THE STRUGGLE WITH THE AMERICAN COLONIES

381.

A Speech of William Pitt (January 14, 1766)

Gentlemen:

An answer to George Grenville, prime minister

Sir, I have been charged with giving birth to sedition in America. They have spoken their sentiments with freedom against this unhappy act, and that freedom has become their Crime. Sorry I am to hear the liberty of speech in this House imputed as a crime. But the imputation shall not discourage me. It is a liberty I mean to exercise. No gentleman ought to be afraid to exercise it. It is a liberty by which the gentleman who calumniates it might have profited. He ought to have desisted from his project. The gentleman tells us America is obstinate; America is almost in open rebellion. I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest. I come not here armed at all points, with law cases and acts of parliament, with the statute book doubled down in dog’sears, to defend the cause of liberty; if I had, I myself would have cited the two cases of Chester and Durham. I would have cited them to have shown that, even under former arbitrary reigns, parliaments were ashamed of taxing a people without their consent, and allowed them representatives. . . .

I am no courtier of America. I stand up for this kingdom. I maintain that the parliament has the right to bind, — to restrain America. Our legislative power over the colonies is sovereign and supreme. When it ceases to be sovereign and supreme, I would advise every gentleman to sell his lands, if he can, and embark for that country. When two countries are connected together, like England and her colonies, without being incorporated, the one must necessarily govern; the greater must rule the less; but so rule it as not to contradict the fundamental principles that are common to both. . . .

The Americans have not acted in all things with prudence and temper. The Americans have been wronged. They have been driven to madness by injustice. Will you punish them for the madness you have occasioned? Rather let prudence and temper come first from this side. I will undertake for America that she will follow the example. There are two lines in a ballad of Prior’s, of a man’s behaviour to his wife, so applicable to you and your colonies that I cannot help repeating them:

"Be to her faults a little blind: Be to her virtues very kind."

Pitt’s advice

Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the House what is really my opinion. It is, that the Stamp Act be repealed absolutely, totally, and immediately. That the reason for the repeal be assigned, because it was founded on an erroneous principle. At the same time let the sovereign authority of this country over the colonies be asserted in as strong terms as can be devised, and be made to extend to every point of legislation whatsoever; that we may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and exercise every power whatsoever, except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent.

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Chicago: William Pitt, "A Speech of William Pitt (January 14, 1766)," Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947) (Boston: Ginn, 1935, 1922), 623–625. Original Sources, accessed October 13, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=I7WRKYM8TEY9J21.

MLA: Pitt, William. "A Speech of William Pitt (January 14, 1766)." Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, edited by Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947), Boston, Ginn, 1935, 1922, pp. 623–625. Original Sources. 13 Oct. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=I7WRKYM8TEY9J21.

Harvard: Pitt, W, 'A Speech of William Pitt (January 14, 1766)' in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England. cited in 1922, Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. , Ginn, 1935, Boston, pp.623–625. Original Sources, retrieved 13 October 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=I7WRKYM8TEY9J21.