William Pitt, Lord Chatham or Lord William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, aka The Elder Pitt and The Great Commander

William
Pitt, Lord Chatham or Lord William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, aka The Elder Pitt and The Great Commander
1708
1778

English Whig Statesman, Prime Minister of Great Britain who led Britain during the Seven Years' War

Author Quotes

Resistance to your acts was necessary as it was just; and your vain declarations of the omnipotence of Parliament, and your imperious doctrines of the necessity of submission, will be found equally impotent to convince or to enslave your fellow-subjects in America, who feel tyranny, whether ambitioned by an individual part of the legislature, or the bodies who compose it, is equally intolerable to British subjects...What, though you march form town to town, and from province to province; though you should be able to enforce a temporary and local submission, which I only suppose, not admit—how shall you be able to secure the obedience of the country you leave behind you in your progress, to grasp the dominion of eighteen hundred miles of continent, populous in numbers, possessing valour, liberty, and resistance? This resistance to your arbitrary system of taxation might have been foreseen: it was obvious, from the nature of things and of mankind; and, above all, from the Whiggish spirit flourishing in that country. The spirit which now resists your taxation in America, is the same which formerly opposed loans, benevolences, and ship-money, in England: the same spirit which called all England on its legs, and by the Bill of Rights vindicated the English constitution: the same spirit which established the great, fundamental, essential maxim of your liberties, that no subject of England shall be taxed but by his own consent. This glorious spirit of Whiggism animates three millions in America; who prefer poverty with liberty to gilded chains and sordid affluence; and who will die in defence of their rights as men, as freemen.

Where law ends tyranny begins.

I have the principles of an Englishman, and I utter them without apprehension or reserve...this is not the language of faction; let it be tried by that criterion, by which alone we can distinguish what is factious, from what is not—by the principles of the English constitution. I have been bred up in these principles, and I know that when the liberty of the subject is invaded, and all redress denied him, resistance is justifiable...the constitution has its political Bible, by which if it be fairly consulted, every political question may, and ought to be determined. Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights and the Bill of Rights, form that code which I call the Bible of the English constitution. Had some of his Majesty's unhappy predecessors trusted less to the commentary of their Ministers, and been better read in the text itself, the glorious Revolution might have remained only possible in theory, and their fate would not now have stood upon record, a formidable example to all their successors.

So as this only point among the rest remaineth sure and certain, namely, that nothing is certain. . .

While we had France for an enemy, Germany was the scene to employ and baffle her arms.

I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, I venture to say it, you CANNOT conquer America...As to conquest, therefore, my Lords, I repeat, it is impossible. You may swell every expense, and every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German Prince, that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign country; your efforts are for ever vain and impotent—doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies—to overrun them with the sordid sons of rapine and plunder; devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms, never! never! never! ...I call upon the honour of your Lordships to reverence the dignity of your ancestors, and to maintain your own. I call upon the spirit and humanity of my country to vindicate the national character. I invoke the genius of the constitution. From the tapestry that adorns these walls, the immortal ancestor of this noble Lord frowns with indignation at THE DISGRACE OF HIS COUNTRY! In vain he led your victorious fleets against the boasted Armada of Spain; in vain he defended and established the honour, the liberties, the religion, the Protestant religion of his country, against the arbitrary cruelties of Popery and the Inquisition.

The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honorable gentleman [Walpole] has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny; but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience.

You have ransacked every corner of Lower Saxony; but forty thousand German boors never can conquer ten times the number of British freemen. You may ravage—you cannot conquer; it is impossible: you cannot conquer the Americans. You talk, my Lords, of your friends among them to annihilate the Congress, and of your powerful forces to disperse their army: I might as well talk of driving them before me with this crutch! ...If you conquer them, what then? You cannot make them respect you; you cannot make them wear your cloth: you will plant an invincible hatred in their breasts against you. Coming from the stock they do, they can never respect you...

I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty, as voluntary to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.

The enjoyments of this life are not equal to its evils.

I rejoice that the grave has not closed upon me; that I am still alive to lift up my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy! Pressed down as I am by the hand of infirmity, I am little able to assist my country in this most perilous conjuncture; but, my Lords, while I have sense and memory, I will never consent to deprive the royal offspring of the House of Brunswick, the heirs of the Princess Sophia, of their fairest inheritance. Where is the man that will dare to advise such a measure? My Lords, his Majesty succeeded to an empire as great in extent as its reputation was unsullied. Shall we tarnish the lustre of this nation by an ignominious surrender of its rights and fairest possessions? Shall this great kingdom, that has survived, whole and entire, the Danish depredations, the Scottish inroads, and the Norman conquest; that has stood the threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, now fall prostrate before the House of Bourbon? Surely, my Lords, this nation is no longer what it was! Shall a people, that seventeen years ago was the terror of the world, now stoop so low as to tell its ancient inveterate enemy, take all we have, only give us peace? It is impossible! ...My Lords, any state is better than despair. Let us at least make one effort; and if we must fall, let us fall like men!

The little I know of it has not served to raise my opinion of what is vulgarly called the Monied Interest; I mean, that blood-sucker, that muckworm, that calls itself the friend of government.

I would have inscribed on the curtains of your bed, and the walls of your chamber, If you do not rise early, you can never make progress in anything. If you do not set apart your hours of reading, if you suffer yourself or anyone else to break in upon them, your days will slip through your hands unprofitably and frivolous, and really unenjoyed by yourself.

The parks are the lungs of London.

If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms,- never! never! never! You cannot conquer America.

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter, but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

It is my opinion, that this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. At the same time I assert the authority of this kingdom over the colonies to be sovereign and supreme in every circumstance of Government and legislation whatsoever. The colonists are the subjects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the natural rights of mankind and the peculiar privileges of Englishmen...The Americans are the sons, not the bastards, of England. Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power...When, therefore, in this House we give and grant, we give and grant what is our own. But in an American tax, what do we do? We, your Majesty's Commons for Great Britain, give and grant to your Majesty,—what? Our own property?—No! We give and grant to your Majesty, the property of your Majesty's Commons of America...The distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially necessary to liberty...There is an idea in some, that the colonies are virtually represented in this House...Is he represented by any knight of the shire, in any county in this kingdom?...Or will you tell him that he is represented by any representative of a borough?—a borough which perhaps its own representatives never saw.—This is what is called the rotten part of the constitution. It cannot continue a century. If it does not drop, it must be amputated...I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty, as voluntarily to let themselves be made slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of all the rest...The gentleman asks, When were the colonies emancipated? I desire to know when were they made slaves?

When trade is at stake, it is your last entrenchment; you must defend it, or perish.

Good-breeding is benevolence in trifles, or the preference of others to ourselves in the daily occurrences of life.

If you do not rise early, you can make progress in nothing.

Moderation, which consists in an indifference about little things, and in a prudent and well-proportioned zeal about things of importance, can proceed from nothing but true knowledge, which has its foundation in self-acquaintance.

Unlimited power corrupts the possessor; and this I know, that, where law ends, there tyranny begins.

Author Picture
First Name
William
Last Name
Pitt, Lord Chatham or Lord William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, aka The Elder Pitt and The Great Commander
Birth Date
1708
Death Date
1778
Bio

English Whig Statesman, Prime Minister of Great Britain who led Britain during the Seven Years' War