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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
On the Character of Chatham
By Henry Grattan (1746–1820)
 
THE SECRETARY stood alone; modern degeneracy had not reached him. Original and unaccommodating, the features of his character had the hardihood of antiquity. His august mind overawed majesty; and one of his sovereigns thought royalty so impaired in his presence that he conspired to remove him, in order to be relieved from his superiority. No State chicanery, no narrow system of vicious politics, sank him to the vulgar level of the great; but overbearing, persuasive, and impracticable, his object was England, his ambition was fame. Without dividing, he destroyed party; without corrupting, he made a venal age unanimous.  1
  France sank beneath him. With one hand he smote the house of Bourbon, and wielded with the other the democracy of England. The sight of his mind was infinite; and his schemes were to affect, not England and the present age only, but Europe and posterity. Wonderful were the means by which these schemes were accomplished; always seasonable, always adequate, the suggestions of an understanding animated by order and enlightened by prophecy.  2
  The ordinary feelings which render life amiable and indolent were unknown to him. No domestic difficulty, no domestic weakness reached him; but aloof from the sordid occurrences of life, and unsullied by its intercourse, he came occasionally into our system to counsel and to decide. A character so exalted, so strenuous, so various, and so authoritative astonished a corrupt age; and the treasury trembled at the name of Pitt, through all her classes of venality. Corruption imagined indeed that she had found defects in this statesman, and talked much of the ruin of his victories; but the history of his country and the calamities of the enemy refuted her.  3
  Nor were his political abilities his only talents: his eloquence was an era in the Senate; peculiar and spontaneous, familiarly expressing gigantic sentiments and instinctive wisdom; not like the torrent of Demosthenes, or the splendid conflagration of Tully, it resembled sometimes the thunder and sometimes the music of the spheres. He did not, like Murray, conduct the understanding through the painful subtlety of argumentation, nor was he, like Townshend, forever on the rack of exertion; but rather lightened upon the subject, and reached the point by flashings of the mind, which like those of his eye were felt but could not be followed.  4
  Upon the whole, there was something in this man that could create, subvert, or reform: an understanding, a spirit, and an eloquence, to summon mankind to society, or to break the bonds of slavery asunder and to rule the wilderness of free minds with unbounded authority; something that could establish or overwhelm empires, and strike a blow in the world which should resound throughout the universe.  5
 
 
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