Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

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

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

"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."

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

"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?"

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

"A long train of these practices has at length unwillingly convinced me that there is something behind the throne greater than the King himself."

"Bowing, ceremonious, formal compliments, stiff civilities, will never be politeness; that must be easy, natural, unstudied; and what will give this but a mind benevolent and attentive to exert that amiable disposition in trifles to all you converse and live with?"

"Confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom youth is the season of credulity."

"Confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged heart."

"Don't talk to me about a man's being able to talk sense; everyone can talk sense. Can he talk nonsense?"

"Eloquence is in the assembly, not merely in the speaker."

"I cannot give them my confidence; pardon me, gentlemen, confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom: youth is the season of credulity."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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!"

"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."

"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."

"If you are not right toward God, you can never be so toward man; and this is forever true, whether wits and rakes allow it or not."

"In these matters the only certainty is that there is nothing certain."

"It is injustice to permit slavery to remain for a single hour."

"It must cut up Liberty by the root and poison the Fountain of Publick Security; and who that has an English heart can ever be weary of asserting Liberty?"

"Let honor be to us as strong an obligation as necessity is to others."

"My Lord, I'm sure I am able to save this country, and no one else can."

"Necessity is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves."

"Our seamen have always been famous for a matchless alacrity and intrepidity in time of danger; this has saved many a British ship, when other seamen would have run below deck, and left the ship to the mercy of the waves, or, perhaps, of a more cruel enemy, a pirate."

"Reparation for our rights at home, and security against the like future violations."

"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."

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

"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."

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

"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."

"The parks are the lungs of London."

"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!"

"The sum and substance of the preparation needed for a coming eternity is that you believe what the Bible tells you, and do what the Bible bids you."

"Theoretical principals must sometimes give way for the sake of practical advantages."

"There are many things a parliament cannot do. It cannot make itself executive, nor dispose of offices which belong to the crown. It cannot take any man's property, even that of the meanest cottager, as in the case of enclosures, without his being heard."

"There is something behind the throne greater than the King himself."

"Trade increases the wealth and glory of a country; but its real strength and stamina are to be looked for among the cultivators of the land."

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords: that where laws end, tyranny begins."

"We have a Calvinistic creed, a Popish liturgy, and an Arminian clergy."

"We retain nothing, although we have conquered everything...France is chiefly, if not solely, to be dreaded by us in the light of a maritime and commercial power; and therefore by restoring to her all the valuable West India islands, and by our concessions in the Newfoundland fishery, we have given her the means of recovering her prodigious losses and of becoming once more formidable to us at sea...all the Spanish treasures and riches in America, lay at our mercy."

"When then, my Lords, are all the generous efforts of our ancestors, are all those glorious contentions, by which they meant to secure themselves, and to transmit to their posterity, a known law, a certain rule of living, reduced to this conclusion, that instead of the arbitrary power of a King, we must submit to the arbitrary power of a House of Commons? If this be true, what benefit do we derive from the exchange? Tyranny, my Lords, is detestable in every shape; but in none is it so formidable as where it is assumed and exercised by a number of tyrants. But, my Lords, this is not the fact, this is not the constitution; we have a law of Parliament, we have a code in which every honest man may find it. We have Magna Charta, we have the Statute-book, and we have the Bill of Rights...It is to your ancestors, my Lords, it is to the English barons that we are indebted for the laws and constitution we possess. Their virtues were rude and uncultivated, but they were great and sincere...I think that history has not done justice to their conduct, when they obtained from their Sovereign that great acknowledgment of national rights contained in Magna Charta: they did not confine it to themselves alone, but delivered it as a common blessing to the whole people...A breach has been made in the constitution—the battlements are dismantled—the citadel is open to the first invader—the walls totter—the place is no longer tenable.—What then remains for us but to stand foremost in the breach, to repair it, or to perish in it?...let us consider which we ought to respect most—the representative or the collective body of the people. My Lords, five hundred gentlemen are not ten millions; and, if we must have a contention, let us take care to have the English nation on our side. If this question be given up, the freeholders of England are reduced to a condition baser than the peasantry of Poland...Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, there tyranny begins."

"Where law ends tyranny begins."

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

"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..."