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ON A MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS ON THE MARRIAGE OF THE PRINCE OF WALES.
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
APRIL 29, 1736.
This was Mr. Pitt's maiden speech; and, literally understood, it is a mere string of courtly compliments, expressed in elegant diction. But it seems plainly to have had a deeper meaning. The King, who was extremely irritable, had quarreled with the Prince of Wales, and treated him with great severity. There was an open breach between them. They could not even speak to each other; and although the King desired the marriage, he would not allow the usual Address of Congratulation to be brought in by his ministers. In view of this extraordinary departure from established usage, and the feelings which it indicated on the King's part, Mr. Pitt's emphatic commendations of the young prince have a peculiar significance; while the manner in which he speaks of "the tender, paternal delight" which the King must feel in yielding to "the most dutiful application" of his son, has an air of the keenest irony. Viewed in this light, the speech shows great tact and talent in asserting the cause of the Prince, and goading the feelings of the King, in language of the highest respect—the very language which could alone be appropriate to such an occasion.
I am unable, sir, to offer any thing suitable to the dignity and importance of the subject, which has not already been said by my honorable friend who made the motion. But I am so affected with the prospect of the blessings to be derived by my country from this most desirable, this long-desired measure—the marriage of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales—that I can not forbear troubling the House with a few words expressive of my joy. I can not help mingling my offering, inconsiderable as it is, with this oblation of thanks and congratulation to his Majesty.
However great, sir, the joy of the public may be—and great undoubtedly it is—in receiving this benefit from his Majesty, it must yet be inferior to that high satisfaction which he himself enjoys in bestowing it. If I may be allowed to suppose that any thing in a royal mind can transcend the pleasure of gratifying the earnest wishes of a loyal people, it can only be the tender, paternal delight of indulging the most dutiful application, the most humble request, of a submissive and obedient son. I mention, sir, his Royal Highness's having asked a marriage, because something is in justice due to him for having asked what we are so strongly bound, by all the ties of duty and gratitude, to return his Majesty our humble acknowledgments for having granted.
The marriage of a Prince of Wales, sir, has at all times been a matter of the highest importance to the public welfare, to present and to future generations. But at no time (if a character at once amiable and respectable can embellish, and even dignify, the elevated rank of a Prince of Wales) has it been a more important, dearer consideration than at this day. Were it not a sort of presumption to follow so great a personage through his hours of retirement, to view him in the milder light of domestic life, we should find him engaged in the noblest exercise of humanity, benevolence, and every social virtue. But, sir, however pleasing, however captivating such a scene may be, yet, as it is a private one, I fear I should offend the delicacy of that virtue to which I so ardently desire to do justice, were I to offer it to the consideration of this House. But, sir, filial duty to his royal parents, a generous love of liberty, and a just reverence for the British Constitution—these are public virtues, and can not escape the applause and benedictions of the public. These are virtues, sir, which render his Royal Highness not only a noble ornament, but a firm support, if any could possibly be wanting, of that throne so greatly filled by his royal father.
I have been led to say thus much of his Royal Highness's character, because it is the consideration of that character which, above all things, enforces the justice and goodness of his Majesty in the measure now before us—a measure which the nation thought could never be taken too soon, because it brings with it the promise of an additional strength to the Protestant succession in his Majesty's illustrious and royal house. The spirit of liberty dictated that succession; the same spirit now rejoices in the prospect of its being perpetuated to the latest posterity. It rejoices in the wise and happy choice which his Majesty has been pleased to make of a princess so amiably distinguished in herself, so illustrious in the merit of her family, the glory of whose great ancestor it is to have sacrificed himself in the noblest cause for which a prince can draw a sword—the cause of liberty and the Protestant religion.
Such, sir, is the marriage for which our most humble acknowledgments are due to his Majesty. May it afford the comfort of seeing the royal family, numerous as, I thank God, it is, still growing and rising up into a third generation! A family, sir, which I most earnestly hope may be as immortal as those liberties and that constitution which they came to maintain. Sir, I am heartily for the motion.
The motion was unanimously agreed to.
*Scanned for Classicpersuasion.org from the first edition of Select British Eloquence, edited with notes by Chauncey A. Goodrich (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1852)
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