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[161] Townshend, confident in his ability, and flushed with
chap. VII.} 1754.
success. Then, too, the young Lord North, welleducated, abounding in good-humor, made his entrance into public life with such universal favor, that every company resounded with the praises of his parts and merit. But Newcastle had computed what he might dare; at the elections, corruption had returned a majority devoted to the minister who was incapable of settled purposes or consistent conduct. The period when the English aristocracy ruled with the least admixture of royalty or popularity was the period when the British empire was the worst governed.

One day, a member, who owed his seat to bribery, defended himself in a speech full of wit, humor, and buffoonery, which kept the House in a continued roar of laughter. With all the fire of his eloquence, and in the highest tone of grandeur, Pitt, incensed against his patron, gave a rebuke to their mirth. ‘The dignity of the House of Commons,’ he cried, ‘has, by gradations, been diminishing for years, till now we are brought to the very brink of the precipice, where, if ever, a stand must be made, unless you will degenerate into a little assembly, serving no other purpose than to register the arbitrary edicts of one too powerful subject.’1 ‘We are designed to be an appendix to——I know not what; I have no name for it,’—meaning the House of Lords.

Thus did Pitt oppose to corrupt influence his genius and his gift of speaking well. Sir Thomas Robinson, on the same day, called on his majority to show spirit. ‘Can gentlemen,’ he demanded, ‘can ’

1 Fox in Waldegrave's Memoirs, 147.

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