The atrocious crime of being a young man

Baba Elombe CARICOM

Recently in my reading, I came across this speech by William Pitt the Elder in reply to Horatio Walpole in the House of Commons in the UK in 1741. I am sure readers will find it interesting in light of recent events in Barbados.

It was during a debate on search warrants for seamen that the famous altercation took place between Mr. William Pitt and Horatio Walpole, in which the latter endeavored to put down the young orator by representing him as having too little experience to justify his discussing such subjects, and charging him with “petulancy of invective,” “pompous diction,” and “theatrical emotion.”

Baba Elombe Mottley

Reply to Horatio Walpole on a charge of Youth delivered in the House of Commons, March 6, 1741

SIR,–The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honorable gentleman 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.

Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not, sir, assume the province of determining; but surely age may become justly contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings have passed away without improvement, and vice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided.

The wretch who, after having seen the consequences of a thousand errors, continues still to blunder, and whose age has only added obstinacy to stupidity, is surely the object of either abhorrence or contempt, and deserves not that his gray hairs should secure him from insult. Much more, sir, is he to be abhorred, who, as he has advanced in age, has receded from virtue, and becomes more wicked with less temptation; who prostitutes himself for money which he cannot enjoy, and spends the remains of his life in the ruin of his country. But youth, sir, is not my only crime; I have been accused of acting a theatrical part. A theatrical part may either imply some peculiarities of gesture, or a dissimulation of my real sentiments, and an adoption of the opinions and language of another man.

In the first sense, sir, the charge is too trifling to be confuted, and deserves only to be mentioned to be despised. I am at liberty, like every other man, to use my own language; and though, perhaps, I may have some ambition to please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself under any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his diction or his mien, however matured by age, or modeled by experience. If any man shall, by charging me with theatrical behavior, imply that I utter any sentiments but my own, I shall treat him as a calumniator and a villain; nor shall any protection shelter him from the treatment he deserves.

I shall, on such an occasion, without scruple, trample upon all those forms with which wealth and dignity intrench themselves; nor shall anything but age restrain my resentment–age, which always brings one privilege, that of being insolent and supercilious without punishment. But with regard, sir, to those whom I have offended, I am of opinion, that if I had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoided their censure. The heat that offended them is the ardor of conviction, and that zeal for the service of my country which neither hope nor fear shall influence me to suppress. I will not sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor look in silence upon public robbery. I will exert my endeavors, at whatever hazard, to repel the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, whoever may protect them in their villainy, and whoever may partake of their plunder.

At this point Mr. Pitt was called to order by Mr. Wynnington, who went on to say, “No diversity of opinion can justify the violation of decency, and the use of rude and virulent expressions, dictated only by resentment, and uttered without regard to–“

Sir, if this be to preserve order, there is no danger of indecency from the most licentious tongues. For what calumny can be more atrocious, what reproach more severe, than that of speaking with regard to anything but truth. Order may sometimes be broken by passion or inadvertency, but will hardly be re-established by a monitor like this, who cannot govern his own passions while he is restraining the impetuosity of others.

Happy would it be for mankind if everyone knew his own province. We should not then see the same man at once a criminal and a judge; nor would this gentleman assume the right of dictating to others what he has not learned himself.

That I may return in some degree the favor he intends me, I will advise him never hereafter to exert himself on the subject of order; but whenever he feels inclined to speak on such occasions, to remember how he has now succeeded, and condemn in silence what his censures will never amend.

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14 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Politics

14 responses to “The atrocious crime of being a young man

  1. Carl Moore

    Elombe, I suspect that your reference to Pitt and Walpole has something to do with the poor-rakey parliaments Barbados has experienced since your departure to Jamaica.

    The Wynter Crawfords, Adamses, Cameron Tudors, Henry Fordes, Errol Barrows, Don Blackmans, Louis Tulls, Frank Walcotts, Millers (particularly Freddie), Louis Lynches, Mottleys—and now Branford Taitt—are part of history. They’re not coming back.

    The problem Freundel Stuart faces is that he has no foil—it’s like Robert Earle vs Elombe at table tennis.

  2. 32

    Brilliant debate requires an exceptional use of language couched in a delivery of harmonious cadence, all of which is utilized by the participants. The Parliamentary debates we hear on the radio gives one incessant reasons to groan and be embarrassed that the persons speaking are actually our elected representatives. They mangle the English language whenever they find time from their prodigious efforts to refrain from using logic or any semblance of engaging their listeners with considered analysis. They froth, fulminate, wallow in frequent invective and impress us that despite alleged educations their preference remains a primary school level of communication. Rare is the exception to this level of debate in our country Barbados.

  3. Bajan Abroad

    One would not use frequent invective to impress on the public stage, if such invective was not indicative or reflective of the public discourse! Eventually people get the government they deserve. Excellent article.

  4. Well Well

    Oh how very true.

  5. mark fenty

    I think when we talk about political rhetoric, intelligent minds can`t help but to agree; that Benjamen Disreali is the epitome of the ancient discipline that has come to dominant the political affairs. But, I`ll focus my energies on a native son who goes by the title, Dr. Don Blackman.

    I think that there is a strong are yet to be made, when we analytically dissect the historical unfolding of the political institution in Barbados. And we would certainly discover that most of us would unaminously agree that Dr. Don Blackman, has distinguished himself from the rest of the politicians in Barbados. And he has done this in a manner in which he has articulated in the public discourse, through the process of verbosity.
    Now, even though I vehemently disdain the political worldview of the BLP with a passion, Dr. Don Blackman has nonetheless made a lifelong impression on me. I admire the way he has prosecute his message through the instruments of demagoguery, verbosity, and of course with a rhetorical enunciation. I`m talking about a man gifted in the ancient art of Rhetoric, which he has used relentlessly at times to effectively vivisect his opponent argument.
    I recalled with a great admiration, one summer night some way back in the early ninteen eighties, when Dr. Don Blackman spoke at a political meeting in the Bayland. And that night in question, Dr. Don Blackman unleashed a firestorm of verbosity the electrified the befuddled crowd. He mind I believed functioned like a working lexicon, his fluidity, and contextualization was impecable. Dr. Don Blackman operated like a true craftman, fully confident in his trade. He is in my humble opinion, an intellect steeped in the ancient art of rhetoric, with the rare kind of intellectual luminosity that far outmatched his opponent.

  6. 32

    Mark Fenty you are WAY overdue for a long course in remedial grammar…unless English is your second language…is it?

  7. mark fenty

    @32 When one is writing on a phone it is quite difficult to achieve grammatical proficiency. I would agree however, that I could have been a lot more grammatical correct, but who haven`t had some difficult with grammar my friend? Some of the greatest intellects both ancient and modern has had some degree of difficult with the problem 32.

  8. mark fenty

    @ 32
    Let’s not go there, you know as well as I do, that this whole blog is full of grammatical deficiencies.

  9. Anonymous

    Fenty, after reading you for some time I can unequivocally state without the slightest fear of contradiction from any evidenced source whatsoever that your writing is replete with Malapropisms vying with grammatical idiocy and lapses in elementary logic. At the very least, an improvement in your grammatical faux pas’s “might” yield improvements in these other areas, but I doubt it.

  10. Anonymous

    And imagine you compare yourself to ” Some of the greatest intellects both ancient and modern”…more like a transplanted street corner speaker at the bus stand who bought some paper and a pencil. Fenty, give it up.

  11. Mark Fenty

    Where have I compared myself to some great intellects? It seems quite clear that your sense of comprehension is lacking in some respect. All I was simply endeavoring to convey is the fact, that some of the greatest minds in the world has had some difficulty with Grammar at some point in their intellectual development. And the fundamental reason I’ve advence premise stemms from the extensive reading I’ve done on a number of the uncommon intellects, greats such as: Einstein, Hegel, Socretes, Plato, Aristotles,Jasper Hume, Locke, and Shopenhauer has had some measure of difficulty
    It is important however, that we understand that one’s competency in Grammar has little to do with one’s intellectual resources. Take for example Einstein, he was one of the greatest minds in human history but yet he suffered from dislexia. Now some people who suffers from dyslexia have propensity to read backwords, or unintentionally forget to write the appropriate words in a sentence much like myself.

    Moreover, I would honestly like to put this issue of grammar to rest once and for all. Frankly speaking, I’m quite cognizant of my inability to express myself in what is commonly known as standard Grammar. Now, a lot of my grammatical paralysis can be attributed to a poor Grammatical foundation, I’ve gotten in the school systems of Barbados. Maybe that is a poor excuse to justify my lack thereof, but let take for example the game of Chess, experts have discovered that if one does not get a early start in the game of Chess, he or she stands little chance of reaching the position of Grandmaster. Much like Grammar, if one lacks the proper Grammatical competency from the onset, he or she finds it quite arduous to refine those skills after reaching the age of maturity. Now, it amazes me when I see some people who have attended School of National Reputation in Barbados, articulating in a manner not conducive to acceptable standards.

  12. Mark Fenty

    The protagonist will exploit every possible weakness, in an effort to besmear one’s character.

  13. Mark Fenty

    @Anonymous
    Which the brain power of an ant and the judgment of frog, its no wonder you think in such absurd ways. I can see quite clearly that you’re trying to engage me in a dick measuring contest, but your dick haven’t the length or size as mine.

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