Hello, I have to do a small essay on the War of American Independence in my British civilization class with the help of a speech of William Pitt on November 20, 1777 but don't know where nor how to start. Any advice?

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William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, was first elected to the British Parliament in 1735. (He is often called “the Elder” to distinguish him from his son with the same name, called “the Younger.”) A former de-facto prime minister and leader of Parliament, Chatham was called the “Great Commoner” but also...

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William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, was first elected to the British Parliament in 1735. (He is often called “the Elder” to distinguish him from his son with the same name, called “the Younger.”) A former de-facto prime minister and leader of Parliament, Chatham was called the “Great Commoner” but also served in the House of Lords. He is considered the primary architect of British imperialism.

In later years, however, Chatham took an active stance in opposing King George in his policies during the Revolutionary War. The November 20 speech has become famous for a prominent Englishman’s stated opposition. Along with declaring that the war could not be won, he even expressed empathy for the rebels’ attitude.

By the fall of 1777, France was actively supporting the American revolutionaries financially and with troops, led by General Lafayette. Britain seemed on the brink of war with France and Spain, and the English feared that war would lead to invasion. One major turning point in the war came at Saratoga, New York, when the rebel troops defeated the British forces under General Burgoyne, who surrendered on October 17. However, because all the news had to travel by ship, no one in Britain knew that until December 2, 1777.

Chatham made the speech on November 20, 1777—therefore, without up-to-date knowledge of the situation. In some respects, the speech was typical of his position as revealed in early speeches, notably his hatred for the French. Even at the time he delivered it, this particular speech made an impression, and his political rivals seized on it as evidence of his faulty position. Others, however, recognized that the ideas were highly relevant to British governance even beyond their relevance to the specifics of the war. Pitt’s biographer, Basil Williams, says that this speech “enunciates principles which must form the text of the statesman for all time.”

Chatham believed that the king had overstepped his bounds and was violating the constitution by attempting to govern without adequate input from Parliament. He strongly urged the representatives to resist the Crown’s efforts. Rather than wait for the king to ask their advice, Parliament must take a more active role in leading the country out of what he saw as a disastrous course of action.

We must display, in its full danger and true colours, the ruin that is brought to our doors. [I]t is the right of Parliament to give, as it is the duty of the Crown to ask advice. But on this day . . . no reliance is placed in our constitutional counsels.

Chatham famously called for Britain to end the war, which he believed could not be won, and to negotiate peace with the colonies—but not to grant independence.

I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, I venture to say it, cannot conquer America.

He was very concerned that, while the British used Native American fighters (“to associate our arms the tomahawk and scalping knife”), the colonists were using French troops and negotiating with other European powers to aid them as well—all of which left Britain seriously vulnerable to invasion. Not just the forces deployed in America, but especially the funds expended were needed at home to prepare for that eventuality. He even compared that potential invasion with what was happening in the colonies.

My Lords, if I were an American as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop were landed in my country, I would never lay down my arms—never—never—never!

Although Chatham opposed independence, in spirit he understood the rebels’ feelings.

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