There are several ways to approach William Pitt’s November 20, 1777 speech. It some of the doubts that Britons had about fighting the rebels. The American revolutionary forces had been fighting the British for about a year and a half; recent troop reinforcements from France had strengthened the American side. Pitt had decades of experience as a statesman, including a primary role in crafting the foreign policy that greatly expanded Britain’s empire. By late 1777, Pitt and other Britons were concerned about three related aspects of the American revolutionary war that he mentions in the speech. Any of them could be presented as the principal problem to address in an essay.
Pitt’s primary concern is that the war will shift and become primarily a European war. France’s support for the rebels is a very bad sign. If a European power, or powers, were to declare war on England, in distinction from just supporting the rebels without any formal declaration of hostilities, Pitt worries that England could not win against the combined forces. Related to this is the financial cost of waging the war. Pitt had concluded that England cannot win the American war.
Closely related is the fear of invasion. If France or Germany declares war, it might decide to invade England. Pitt worries that, with so many resources committed in America, it would not have the strength to repel such an invasion.
The last issue is support for American independence. Pitt does not support this. However, he exhibits an extraordinary degree of empathy for the Americans. He links this empathy to the previous point, concern over invasion of England. If he were an American, Pitt says, he would likewise resist invasion and occupation of his land, and would “never lay down my arms.” This part of the speech is the most often quoted, especially his repetition for emphasis, “never—never—never!” Given his opposition to independence, his identification with those who seek it is remarkable.