Charles James Fox.

Memorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) online

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"It will give the tools and Tories here such spirits as to make
them insuiferable. As to myself, you know little matters do not
oppress me much. I am still convinced the Americans will finally
succeed, whether by victories or defeats; and if they do not, I
am sure, as the men say in Braganza, that it will check all future
enterprise to such a degree as to give the completest triumph to


Toryism that it ever had. I suppose the particulars of this news
will be in to-morrow's Gazette, to which I refer you for them.
Whatever happens, for God's sake let us all resolve to stick by
them as handsomely (or more so) in their adversity as we have
done in their glory, and still maintain the Whig cause, however
discredited by defeats, to be the only true principle for this
country. The serieux of this letter may probably make you think
me more dispirited than I am by this news. I am really not
much so myself; but I see such strange dispositions in others to
despond on every trifling disadvantage that I fear the effect it
may have upon them. My compliments to Lady Ossory. Adieu,
my dear Ossory.

'^ Yours ever affectionately,

"C. J. FOX."


"White's, September 24:, 1776.
^^Dear Ossory: —

"You will see by the 'Evening Post' that, though there is no
news of a battle, there is news of consequence enough. Wash-
ington, who is not thought a rash man, must surely think himself
pretty secure in New York, when he makes the direction of a
letter the plea for not receiving what he must certainly guess to
be an offer of a cessation of hostilities. The word ^unlimited' is
an odd word, but I suppose nothing more is meant by it than
that Lord Howe's powers were not limited to military affairs.
I think the publishing of the declaration he has published the
weakest thing, if possible, that has yet been done; because that
appearing alone, it must be understood in America that pardon
is the only boon offered, and that King and Parliament do not
mean to offer any further terms. You see that the Congress have
taken advantage of this by saying that the 'people of America
may see hy this, &c. If it were possible to add to the folly of
the substance of this declaration, I think the wording of it would.
What do you think of the promise of duly considering those who


promote peace? The effect must be that if anybody should at-
tempt to hold the least peaceable language, that person will be
immediately considered as hribed by Lord Howe's declaration,
and, in Lord Clarendon's phrase, respected accordingly. What
I lay the principal stress on in all this news is, 1, that the Con-
gress and Washington seem to be in perfect unison ; and, 2, that
both of them, being fully apprised of the force prepared against
them, do not think it even worth while to amuse the enemy by
hopes of a treaty, but are ready to receive them with all their
force rather than give way on the smallest point. If they have
common sense, and surely that is not to be doubted, they must
be pretty secure at New York in their opinions; and why they
should not judge as well as anybody else, I am sure I cannot tell.
Ls it not charming, their setting about their new government so
deliberately in the face, as it were, of the enemy ? and if George
III. should have for a moment the vanity to compare himself to
Patrick Henry, how humiliated he must be! Adieu.. Compli-
ments to Lord Ossory. I am afraid I cannot be at Ampthill
before Newmarket.

"Yours affectionately,

"C. J. FOX."



*' Newmarket, October 13, 1776.
"My dear Lord: —

"Though I am far from being dismayed by the terrible news
from Long Island, I cannot help thinking that it ought, with
what will naturally follow it, to have a considerable influence upon
our councils, and that we ought, under the present circumstances,
to pursue a conduct somewhat different from that which was pro-
jected at Went worth. A secession at present would be considered
as a running away from the conquerors, and we should be thought
to give up a cause which we think* no longer tenable. But the
more I am convinced that a secession is become improper, the


clearer I am that it is beconie still more necessary than ever to
produce some manifesto, petition, or public instrument, upon the
present situation of affairs; either to exhort his Majesty to make
the proper use of his victory, by seizing this opportunity of mak-
ing advantageous offers of accommodation, or to express openly
and fairly to him the well-grounded apprehensions every man
must entertain from the power of the Crown, in case his Ma-
jesty should be able to subdue the American continent by the
force of his arms. Above all, my dear Lord, I hope that it will
be a point of honor among us all to support the American pre-
tensions in adversity as much as we did in their prosperity, and
that we shall never desert those who have acted unsuccessfulli/
upon AVhig principles, while we continue to profess our admira-
tion of those who succeeded in the same principles in the year
1688. Whatever is intended, I am sure it is not necessary for
me to press upon your Lordship the expediency of your using
every means possible to have a great attendance on the 31st, in
order to which, no time must be lost in making application to
the members through the properest channels. If your Lordship
should think it worth while to write a line in answer to this, I
should be glad to know when you will be in town, as likewise
whether there is anything in which I can be serviceable. Believe
me, my dear Lord, the expectation of your Lordship and all your
friends must in a great measure depend upon the part you act at this
critical juncture. I am sure you are a person whom one need
not advise to take a firm one ; but I am so clear that firmness in
Whig principles is become more necessary than ever that I can-
not help conjuring you, over and over again, to consider the im-
portance of this crisis. In regard to myself, I dare hope that
professions are unnecessary, and I will therefore trouble your
Lordship no further than to assure you that I am resolved, in the
present situation of affairs, to adhere still more, if possible, than
I have done to those principles of government which we have
always recommended with respect to America, and to maintain
that if America should be at our feet (which God forbid I), we


ought to give them as good terms (at least) as those offered in
Burke's propositions.

"I am, mj dear Lord,

^' Yours, etc.,

" C. J. FOX."

''P. S. I shall be here, or near it, till I hear from you.''^

October 31. On Address. ^^ Charles Fox answered Lord Gr.
Grermaine in one of his finest and most animated orations, and
with severity to the answered person. He made Lord North's
conciliatory proposition be read, which, he said, his Lordship
seemed to have forgotten, and he declared he thought it better
to abandon America than attempt to conquer it. Mr. Gibbon,
author of the Roman History, a very good judge, and being on
the Court side, an impartial one, told me he never heard a more
masterly speech than Fox's in his life; and he said he observed
Thurlow and Wedderburne, the Attorney and Solicitor-General,
complimenting which should answer it, and at last both declining

[On the 15th of November, 1776, the King writes to Lord
North]: '^I had learnt from Lord Weymouth that Charles Fox
had declared at Arthur's, last night, that he should attend the
House this day, and then set off for Paris, and not return till
after the recess. Bring as much forward before the recess as
you can, as real business is never so well considered as when the
attention of the House is not taken up by noisy declamation."^

[The plan thus announced at Arthur's was carried into execu-
tion. In the December following, we find Mr. Fox, with his
friend Mr. Fitzpatrick, established at Paris, where they passed
the recess amusing themselves and losing their money at play.
Mr. Fox appears to have lived much in the society of Madame
du Deffand, but the impression he made on that celebrated lady
was on the whole far from favorable. " Je I'ai beaucoup vu,"

^ Rockingham Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 297.
2 MS. Correspondence with Lord North.


says she in a letter to Horace Walpole/ "mais nous nous som-
mes contraries; nos fagons de penser sont tres differentes. II a
beaucoup d'esprit, j'en conviens; mais c'est un genre d' esprit de-
nue de tout espece de bons sens;'^ and in continuation of the same
letter she adds, ''Le Fox compte vous voir. Dites lui que je
vous ai ecrit beaucoup de bien de lui. En effet j'en pense a de
certains egards, il n'a pas un mauvais cceur, mais il n'anul espece
de principes, et il regarde avec pitie tons ceux qui en ont; je ne
comprends pas quels sont ses projets pour Tavenir, ilne s'embarasse
pas du lendemain. La plus extreme pauvrete, Fimpossibilite de
payer ses dettes, tout cela ne lui fait rien. Le Fitzpatrick paroi-
troit plus raisonnabloj mais le Fox assure qu'il est encore plus
indifferent que lui surces deux articles; cetteetrange securite les
eleve a ce qu'ils croient, audessus de tons les hommes. Ces deux
personnages doivent etre bien dangereux pour toute la jeunesse.
lis ont beaucoup joue ici, surtout le Fitzpatrick; il a perdu beau-
coup.'' In another passage, she says of Mr. Fox, "lime semble
qu'il est toujours dans une sorted' ivresse;" and concludes by say-
ing, "II joint h, beaucoup d' esprit, de la bonte, de la verite, mais
cela n'empeche pas qu'il ne soit detestable.'' In another passage,
speaking of Fox, she says, " Je lui aurai paru une platte moral-
iste, et lui il m'a paru un sublime extravagant."]

* The year 1776 was the year of the Declaration of American
Independence. Grreat Britain appears to have used every means
most fitted to bring about this result : vacillation in council,
harshness in language, feebleness in execution, disregard of Ameri-
can sympathies and affections, were all employed to alienate our
colonies. In the present year, Hessian troops had been hired to
inflict on American farmers and tradesmen the horrors of war.
The American provinces were treated with military license ; houses
burnt, property plundered, friends estranged, enemies exaspe-
rated. To complete the horrors of civil war, Indian savages
were excited to hostilities against the King's subjects.

But the power which was thus made an object of hatred was

1 13 Janyler, 1777.
VOL. I. — 12


made also one of contempt. General Howe was forced to evacu-
ate Boston, spiking his cannon, and abandoning his stores, for
want of adequate reinforcements. The spirits of the Americans
were raised to the highest pitch, while their passions were inflam-
ed to the most intense resentment.

Thus encouraged, and thus excited, the Congress, on the 4th of
July, agreed to the memorable Declaration of Independence.
The wrongs inflicted or threatened by George III. were enumerat-
ed; and in conclusion it was declared —

"^Ye, therefore, the representatives of the United States of
America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Su-
preme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, do,
in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these
colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies
are, and of right ought to be. Free and Independent States."

This declaration was the cry of an infant State. It has since
grown to manhood; it has now a giant's strength.

Whether it would have been possible to maintain the colonies
in subjection to the Crown of England for a much longer period,
may well be doubted. Trade regulated at Westminster could
hardly be consistent with wealth and freedom at New York.
Sources of dispute might have arisen, even if the plan of Lord
Rockingham, or that of Lord Chatham, had been fully adopted.
But it was the peculiar infelicity of George III. and Lord North
that they turned to gall all those feelings of filial piety which
had so long filled the breasts of the Americans.

The Declaration of Independence has one singular defect in it,
but which only proves the lingering affection which the Americans
still retained for the mother country.

As Mr. Jefi"erson originally drew the Declaration of Independ-
ence, he charged the acts of which the Americans complained,
in the first place to the King, but secondly to the people of Great
Britain. Thus, he said of them, that "when occasions have been
given them, by the regular course of their laws, of removing from
their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have, by their
free election, re-established them in power.'' Then, again, he


proposed to say, "These facts have given the last stab to agoniz-
ing affection, and manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these
unfeeling brethren. We must endeavor to forget our former
love for them, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind,
enemies in war, in peace friends. We might have been a free
and a great people together; but a communication of grandeur
and of freedom, it seems, is below their dignity. Be it so, since
they will have it. The road to happiness and glory is open to us
too. We will tread it apart from them,'' &c. »

These expressions, though still in the tone of wounded affection,
rather than of willing enmity, were too hostile to the English
people to please the representatives of America. "The pusilla-
nimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms
with," says Mr. Jefferson, "still haunted the minds of many."^
More probably the fond regard long entertained for the mother
country still vibrated in the hearts of most of those who now threw
off her authority.

Be that as it may, the omission of these passages warped the
truth of this memorable Declaration. George III. appears in it
as a single and despotic tyrant; as Philip II. must have appeared
to the people of the Netherlands. The fact was that the Sove-
reign and his people were alike prejudiced, angry, and wilful.* —
J. R.


* The year 1777 may be said to have decided in favor of our
colonies the question of American independence, which had been
so boldly put forth by them in the preceding year.

The march of Burgoyne from Canada, with a view to break
the line of provincial defence, and insulate the New England
States, ended in his surrender at Saratoga. It was not disgrace-
ful to the British arms that 3500 soldiers, pushed forward into a
hostile country without aid from the front or retreat in their rear,
should capitulate to 15,000 Americans, aided by numerous de-

^ Memoirs of Thomas Jefferson, vol. i.


tachments, wlio occupied the surrounding country. But the fail-
ure of the enterprise showed the folly of the contest ; it was im-
possible to occupy with an army the vast extent of the colonial
states, and it was evident that no willing submission could be ex-
pected. The naval means of Great Britain could only hold the
fringe of the coast, and that not completely or entirely.

In the same year Lord Chatham made one more effort to retain
the dependency of the transatlantic provinces by affection. He
owned he could no longer hope success from the terms he had
formerly proposed, and he now, therefore, moved an address to
the Crown, urging compliance with all the demands of America,
with the exception of independence. His motion, though sup-
ported by the Whigs, was rejected by a large majority.

The success of America was owing, next to the errors of her
adversaries, to the conduct and character of General Washington.
In him were united the purity of the most disinterested patriotism
with all the energy of the most stirring ambition; the utmost re-
luctance to engage in the contest, with the firmest will never to
abandon it when begun ; the most intrepid devotion of his life and
his fame in hazardous attacks, with the calmest judgment in all
matters political and military. The dissensions of Congress, the
envy of rivals, the apathy of his troops, the calumnies of his
enemies, neither excited him to rashness, nor stopped him in his
career.* — j. r.

February. Walpole having information that a bill to suspend
the Habeas Corpus throughout America was intended by Minis-
ters, had communicated this intelligence to Charles Fox and
others, who he says would not believe it till the bill was actually
brought into Parliament. — H. w.

The Bockingham party being at that time in secession, "Lord
Bockingham held a meeting to consider whether they should re-
turn and oppose, and they had great divisions. Lord Bocking-
ham, the Cavendishes, and Burke adhered to their stupid retreat;
but Charles Fox would not, and even Sir G. Savile, though more
attached to Lord Bockingham, was so honest as to attend the
House on the third reading, and spoke against the bill.'^


Charles Fox opposed the second reading. "Lord North ridi-
culed him, and said he should not have known the Opposition
was so insignificant if the gentleman had not owned it. It was
voted bj 195 to 43.'^

13th. Lord North accepted a clause in the Habeas Corpus
Bill proposed by Dunning, "to the indignation of Rigby/^ says
H. Walpole, "and all the violent." "Charles Fox, in an admi-
rable speech, complimented Lord North on his candor and uni-
versal benevolence; said he should consider him as the head of
the seceders, and their guardian against the violence of his coad-
jutors. But Lord North's conduct that day had been so desult-
ory and uncertain, that the courtiers interpreted the panegyric as
a sarcasm/'

" Wedderburne, whom Charles Fox had treated severely, re-
covered himself, and made one of his best speeches, that hurt
Fox much, drawing a parallel between him and Wilkes, and ridi-
culing universal benevolence (to which he unfairly added the word
equal) and said all great writers had given up the idea of equal
universal benevolence."

April 16. On Lord J. Cavendish's motion for inquiring into
accounts relating to the King's debts, "Charles Fox made a
speech that even the courtiers allowed to be one of his finest ora-
tions, but then they commended it because it was remarkably
decent and respectful to the King — 218 to 114."

April 18. "On the Report, Lord North made a good speech,
in which he attempted to answer Fox's of the preceding day — a
proof of the excellence of the latter, as Lord North had taken
two days to answer it. As Charles Fox had defended the Duke
of Grafton's conduct. Lord North was very severe on it."

"Charles Fox asked Lord North if he thought the addition of
100,000Z. would be sufficient without coming for more. Lord
North said he thought it would till the Prince of Wales should
be grown up. Charles asked if he would pledge himself. Rigby
said Lord North was not bound to answer questions from indi-
viduals; whenever it had been done, an ill use had been made of



it. Perhaps Lord North might not be in power when the Prince
shall be married; how then can he pledge himself?"

May 9. Rigby alluded w^ith disapprobation to the Speaker's
famous speech at the bar of the House of Lords, in which he said
the grants were great beyond example, great beyond his Majesty's
highest wants. ''The Speaker, Norton (after the debate), com-
plained of Rigby's attack, and Charles Fox proposed words in

justification of the speaker, which were agreed to without a divi-

• J)

May 23. ^^ A job of the Ministers in the African Company
was severely treated by Charles Fox." ''The Ministers were
forced to abandon the African job, which had been countenanced
by Board of Trade."

In the summer of 1777, Mr. Fox visited Ireland with Lord
John Townshend. It was a mere party of pleasure, settled be-
tween them when riding out at Chatsworth. They took their
horses over, and accompanied Conolly and Lady Louisa on an
excursion to the Lakes of Killarney. Mr. Fox made acquaint-
ance with, and indeed contracted a sincere friendship for Mr.
Grattan, whom he met at Lord Charlemont's. Irish local politics
were little discussed, and had not at that time much attraction.
While at Dublin the two strangers were much caressed and at-
tended to, and were constantly invited to dinners, where there
was much conversation and a prodigious quantity of wine. A
wild and hazardous freak of Lord John Townshend and Mr. Fox
made a great noise, and, what seems strange, raised their reputa-
tions in Ireland, where everything that is rash is considered as
a proof of spirit. They bathed in the Devil's Punch Bowl, and
fortunately escaped from all the consequences to be apprehended
from its extreme coldness.— v. H.

Mr. Fox had now resolved to connect himself avowedly with
the Rockingham party. He told Lord John Townshend so at
Chatsworth. Mr. Burke, in a letter directed to him in Ireland,
urges him to adopt that measure ] but his exhortations were super-
fluous. He was already resolved to do so, though he did not in
full form till 1778, or even 1779.— v- h.


[Parliament met on the 18th of November, 1777.] The fol-
lowing extract from a letter of Lord Ossory to his brother, Rich-
ard Fitzpatrick, then in America, gives an account of the first
day's debate (20th Nov.)- It is dated Ampthill, 27th Nov. 1777.

"The most material event I have to mention to you is the
meeting of Parliament last week. You will see, by the speech
and address, that we have so much pleasure and delight in the
American war, that we pledge ourselves to support the prosecution
of it, notwithstanding the total ignorance we are in respecting
the situation of our armies. There was scarce the difference of
a vote in either House. In ours, for two days' debate, I never
remember such a superiority in point of speaking, argument, rea-
son, everything but numbers. Our friend exceeded himself, and
pronounced a grand philippic against the American secretary,
whom he held up as the author of all the mischief. He went
rather too far, and the House did not go along with him. The
epithets he bestowed were — ' That inauspicious and ill-omened
character, whose arrogance and presumption, whose ignorance and
indbillf]/ — in short, he quite terrasseUd him; so much that I
think he will never exhibit himself to that House as its leader,
so long as the other sits in it. The philippic did not seem unac-
ceptable to the other party in administration, though the Premier
declared the acquisition of the secretary was a great credit to them.
Burke, Sir Gr. Savile, and General Conway were all excellent in
their different ways. Old Chatham was in high spirits; the
amendment in both Houses was his, and they say parts of his
speech were very fine. We wait for news for our (I mean Oppo-
sition) proceedings. It is my opinion, and everybody's that has
common sense, that we must be totally demolished, as a country,
by this folly, obstinacy, and insensibility."

[Some further particulars of what passed in the Commons are
given by Walpole] — '' The only brilliant part of the debate was
a bitter philippic on Lord Gr. Germaine, by Charles Fox, in his
highest manner. He called him an ill-omened and inauspicious
character, and, besides blaming the choice of a man pronounced
unfit to serve the Crown, dwelt on his ignorance and incapacity


for conducting a war. The attack was by moderate men thought
too personal and too severe. It was felt in the deepest manner
by Lord George, w^ho rose in the utmost consternation, and made
the poorest figure. He said the man in the world who he chose
should abuse him had done so. Greneral Conway said the next
day he was exactly of a confrary opinion. Lord North handsomely
defended Lord George, and said he was glad Fox had abandoned
him, an old hulk, to attack a man-of-war ; but afterwards he perhaps
hurt Lord George as much as Fox had done, for the latter coming up
to the Treasury benches. Lord North said, in Lord George's hear-
ing, 'Charles, I am glad you did not fall on me to-day, for you
was in full feather.' '^

November 21. On a motion of General Conway's, on the Re-
port, "Wedderburne blamed Charles Fox's preceding philippic,
and pretended to lay down rules for invectives.'^


<' London, November 2^, 1777.

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 31)