Charles James Fox.

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''Dear Ossory: —

''It is now settled that the Duke of Richmond, in the House
of Lords, and I in the Commons, are next Tuesday to move for
a state of the nation. We do not propose to go into that state
before Christmas, and I take it for granted, the Ministry will
give us our motion; but we shall move for many papers, some of
which will probably occasion some debate. Lord Chatham ap-
proves, and will, I believe, be down. We have not divided since
you went, but we think we have been very victorious in debate.
Whether we shall divide on Tuesday will, I suppose, a good deal
depend on our attendance. Upon this state of the thing, you
will judge whether it is worth your while to come up. There is
no news yet of any sort, and we seem almost to give up the
thoughts of any. People in general seem to be very much tired
of the business, and though we have not yet got one vote tliis
year, I cannot help thinking we are grown considerably stronger
in public opinion, for in all the debates we have had, the Minis-


ters have said nothing to give people hopes for the future, and
little in justification of the past. I am clear the opinion of the
majority of the House is now with us. I cannot help flattering
myself that opinions will, in the long run, have their influence
on votes. At all events we ought to try, for though what we do
may have no immediate efl'ect, yet it may have some next year,
unless some unexpectedly favorable events should make people
once more as mad and as sanguine as they were last year. Pray
make my best respects to Lady Ossory.''

[So far as the independence of America was concerned, the
surrender of Burgoyne's army was decisive. The impression
which the first intelligence of this disaster made on some even
of the stanchest supporters of the war appears in the following
letter of Mr. Crawford to Lord Ossory; — ]


*' December 4, 1777.
"My dear Lord: —

'' The papers of to-day contain a full account of all we know
of the unfortunate fate of Burgoyne's army. I had not time to
inform you of it last night. I passed the whole day in the House
of Commons, and was too much interested to go up stairs to write
a few lines to you.

"Charles made a motion to have the instructions given to
General Burgoyne relative to the Canada expedition, and that
part of Sir W. Howe's instructions relative to his co-operation
with Burgoyne laid before the House. Nobody could, or attempt-
ed to, make the least objection to this motion, further than that
it was premature, as no authentic account of this unfortunate
news was yet arrived. The previous question was put upon it,
and passed without a division. But if news does not arrive before
the holidays, Charles means to renew his motion, and I should
think must be supported in it by many of the friends of Govern-
ment. It is impossible, I suppose, to receive the news of the


loss of an army, and to refuse to inquire into the causes of such
a miscarriage^ even though we cannot get at all the information
that is necessary. Charles spoke with great violence, but the
House for this time went along with him. We were not shocked
at his talking of bringing Lord George to a second trial, nor were
we shocked at being asked if we could patiently continue to sub-
mit to see this nation disgraced by him in every capacity. There
were high words between Wedderburne and Burke, which so offend-
ed the latter, that he went out of the House, and I believe in-
tended to challenge Wedderburne, but was prevented by a letter
from Wedderburne, and an explanation likewise, which he sent
him through Charles. In the midst of Wedderburne' s speaking,
Burke burst into one of his loud hysterical laughs. Unfortunate-
ly at that moment there was a dead silence in the House. Wed-
derburne, in a very angry tone, said that, if that gentleman did
not know manners, lie as an individual would teach them to him;
that he had not the good-will of that gentleman, and did not
wish for it ; but he was ambitious of having eveii his respect, and
would force it from him, &c. This the other construed into a
menace. It is impossible to give an account of a conversation
of this kind, which depends entirely upon the tone and manner;
but I know Lady 0. would not have forgiven me if I had not
attempted it, and it is for her, and not for you, that I have given
this imperfect description of a quarrel, which is very well settled
on both sides. Burke was originally in the wrong, because no-
thing could be more uncivil than his laugh appeared to be, from
the accident of the dead silence of the House at that moment.'^

December 2. '^Charles Fox made the same motion for papers
in the Commons which the Duke of Richmond made in the Lords.
He [Charles Fox] shone eminently again, attacking Lord Gr. Ger-
maine, whom he compared to Sangrado, who would persist in
drawing blood because he had written a book upon bleeding.''
The Lords granted the papers, the Commons refused them by 178
to 89.

December 3. On the Army, '^Charles Fox and Burke pressed

1778.] CHARLES JAMES FOX. , 143

Lord George to know if the capture of Burgoyue and bis army
was true. He was forced to own he believed it, tbouQ-h be did
not know it officially. The Opposition, instead of receiving such
a national indignity with serious lamentation, insulted the Minis-
ters so much, that the majority appeared more exasperated and
less dejected than on the former days of the session.'' ^'Charles
Fox went further, and told Lord George that he hoped to see
him brought to a second trial, and abused Ministers on their stu-
pidity and ignorance. On Lord George saying he hoped Burgoyne
would not be condemned unheard, Fox flamed still more, and
charged Lord George with the whole blame of the badness of the

December 4. ^' There was a short but warm debate on the re-
newal of the [suspension of the] Habeas Corpus, and Fox charg-
ing Thurlow with it as a black act, Thurlow answered him warm-
ly, and asked if, supposing his character a black one, Fox's was
a white one."

December 10. On Lord North's giving notice of a plan for
treating with the Americans, "Burke and Fox abused him, and
told him the Ministers thought of nothing but keeping their

December 15. "Burgoyne's account [of his surrender] was in
his usual bombast and absurd style; he talked of having dictated
the terms of his surrender, and lest it should not be published at
length in the 'Gazette,' he sent one copy to Lord Derby, and
another to Charles Fox."


* The surrender of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga soon ripened
into a formal treaty the negotiations between France and the
United Colonies. Franklin and M. Gerard, on the 6th of Febru-
ary, 1778, signed the treaty of peace and commerce at Paris.

Such was another act in this miserable tragedy. The House of
Commons was afflicted, gloomy, and silent. The house of Bour-
bon grasped eagerly at the prospect of recovering the colonies


lost in the Seven Years' War. The Minister begged, in vain,
permission to retire.

It is no wonder that these proofs of folly, and the pressure of
so many calamities, roused to the highest pitch of indignation
the eloquent voices of Chatham, of Fox, and of Burke.* — J. R.

January 22. "Charles Fox moved again for the instructions
to Howe and Burgoyne, and falling foul on the many obnoxious
measures, compared the present reign to that of James II. Col-
onel Lutterell flew into a rage, but could not express what he
meant, but muttered something of Fox declaring he would talk
treason. Lord North, to avoid the charge, owned it had been
almost treason.''

January 27. ''Charles Fox, in an admirable speech, attacked
Lord North, on having called himself an unfortunate minister,
and proved that all the disgraces had happened by ignorance,
blunders, and misconduct — not by misfortune. Lord North an-
swered with some humor; and as Fox had accused him of idle-
ness, and of listening to flatterers, he said he passed a great deal
of time in that house, where he could not be idle, and it was
plain he was not flattered.''

January 29. '' Colonel Lutterell complained of a misrepresent-
ation in the newspapers, but in fact it could not be made worse.
He had been so absurd, and so furious, that many thought he
had been set on by the Ministers to provoke Charles Fox to a

February 2. A motion on state of the nation was made by
Charles Fox, "after a speech of two hours and forty minutes,
in which he recapitulated the events, history, and misconduct of
the war with astonishing memory and method. The Ministers

^ The Morning Post, a paper notoriously paid by the Court, abused
Fox on this occasion in the most outrageous terms, and accused him of
cowardice in not challenging Lutterell, which it evidently tried to make
him do. Even Lutterell was ashamed of such assassinating endeavors,
made excuses to Fox, and hoped he did not suspect him of being accessory
to so black a design. — H. W.


did not make one word of answer, but most indecently called for
the question, when it was rejected by 259 to 165; a surprising
minority, that much alarmed the Administration.''

HON. C. J. FOX TO MR. FITZPATRICK (then in America).

"London, February 3, 1778.
" My dear Richard : —

''Though I have been unpardonably idle about writing to you,
yet I suspect that I appear still more so than I deserve; for, by
your never mentioning it, I take it for granted you never received
a long letter I wrote you from Chatsworth.

''I am more angry with myself than you can conceive for not
writing oftener, but I have put it off, as you know I do every-
thing, from day to day, in hopes of having something to tell you
worth hearing. I am sure, however, you do not really believe
what you say, of your being forgotten by your friends here ; if
you could really think so with regard to me for one moment, it
would make me more unhappy than almost any misfortune you
can conceive. You know how very highly I rate friendship
among the goods of life, and how highly I rate yours, is, I am
sure, needless to say ; but I will say no more on the subject,
because I am sure you cannot know me so little as to think it
possible I should ever change with regard to you, and you are
not the sort of person to take a little negligence seriously. I
find, upon examining your different letters, that two have been
lost, the one you sent by Lord Deerhurst, and one you mention
to have sent by an Indiaman. You have probably heard the
story of Deerhurst' s already. He says that when he came to
London, he heard I was at Mistley,^ and so put the letter in the
post. The letter never arrived at Mistley, nor could any trace
be found of it at any of the post-offices near Mistley. What to
think of the matter is difficult, but it vexed me extremely, as it

* It should seem by this that Mr. Fox was still in habits with Rigby,
■whose place Mistley was. — V. H.
VOL. I. — 13


was your first letter from America, and might possibly contain
many interesting things. All your other letters I have received,
and am beyond measure obliged to you for them. I think you
are the best describer of military operations I ever knew, for I
perfectly understand them by your letters, which I scarce ever
do from those of others. What a scene of folly it has been !
But it has not yet had all the effect here that you at a distance
imagine it would have. I think you are too violent in some of
your ideas, but, as this letter may possibly be read by others as
well as you, I cannot now tell you my mind upon those subjects.
What the Ministers intend doing besides keeping their places,
upon which they are very decided, I cannot even guess. They
know as little how to make peace as war. In short, they are as
completely at a non plus as people can be ; but they still keep a
great majority, though we begin to increase considerably ; we
divided last night (2d February, on motion for a state of the
nation) 165 to 259, which is certainly a very good division
compared with the past, but a very bad one in my mind consider-
ing the circumstances of the country. I made the motion in a
very long speech, in which T went over the whole of the Ameri-
can business, and I really thought the House went a good deal
with me in most of it. I purposely avoided all topics that
related to the justice of the war, and confined myself merely to
the absurdity of it in all its parts, and the absolute madness of
continuing it. The resolution moved was that none of the old
corps now in Europe should be spared for the American war.
We had several Tories with us, and I really think it was a great
day for us. The Ministry, not by concert, I believe, but by
accident, did not say one word, which scandalized even their own
friends a good deal, as I had opened the afiair so very fully ; for
I spoke two hours and forty minutes. They now pretend to say
that Ellis and Wedderburne were up (I did not see them), and
Avhile they were complimenting one another, the question was
put. The fact is, that it is such a cause as no man can defend
well, and therefore nobod}^ likes to attempt it. We shall soon
go into an inquiry upon the Canada Expedition, in which how


Lord G. [George Germaine] will defend himself, is much above
my comprehension. They mean to be hard upon Burgoyne,
which is a baseness beyond what even you or I could have
expected from them. The inquiry is also in my hands, so that
I have business enough, indeed more than I can well manage ;
for, though I like the House of Commons itself, I hate the pre-
paratory business of looking at accounts, drawing motions, &c.,
as much as you could do. / am convinced we shall so far suc-
ceed as to get great divisions in the House of Commons, and to
convince all the world that the Ministers deserve all possible
contempt ] hut when we have done thaty I think we shall have
done all we can doj and that the Ministers^ though despised every -
where, and hy everyhody, will still continue 3Iinisters. I am
thoroughly persuaded of this, but the general opinion is other-
wise. There is a report of Lord Chatham being to come in
immediately, but I have good reasons for totally disbelieving it.
I think I have given you enough of politics, considering I have
nothing but reports and conjectures to give you. With respect
to my own share, I can only say that people flatter me that I
continue to gain, rather than lose, my credit as an orator ; and /
am so convinced that this is all that I ever shall gain {iinless 1
choose to become the meanest of men), that I never think of any
other object of ambition.

" / am certainly ambitious by nature, but I really have, or
think I have, totally subdued that passion. I have still as much
vanity as ever, which is a happier passion by far ; because great
reputation I think I may acquire and keep, great situation I never
can acquire, nor, if acquired, keep without making sacrifices that
I never will make. If I am wrong, and more sanguine people
right, taut mieux, and I shall be as happy as they can be; but if
I am right, I am sure I shall be the happier for having made
up my mind to my situation. I need not say how happy I am
at the thoughts of your coming ; I should be so at all times, but
I really want you at present to a great degree. I have other
friends whom I love, and who I believe love me, but I foresee
possible cases where I am determined to act against all the advice


that they are likely to give me. I know they will not shake me,
for nothing ever shall ; but yet it would be a great satisfaction
to have you here, who I know would be of my opinion. You
guess, I dare say, the sort of cases I mean. I shall be told by
prudent friends that I am under no sort of engagements to any
set of men. I certainly am not, but there are many cases where
there is no engagement, and yet it is dishonorable not to act as
if there was one. But even suppose it were quite honorable, is
it possible to be happy in acting with people of whom one has
the worst opinions, and being on a cold footing (which must be
the case) with all those whom one loves best, and with whom one
passes one's life ? I have talked to you a great deal about
myself, but I know it will interest you, and I have really little
else to tell you, as I know Ossory has written to you. Hare and
Jack Townshend are well. Bully [Lord Bolingbroke] was
believed by everybody to be married to a Miss Curtis, with
50,000?., but it was all off, I do not know how. He and I, and
several others, are just going to dine at nine o'clock at Derby's.
The old Duke [Devonshire] I like better than ever; Foley's
affairs are likely to be settled to his mind. Is there anybody
else to mention ? Lord Robert goes on as usual. Egremont has
lived lately too much in the country. En general, tout va son
train. Selwyn has been cut up for a large sum, after having
been fattening for a month, and the old fish [Mr. Crawford] is
constantly talking of the certainty of his brother's being ruined,
. and so the world goes on. — Adieu. Dickson begs to be remem-
bered to you. Pray give my kindest love to my brother, and
tell him I should be very glad to have now and then a linp from
him. Do not expect to find any change in politics when you
arrive, for, if you do, you will be most certainly disappointed. I
can find nobody of our side, but Lord Camden and Burke, who
agree with me in desponding, but depend upon it we are right.
We are, and ever shall he, as much proscribed as ever the Jaco-
bites were formerly.

" Adieu,

" Yours, most affectionately,

"C. J. FOX."


This admirable and amiable letter seems to foresee, to explain,
and to justify Mr. Fox's conduct throughout his life, in private
and public. It contains the most artless yet forcible expressions
of friendship and confidence to the person who was to the day
of his death his chief adviser and dearest friend. It lays down
the fixed principles which were the guide of his political career.
It announces his determination to adhere to the doctrines and
the party of the Whigs, while it proves that he was aware that
such adherence could lead to neither power nor emolument, and
that he could avoid it and adopt a more profitable course without
exposing himself to the reproach of breaking any engagement. —
V. H.

February 6. " Wonderful speech of Burke on Burgoyne's
invitation to Indians : his wit made North, Bigby, and Ministers
laugh ; his pathos di-ew tears down Barre's cheeks.''

On the 10th, " The Ministers apprehending a motion from
Charles Fox, and alarmed at late increase of the minority,"
urgently pressed their friends, and brought down even the sick.
" Charles Fox did carry [down] a string of twelve motions. The
first, which was debated till night, was for a regular and general
state of the army, seconded by George Grenville; the debate
was a heavy one, and the motion rejected by 263 to 149."
^'February 17. '^ A day ever memorable as one of the most
ignominious in the English annals." Lord North^ opened his
conciliatory plan, ventured on taking the very opposite part to
all his administration had been doing, and presumed to tell the
three kingdoms that they must abandon all the high views with
which they had been lulled, and must stoop to beg peace of
America at any rate. He declared he would treat with the
Congress, with anybody; would even allow the independence
of the colonies, not verbally, but virtually ; owned his disappoint-
ments, and recurred to his usual defence. Every Act had been
the act of the House and of Parliament. All the comfort he
gave the country gentlemen was some hopes that America might

' Abvit-lged from H. Walpole's acoount by Lord Holland. — J. R.


be induced to contribute some pecuniary assistance. This was
the pith of his speech. '' The astonishment of great part of
the House at such extensive offers precluded all expression.
The Opposition felt honestly they could not decently disapprove
a pacification they had so much recommended, and during the
course of the bill the Ministers had the satisfaction of finding
this integrity operate on some of the most upright, but least
clear-sighted. Lord G-. Cavendish and Frederick Montague
pressed the Ministers not to lose a moment in passing the bills,
an instance of more virtue than judgment. The Tories, who
could not like concessions so inadequate to their hopes and so
repugnant to their high-flown attachment to the Prerogative,
seeing the intemperate zeal of the Opposition, were ashamed to
mark themselves as an obstinate and weak party, which they
would be if they separated from the Court when approved by
Opposition. Burke and Charles Fox yielded to and seconded
the torrent, but the latter threw a bomb that much disconcerted,
though it did not disappoint, the Minister. My cousin, Thomas
Walpole, had acquainted me that the treaty with France was
signed. We agreed to inform Charles Fox, but, as we both dis-
trusted Burke, and feared the childish fluctuations of Lord
Rockingham, we determined that Fox should know nothing of
the secret till an hour or two before the House met. Accord-
ingly, Thomas Walpole communicated the notice of the treaty to
the Duke of Grafton on the 16th, and engaged him to acquaint
Charles Fox but just before the House should meet next day.
This was done most exactly, and Burke knew nothing of the
matter till he came into the House. As soon as Lord North had
opened his two bills, Charles Fox rose, and after pluming himself
on having sat there till he had brought the noble Lord to con-
cur in sentiments with him and his friends, he astonished Lord
North by asking him whether a commercial treaty with France
had not been signed by the American agents at Paris within the
last ten days ? ' If so,' said he, ' the Administration is beaten
b}^ ten days, a situation so threatening that in such a time of
danger the House must concur with the propositions, though


probably now tliey would have no effect.' Lord North was
thunderstruck, and would not rise.

"Burke maintained that Lord North had taken precisely the
plan that he [Burke] had offered two years before, and he called
on him to answer to the fact of the treaty. Still the Minister
was silent, till Sir Gr. Savile rose and told him that it would be
criminal and a matter of impeachment to withhold an answer,
and ended with crying, ^ An answer ! an answer ! an answer !'
Lord North, thus forced up, owned he had heard a report of the
treaty, but desired to give no answer to the House at that
moment; he had no official intelligence on that subject. The
report might be vague. Some time ago, the Ministers of France
had denied it. Such evasive answers convinced everybody of the
truth of the report. '^

March 3. " The conciliatory bills were passed by the House
of Commons. Towards the end of the debate [when Charles
Fox was gone out of the House], Lord Gr. Germaine rose, and
declared he looked upon himself as responsible for these pacific

March 6. On the Budget, "Charles Fox poured out the
bitterest and one of the finest of all his philippics against Lord
North, taxing him with breach of honor in having declared that
he would resign if his first conciliatory proposition had not the
desired effect ; that he had broken his word, that he had this
year brought measures of the same kind, at which he confessed
he felt humbled, though not ashamed ; if such measures did
not make him blush, what would ? And in this style he spoke
for above half an hour.''

March 9. On Gilbert's motion of a tax of twenty-five per
cent, on places and pensions during war, which was carried
against Lord North ; Sir G. Savile, Burke, and Fox voted with
the Ministry, as did General Conway too. Burke and Conway
spoke. " In the House of Commons, the inquiry was carried
into the state of the Navy, as it had been in the other House,
and Charles Fox exerted himself in exposing the ill conduct of
the Admiralty, and of Lord North, whom he treated with the


utmost contempt and indignity/^ On the loth, M. de Noailles
communicated the fact of a treaty of commerce and amity
between his most Christian Majesty and the Independent States
of America.

March 16. On a motion for Lord Stormont's correspond-
ence, " Mr. Burke, Mr. Dunning, Mr. Fox, particularly the latter,

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 31)