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

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censured Lord North most severely for ignorance and for the
situation into which the Ministers had brought the nation, and
with great contempt for proposing unanimity."

March 17. In the House of Commons, on an amendment
for removal of Ministers, for which Mr. Baker, Sir Gr. Yonge,
Conolly, Greorge G-renville, and Thomas Pitt had spoken, and on
which General Conway had made a long speech, "Charles Fox
paid the highest compliments to Conway's integrity and abilities,
said he should differ from him in nothing but in demanding the
immediate dismission of Ministers ; would declare the independ-
ence of America, and turn the commissioners into ambassadors.
He said. Lord North had talked much of the confusion his
resigning would occasion. He did not see how ; he did see what
confusion his staying would make."

March 19 '' was a very remarkable day in the House of Com-
mons. The inquiry was to be summed up upon the expedition
of Burgoyne ; and Charles Fox undertook to charge Lord Gr.
Germaine as the author of that miscarriage, by not having given
orders sufficiently explicit to General Howe to endeavor to meet
and assist Burgoyne. Fox made the charge with extraordinary
temper and judgment, and without any acrimony. He said
that he saw too many of the King's servants were involved in
criminality to make personal bitterness to any single man ex-
cusable. He condemned, he said, the Canadian expedition ; but
the ignorance of the Ministers of the treaty between France
and the Americans had effaced that, and next year he supposed
it would be so much exceeded by new blunders, that he should
forget it. He was sorry, in this ignorance, to be forced to include
his own friend Lord Weymouth. These parts of his speech gave
the chief color to the day. Thurlow, Lord Weymouth's creature


and intimate, was very angry, and with bitter irony said he hoped
Mr. Fox would never be his friend. Fox rose to excuse himself,
but launched out still more severely against Lord Weymouth."
— " Towards three in the morning, the debate took a new and
very warm turn. The Lord Advocate Dundas, who seemed to
be set up by the Court against Charles Fox, rose and taunted
him with his moderation, and called on him to employ his usual
invectives. He had, at the beginning of the session, said the
Lord Advocate, overflowed with bitterness; now he had sifted
the conduct of Ministers, he found nothing to say against them.
This speech, and the small minority and support of his friends,
several of whom had gone away from lassitude and the insipidity
of the day, provoked Fox to the utmost rage. He burst out
into a torrent of abuse, and lost all temper and conduct." After
Lord Gr. Germaine's speech [which, says Walpole, was a good
one], " Charles Fox should have made his motion of censure on
Lord George, which he had prepared, but in his passion he tore
the paper and went away. Charles Fox said to many he would
attend the House no more, of which probably the King heard ',
for next day. Lord Bolingbroke, Fox's friend, being in waiting,
the King, who used to abhor Fox's name, launched out into
commendations of him."

" Fitzpatrick had distinguished himself^ in America, and, in
an "admirable letter" to his brother, Lord Ossory, "expressed
his impatience to return, saying he was far more rooted in his
principles from his admiration of the noble behavior of the
Americans and their love of freedom, and disgusted with the
army, who were grown to abhor the name of Whigs, and had
lost all attachment to liberty."

April 6. " Sir W. Meredith, in the House of Commons,
moved for a repeal of all the acts inimical to the Americans.
In the course of the debate, Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke spoke for
greater indulgence to Koman Catholics."*

' I suspect Walpole means to cast a censure on Burke and Fox for
these opinions. His (Walpole's) virulence against Catholics is most in-


While sucli were tlie debates in Parliament, negotiations had
been carried on by the Court — for at least a partial change of
Ministry ; but in order to make these intelligible, I must refer to
a correspondence of the King, of a somewhat earlier period.

[On the 4th of December, 1777, after accounts had arrived
of the surrender of General Burgoyne and his army at Saratoga,
the King congratulated Lord North on his ^^ firmness in support-
ing the reverses in America/' In less than two months (31st
January, 1778) afterwards, he writes to him] : '^ 1 should have
been greatly surprised at the inclination expressed by you to
retire, had I not known that, however you may now and then
despond, yet that you have too much personal affection for me
and sense of honor, to allow such a thought to take any hold on
your mind/' [This observation was doubtless intended to deter
Lord North from his wish to retire. But in the following March
this desire took a more definite shape, and it became necessary to
allow Lord North to make some attempts to form a stronger govern-
ment. In these negotiations, the leading idea of Lord North
was to retire in favor of another administration ; that of the
King was to preserve the men and the measures, with some assist-
ance to aid the one and carry the other.]

" It is clear,'' says Lord Holland, " from Lord North's cor-
respondence with the King, from notes of Mr. Eden, afterwards
Lord Auckland, and from other papers, that previous to, in, and
about 1778, several negotiations more or less distinct, and all
very secret, were opened with different persons in Opposition,
and among them, one through Mr. Eden with Mr. Fox, and another
through the same agent, and very mysterious and secret, with
Lord Shelburne. The object of these negotiations was styled
by those employed in them, ^Secret negotiations for a new
arrangement,' and it was explicitly stated by them that 'no
arrangement could or would be ever listened to one moment except

veterate. One of his cliarges against Government is their toleration, and
one of his insinuations against George III. that he was half a papist! —
V. H,


on the ground of more accession of capacity for business in a
moment which would require great exertions.' The negotiation
with Lord Shelburne seems to have gone off from the large,
vague, and general terms demanded by Lord Chatham, without
whom Lord Shelburne said ^ no good could be done, and with
whom nothing but an entire change of Cabinet and law appoint-
ments would be practicable/ It appears that many similar and
previous communications between the Ministry and Lord Chat-
ham had taken place ; and perhaps they continued till the day of
his seizure in the House of Lords, which occurred early in April/'

What passed between Mr. Eden and Mr. Fox on the 15th
March, 1778, is related in the subjoined notes of the former

It confirms, what appears from many other documents, that,
even up to 1778, Mr. Fox considered himself, and was considered
by others, as unconnected with any party, and at liberty to act
without concert, though not much disposed to do so. — v. H.


" I wrote a note to Mr. Charles Fox that I wished to see him,
and would call upon him, if he could spare five minutes from the
politics of the day. He came immediately to my house and
dined alone with me. After exchanging assurances that nothing
which might pass between us should ever go farther than to those
to whom I might think myself responsible, and never to any
friend of his except with my previous consent, we entered into
conversation on the expediency of some arrangement for the pur-
pose of strengthening both the apparent and real efficiency of
Grovernment at this crisis. I rather speculated on changes than
proposed any. The removal of the American Secretary was
much liked. An office like the Treasury of the Navy was al-
lowed to be more eligible than a responsible office. The acquisi-
tion of the Shelburnes was said to be not improbable. Mr. Fox
stated himself to be unconnected and at liberty. He also said


tliat, except with Lord Gr. Gr., he could act with the present Min-
isters ; but he disavowed every possibility of accepting singly and
alone, and even doubted whether he could accept in any case; but
he expressed a desire to hear again from me if any other set
should accede, and hinted that in case of an actual arrangement
he should hope some regard would be shown to his friends Mr.
Fitzpatrick and Lord Ossory.'' Many particulars occurred in the
course of the three hours : upon the whole, it appeared sufficiently
practicable to obtain his assistance, if he could' be kept in coun-
tenance by others. I am convinced that he will make no bad
use of the conversation, but in other respects will be as hostile as
ever. In talking about the Canada business, he professed him-
self much embarrassed with it, and showed me a very long list of
resolutions. At a quarter past seven, I called on Dr. Priestley,
who introduced Lord Shelburne to me, and left us. We sat to-
gether till half-past ten, though he told me at first that he was
appointed at eight o'clock to attend an. Opposition meeting [at the
Duke of Richmond's]. I confided to him my copy of the French
Ambassador's Declaration (which I knew, however, that he was
already in possession of). He read it aloud, as a paper quite new
to him, but commented on it very frankly, and said that it was
impossible to consider it otherwise than as a declaration of war ;
that we must act accordingly ; that New York should be strongly
armed ', the frontiers of Canada secured ; Florida strengthened ;
Pennsylvania evacuated ; the fisheries defended ; the West India
Islands and all other possessions secured ; the proposed Commission
desisted from, as now become nugatory, but all the American
Acts to be repealed ; measures of force against France to be
adopted. In talking of himself, he said that he abhorred in-
trigue ', that his temper and feelings led him to the utmost unre-
serve and frankness ; that his disposition was best suited to pri-
vate life ; that he was naturally indolent, &c. &c. ; that he ab-

' I cannot believe this account of Mr. Fox's conversation to be correct.
It is quite inconsistent with Mr. Fox's letter to Fitzpatrick of the pre-
vious month. What follows confirms my doubts. — J. R.


horred all parties; that, when gentlemen of Opposition came to
him, he always advised them to prefer Lord Rockingham; that
when anything was said to him tending to a connection with Gov-
ernment, he could say nothing but that ' Lord Chatham must be
the dictator.' When I asked him what Lord Chatham would
dictate, he said that I must have heard, both through the Duke
of Northumberland and through another channel ; that, when his
Majesty last parted with Lord Chatham, his Majesty was pleased
to say he foresaw he should, on future occasions, want his advice
and assistance, and that the occasion was now come. He knew,
he said, that Lord Chatham thought any change insufficient which
did not comprehend and annihilate every party in the kingdom ;
that the Duke of Grafton and Lord Rockingham must be included;
that a great law arrangement would, in Lord Chatham's opinion,
be material ; and that Lord Mansfield ought to be removed. He
was liberal in solemn assurances to me that no one syllable of
our conversation should ever transpire ; was sorry, he said, to
collect nothing from me that tended to produce a general refor-
mation in Government. He professed no disregard to Lord Suf-
folk and Lord North (possibly through politeness), but dwelt
with some asperity on Lord Gower's principles of Government
and on Lord George's insufficiency (in which he made some allu-
sions to General Carlton). He intimated that Lord Chatham
would not wish, perhaps, to give the Treasury to Lord Rocking-
ham, but would perhaps offisr to make him Lord Chamberlain.
It was agreed in the close of our conversation that we should mu-
tually act as if we had never met, but that I should call again on
Tuesday evening at a quarter past eight. He criticized Lord
Sandwich for having seen Mr. Keppel^ yesterday, without say-
ing one word to him on the subject of an immediate war with

" March 17. Tuesday night, at half-past eight, I went to Lord
Shelburne's, as by agreement of Sunday night. We met at the
same moment, at his gate. The conversation began on the de-

^ Admiral Keppel.
VOL. I. — 14


bate he had just had in the House of Lords, in which he had
made a speech by no means unfriendly to Government, though
personally harsh to Lord Mansfield. The turn of his speech was
to show the extent and greatness of the affront offered by France,
and the impossibility of not resenting it. In repeating what he
had said to me, he added that the present Ministers would be
bold to a degree of desperation, if, though the war was necessary,
they ventured to conduct it ) for that losses of much importance
must be expected from the measures which France had undoubt-
edly taken against us, and such losses so immediately on the
back of other misfortunes would be too much for any Govern-
ment to stand. When I answered to this, that every good Mi-
nister, in a crisis like this, would naturally wish to add any
strength to his Majesty's councils that could honorably be ob-
tained, he replied that we were precluding all new accessions by
giving the great promotions of the army and law to men of
whose assistance we were already in full possession, and that every
promotion among the present set would become an obstacle to
any new arrangement. I asked him what his idea was of a new
arrangement. He answered that without Lord Chatham it would
be inefficient, and do more harm than good to make any change;
and that iDttli Lord Chatham nothing could be done, but by an
entire new Cabinet, and a change in the chief departments of the
law. That this idea did not go to a total alteration of men and
measures, only to an alteration of Ministers, and the giving force
and weight to the measures which the situation of the country
might render necessary or expedient. As to the law, he said,
that the great offices ought not to be filled by lawyers, who were
mere mischievous politicians. In answer to the last sentence, I
asked what he meant to do with his friends, Lord Camden and
Mr. Dunning. He did not choose to understand what was im-
plied by this, but answered that he wished to see the one Chan-
cellor and the other Chief Justice, in the room of Lord Mansfield,
who he supposed m%i8t wish to retire. I then desired to know
how he proposed to manage the House of Commons, without any
lawyers of eminence, except the present Attorney and Solicitor-


Generals, who would then be both in Opposition. He allowed
this would be a difficulty, and said, 'But surely there would be
some mode of doing everything right, without doing anything
harsh.' This gave me the opening I wished, to enter fully and
in the plainest language into the narrowness, nonsense, and harsh-
ness of the whole proposition, so far as implied a wish and expec-
tation in his lordship's friend at Hayes, to avail himself of the
pressure of a moment in order to dictate terms to the closet, every
part of which would imply a desertion and disavowal of servants
who for many years had fought the cause of their master, of the
Parliament, and of the whole nation, with the most cordial fidelity
and zeal; and this, too, upon principles of the purest kind, the
truth of which remains unimpaired, though mischances and cir-
cumstances may make it more difficult to enforce them. I added
that, though uninformed and unauthorized as to any specific reso-
lutions taken, I could argue safely from the sentiments of honor
which I knew to be firmly rooted, and could at once say that no
arrangement could or would ever be listened to one moment ex-
cept on the ground of mere accession of capacity and business, in
a moment which would require great exertions, and that even
such accessions could not be taken, unless made in a plan con-
sistent with the honor of all that had passed heretofore. In the
conversation of at least four hours which followed this opening,
many particulars passed, and much detail was entered into as to
persons and political characters. In the result, his lordship seemed
to take a more practicable key, and said he would go this morning
to Hayes, would endeavor to learn the outlines of the expecta-
tions formed, and would confide them to me on his return, in the
most secret confidence, that no bad use should be made of them,
if they were thought totally inadmissible. I was desired to meet
him again to-night at nine.

'' March 18, 9 P. M. I found Lord Shelburne to-night affect-
edly reserved and mysterious on all political subjects, and in the
opposite extreme as to every point of politeness and attention.

'^ He said he had found Lord Chatham in good health and
spirits, and full of speculations on the present crisis. That in


talking of Lord Shelburne's speech yesterday, Lord Chatham had
complimented him so far as to say he was sure they would think
alike on any subject, though in different parts of the globe, and
out of the reach of consultation.

" He added, en passant j that Lord Chatham would come to
town to-morrow, in order to hold the same language in Parliament
[for war and against independency]..

" As to any proposal of an arrangement, he only said that he '
found it a beaten subject with Lord Chatham, quite worn out.
He added very significantly, that Lord Chatham knew more than
I had communicated. I desired an explanation, to which he only
answered, ^ Lord Chatham knows more than we do, at least more
than I did before I saw him to-day; it is a beaten subject/ I
asked if he alluded to the Duke of Northumberland, or the other
channel mentioned on Sunday. He said, ^ no ; more,' and then
proceeded to tell me that it was not yet the time for them to serve
either the court or the country, and that he found himself much
happier in a retired station. This was followed with civil invita-
tions to me to meet him and his friends, some of whom I happen
to know intimately (not upon politics), and with advice to me to
avoid going to America. I answered that I would reserve private
subjects of conversation for quieter times, and asked if he and his
friends meant in plain English to be impracticable; to which he
replied, that Lord Chatham was very practicable, but that he
(Lord S.) could not say how. We had then some loose disjointed
conversation, intimating on his part that the French would be
very alert in their enterprises, and on mine, that we must be
equally alert in our exertions.

"The visit did not last half an hour, and I took leave without
any further appointment."

I will now give extracts from such parts of the King's corre-
spondence with Lord North as relate to these negotiations,
beginning with a letter which had no date, but is evidently the
letter of the 15th referred to in the note of the 16th 3Iarch,

1778: —


"On a subject which has for many months engrossed my
thoughts, I cannot have the smallest difficulty instantly to answer
the letter I have just received from you. My sole wish is to keep
you at the head of the Treasury, and as my confidential Minister.
That end obtained, I am willing through your channel to accept
any description of persons that will come avowedly to the support
of your Administration, and as such I do not object to Lord Shel-
burne and Mr. Barre, who personally, perhaps, I dislike as much
as Alderman Wilkes, and I cannot give you a stronger proof of
my desire to forward your wishes than taking the unpleasant
step." . . . "But I declare in the strongest and most solemn
manner that though T do not object to your addressing yourself
to Lord Chatham, yet that you must acquaint him that I shall
never address myself to him but through you, and on a clear ex-
planation that he is to step forth to support an Administration
wherein you are First Lord of the Treasury, and that I cannot
consent to have any conversation with him, till the Ministry is
formed ; that, if he comes into this, I will, as he supports you, re-
ceive him with open arms. I leave the whole arrangement to you,
provided Lord Suffolk, Lord Weymouth, and my two able lawyers
are satisfied as to their situations, but choose Ellis for Secretary at
War in preference to Barre, who on that event will get a more
lucrative employment, but will not be so near my person. Having
said this, I will only add, to put before your eyes my most inward
thoughts, that no advantage to this country, nor personal danger
to myself, can ever make me address myself to Lord Chatham, or
any other branch of Opposition. Honestly, I would rather lose
the crown I now wear than bear the ignominy of possessing it
under their shackles. I might write volumes, if I would state the
feelings of my mind, and what I will never depart from. Should
Lord Chatham wish to see me before he gives his answer, 1 shall
most certainly refuse it. I have had enough of personal negotia-
tions, and neither my dignity nor my feelings will ever let me again
submit to it. ;Men of less principle and honesty than I pretend
to may look on public measures as a game. I always act from
conviction, but I am shocked at the base arts all these men have



used; therefore cannot go towards them ; if they come to your
assistance, I will accept them. You have now full powers to act,
but I do not expect Lord Chatham and his crew will come to your
assistance ; but if they do not, I trust the rest of the arrangement
will greatly strengthen, as it will give efficiency to the Adminis-
tration. Thurlow as Chancellor, Yorke as Secretary of State,
will be efficient men. Numbers we have already. Lord Dart-
mouth as Steward, and Lord Weymouth Privy Seal, will please
them both, I am certain. Lord W.'s conduct, on your last vacancy,
of the seals, gives him a right to this change, if agreeable to him.^'

" March IQ, 1778.

" You can want no further explanation of the language held to
Mr. Eden the last evening. It is so totally contrary to the only
ground on which I could have accepted the services of tJiat per-
fidious man,^ that I need not enter on it. Lord Chatham as dic-
tator — as planning a new Administration — I appeal to my letter of
yesterday if I did not clearly speak out upon. If Lord Chatham
agrees to support your Administration, (if you like better) the
fundamentals of the present Administration, viz.. Lord N. at the
head of the Treasury ; Lords Suffolk, Grower, and Weymouth, in
great offices to their own inclinations ; Lord Sandwich at the Ad-
miralty, Thurlow Chancellor, and Wedderburne as Chief Justice,
I will not object to see that great man, when Lord Shelburne,
Dunning, and Barre are placed already in office; but I solemnly
declare that nothing shall bring me to treat personally with Lord
Chatham. If I saw Lord C., he would insist on as total a change
as Lord Shelburne yesterday threw out.

''Same day.

" I am fully convinced that you are actuated alone from a wish
not to conceal the most private corners of your breast in writing
the letter you have just sent unto me ; but, my dear Lord, it is
not private pique, but an opinion formed on an experience of now

^ Lord Chatham.


seventeen years, that makes me resolve to run any personal risk
rather than submit to Opposition, which every plan deviating
from strengthening the present Administration is more or less
tending to. I am certain, while I can have no one object in view
but to be of use to the country, it is impossible I can be deserted,
and the road opened to a set of men who certainly would make me
a slave for the remainder of my days ; and, whatever they may
pretend, would go to the most unjustifiable lengths of cruelty and
destruction of those who have stood forth in public offices, of which
you would be the first victim."

" March 17, 1778.

" I am grieved at your continually recurring to a subject on
which we can never agree. Your letter is certainly personally
affectionate to me, and shows no sign of personal fear; but, my
dear Lord, no consideration in life shall make me stoop to Oppo-
sition. I am still ready to accept any part of them that will
come to the assistance of my present efficient Ministers; but

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 31)