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

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whilst any ten men in the kingdom will stand by me, I will not
give myself up to bondage. My dear Lord, I will rather risk my
crown than do what I think personally disgraceful. It is impos-
sible this nation should not stand by me. If they will not,
they shall have another King, for I never will put my hand to
what will make me miserable to the last hour of my life. There-
fore, let Thurlow instantly know that I will appoint him Chan-
cellor ; and the Solicitor-General, that if he does not choose to be
Attorney-General, we will treat with the Chief Justice of the
Common Pleas to resign."

"J/arcA 18, 1778.

" I am highly incensed at the language held by Lord Shel-
burne last night to Eden, and approve of that of the latter. I
am fairly worn down. But all proposals and answers must in
future go through you, for I will not change the Administration ;
but if I can with honor, let you make the acquisitions."



" 3Iarch 18, 1778.

^^ Convey to Thurlow and Wedderburne my intentions. Then,
and not till then, I am open to the plan of Ministry proposed by
you on Sunday. I never will accept the service of any part of
Opposition but to strengthen i/ou. To give i/ou ease, I consent
to what gives me infinite pain, but any further, even that considera-
tion would not make me go. Rather than be shackled by those
desperate men (if the nation will not stand by me), I will rather
see any form of government introduced into this island, and lose
my Crown rather than wear it as a disgrace."

*< 22d 3Iarch, half -past eight, A. 31.

" I can scarcely express my disappointment at finding that all
the uneasiness and labor I have undergone for the whole week has
not convinced you that, though you are unhappily too difiident of
your own abilities, yet that you ought also to consider that you
have changed your ground since Sunday. I will never consent to
removing the members of the present Cabinet from my service. I
am extremely indifi"erent whether Lord Granby goes or does not
go with the abject message of the Rockingham party to Hayes.
I will certainly send none to that place."

" My dear Lord — Your always recurring to a total change of
Administration obliges me to ask you one clear question. If I
will not by your advice take the step which I look on as disgrace-
ful to myself, and destruction to my family, are you resolved,
agreeable to the example of the Duke of Grafton at the hour of
danger, to desert me?"

''3farch2S, 1778.

'' I cannot return the message without expressing my satisfac-
tion at your determination not to desert at this hour, which indeed
I always thought your sense of honor would prevent."


" March 29, 1778.

'' Your constant recurrence to a measure I think destructive —
your avowed despondency, which is highly detrimental to my
service, obliges me to the three following questions: 1. Do you
think it possible to strengthen the present Administration by an
accession of some men of talents from the Opposition ? 2. If
that cannot be effected, will you consent to continue and try to
exert yourself and co-operate with me in putting vigor and activity
to every department ? 3. If you decline continuing, you cannot,
I suppose, refuse residing at the Treasury and finishing the busi-
ness of this session, and not be surprised at my taking such steps
as I think necessary for strengthening my Administration, the
first of which will be my giving the Great Seal to the Attorney-
aenerar' [Thurlow].

" March 30, 1778.

" I am sorry to perceive that, by declining the first two ques-
tions, you have adopted the third. It would be useless to describe
the pain I feel at the prospect of losing you. Send to Mr. Thur-
low, and inform him that I intend the Great Seal and a peerage
for him ; and as I wish to do everything for your ease, not detri-
mental to my service, I authorize you to persuade Mr. Wedder-
burne not to quit the House of Commons till the end of the ses-
sion. Tell him it will be a conduct I shall never forget, and one
of your last acts shall be to complete the arrangement with the
Chief Justice that he may preside at the Common Pleas.^^

"J/arc/i 31.

^' Pleased at Lord North's consent to remain after the session as
long as was necessary for arrangements."

"Aprill, 1788.

"The letter I have just received from you is in the affectionate
style I used to find ever to be called forth in you when my service


was concerned, and so very unlike tlie coldness and despondency
of your correspondence for some time that I cannot refrain from
the pleasure of expressing satisfaction at it/'

The substance as well as temper of the preceding letters shows
that Lord North was continually pressing the King to change his
measures, and to admit either a portion or the whole of the party
opposed to the American war — a fact from which the biographer
of Mr. Fox will not fail to infer that, in the subsequent coalition
of 1783, there was no dereliction of principle on either side, and
that the inconsistency of the parties was more apparent than real.
— V. H.^

On the 7th of April happened the memorable seizure of Lord
Chatham in the House of Lords, the immediate precursor of his

On the 8th of April, the King writes to Lord North: "May
not the political exit of Lord Chatham incline you to continue at
the head of my affairs?" In this hope also he was disappointed,
for in ten days afterwards he says : " As your letter plainly shows
that you at all events expect to be released from your situation at
the end of this session, and that you cannot extricate yourself for
even that small period, if the law arrangements you yourself pro-
posed to me take place, I think it best, on the whole, to make no
arrangement this recess, and you are therefore dispensed from
taking any steps concerning the present Attorney and Solicitor-
Generals, or any successor to them." Other letters follow, with
more or less urgency on the part of the King, and more or less
hesitation on the part of Lord North. On the 12th of May, the
King writes to him : ^' As the fresh touching on the wish to
retire convinces me of Lord North's intention at all events to
resign, I can only add that, as soon as he has arranged the day of
Mr. Thurlow's receiving the Great Seal, I will, when I have that

^ I cannot assent to this remark of Lord Holland. Lord North actually
carried on the American War : it will hardly add to his reputation to
show that he involved the Old and the New World in useless bloodshed
against his own opinion. — J. R.


office in such respectable hands, not lose an hour in consulting
with the new Chancellor, and with some of my principal Minis-
ters now in the Cabinet, how least to the detriment of the public
service to supply what I must ever look on as a great loss. Lord
North will by this perceive, the sooner he can notify that the
road is clear for my nominating a Chancellor, the sooner he will
be freed from his present uneasy situation. '^ Five days afterwards
he says : " Why is that appointment of Mr, Thurlow not con-
cluded ? You want to retire, yet will not take the first step to
enable me to acquiesce in your request.''

[On the 1st of June, Thurlow was raised to the peerage and
made Lord Chancellor, and two days afterwards Parliament was
prorogued. Lord North seems to have lost no time in renewing
his application for leave to retire, for on the 16th the King writes
to him :] " Lord North's application to resign within two days
after the prorogation, I can see in no other light than a continua-
tion of his resolution to retire whenever my affairs will permit it.
For I never can think that he, who so handsomely stood forward
on the desertion of the Duke of Grafton, would lose all that merit
by following so undignified an example."

I now return to Horace Walpole's summary of the debates.

April 10, 1778. *^ On a motion of Powys, the Scotch Advo-
cate [Dundas] again spoke most intemperately for pursuing the
attempt of conquering America, and was well answered by Burke
and Fox." — n. w.

May 7. The King's message, and Lord North's motion for
the grant of a million. " T. Townshend, Charles Fox, and Mr.
Burke attacked the Ministers with great warmth on their receiv-
ing an account of the sailing of the Toulon fleet on the Monday,
and not calling a Council even to give orders till the Wednesday.
Mr. Fox even hinted having heard that Lord G. Germaine was so
dissatisfied with the other Ministers that he had threatened to
resign. Lord George did not positively deny this, and, though in
a soft way he pleaded that Ministers had been out of town, his
gestures, while Fox was speaking, seemed to agree to all he said.'^

May 21. " Burgoyne appeared in House of Commons, and in


reply to a question of Mr. Yyner, said, ' he was ready to answer
anything,, and should declare some things that would astonish
everybody.' He had intended to have Charles Fox question him
in order to bring out what he wished, a step that both showed he
thought himself, and made him desperate with Ministers.''

May 26. On question, whether Burgoyne, being a prisoner,
could be interrogated or examined, Charles Fox, in answer to
Lord Gr. Grermaine, " wondered there could be any doubt of try-
ing the General, when the Minister, Lord George, had been tried,
and his conduct had appeared so unsatisfactory that the Commit-
tee had made no report to the House; and he moved to extend
the inquiry to the whole measure of the Expedition."

May 28. " Wedderburne objected to Burgoyne's sitting in
Parliament while a prisoner, but gave most absurd reasons. Fox
made a very masterly^ and severe speech against Lord North ;
but the motion to address the Crown, not to prorogue, was lost
by 105 to 53."

June 2. Sir James Lowther moved to renew the motion
against prorogation. '^ This was objected to by the Court, when
Kichard Fitzpatrick, brother of Lord Ossory, and a great friend
of Charles Fox, having arrived the day before from America, rose
and gave a strong account of the extreme dissatisfaction the con-
ciliatory plan had occasioned in the army and contempt in the
Americans. He complained that the army had been promised
20,000 recruits, and had been deceived; commended General
Howe, and complained bitterly how ill that General, Burgoyne,
and Carleton had been treated by the Administration."

June 3. " Session ended."

* This session of Parliament was rendered forever memorable
by the death of Lord Chatham. Factious in the commencement
of his career, and impracticable at the close, he was yet a great
man, and the only great man of England during his period. His
flashes of eloquence scattered his opponents; and his war measures
swept the enemies of his country before them. He loved and

^ It was one of liis best speeches, full of sense and matter. — H. W.


venerated liberty; was free from all personal corruption, and, with
a sagacity and boldness seldom equalled, raised the glory and
greatness of his country.* — J. R.

Mr. Fox, in a letter to Mr. Fitzpatrick of the 11th of November,
1778, consults Mr. Fitzpatrick about the course they ought to
take in the ensuing session of Parliament. "I am afraid,'' he
says, "that Keppel and Palliser will engross so much of the
public attention, and that of some of our friends especially, that
many more important things may be neglected. I think our line
of conduct more nice and difl&cult than ever, considering all things.
I am always inclined to think the straight line the best ; but yet
to contrive so as to set against us that very great number of peo-
ple, who think as ill of Ministry as we do, and yet are not ripe for
such a conduct as you and I may think right, would surely be
imprudent. If the acknowledgment of independence would not
procure peace, it is certainly useless. I own my present idea
(considering all things as well at home as abroad) is rather with
Lord Shelburne for being silent on that subject, but acting as if
it were acknowledged, withdrawing our troops from North America,
and making the most vigorous attacks upon France, or possibly
Spain too. Whatever may be the conditions of alliance between
the States and France, I cannot help thinking that they would
act very lukewarmly against us, when they found themselves
wholly uninterested in the war and engaged merely by a point of
honor. That all this would be much surer of producing the eflfect
proposed, if the independence were acknowledged, I see very clearly;
but we must consider a little the state of things at home, and
think what is practicable as well as what is best. This is at
present my opinion, but it is very liable to be altered by a thou-
sand circumstances, of which it is impossible for me now to judge,
and therefore I need not say that it is an opinion I could by no
means wish to have known. Pray let me know what you think
of the matter. With respect to Lord Bute, &c., I have no opin-
ion at all. As to Mr. Pitt's letter, I think it (as you do) very
good, but have no doubt at all of its being his own, from what
little I have seen of him. What you say of Sandwich surprises
VOL. I. — 15


me, for my notion was that he was extraordinarily well at Court."
[It is a curious coincidence of opinion, that it was the first impres-
sion of the King, on intelligence of a probable rupture with France,
that we should] " withdraw the greatest part of our troops from
America, and employ them against the French and Spanish settle-
ments. If we are to be carrying on a land war against the rebels
and against these two powers, it must be feeble in all its parts, and
consequently unsuccessful." [How this sensible opinion came to be
abandoned does not appear in the correspondence of the King with
Lord North. The decision was probably postponed till the success of
the Commissioners, who had been sent with propositions to the colo-
nists, was known. The mission was unsuccessful, and the attempt
of Johnstone, one of the Commissioners, to open a clandestine nego-
tiation with some of his private friends in the service of the States,
provoked violent and mutual animosity. Full of resentment
against Congress, Johnstone came back, with sanguine reports of
the distressed state of the American army, of the general dissatis-
faction with Congress, and of the disposition of a great part of the
people to be reconciled to the mother country. He was most
graciously received at Court, and much caressed by Ministers.]]
"I fancy," says Fitzpatrick to his brother (November, 1778),
" his advice has determined them to continue the war. This is
talked of as an act of necessity, and asserted that America would
not make peace without France, having entered into a treaty ofien-
sive and defensive with her." [Johnstone, on his arrival, had
written to Mr. Fox, with whom he had been on terms of intimacy :]
"I have had a letter from Johnstone," says Mr. Fox, in his letter
to Fitzpatrick of the 11th of November, "which tallies exactly
with the account you gave of his conversation. Whether upon
the whole he will do good or mischief, I am not able to judge,
but I cannot help retaining the good opinion I used to have of
him. I think him very absurd in some of his ideas, but I think
his absurdities such as arise from his situation."

*The events of the years 1777 and 1778 ought to have put an
end to the American war. A British army had surrendered.
Three millions of people at a distance of ten weeks' voyage, in


possession of a great continent^ had declared their independence.
France, our powerful neighbor, had not only acknowledged that
independence, but had concluded a treaty of peace and amity with
the United States of America. Lord Chatham, who still clung
finally to the connection, had fallen in the field of his glory. To
men of expediency, like Lord North and his colleagues, such
events would seem to leave but one course open. There was no
longer anything to be gained by our arms in America, if her in-
dependence was to be acknowledged ; a simple cessation of arms
must have speedily led to a treaty of peace with the new state.
The Opposition, which had caught eagerly at the first overtures
of Lord North, would have been silenced by the complete fulfil-
ment of their declared policy.* — J. R.

November 26, Parliament met. " Charles Fox condemned the
Address in one of his very best orations. He said it was false,
for it called the powers of the Commissioners an Act of Parlia-
ment, though Parliament had never seen the commission. Lord
North answered Charles Fox but very poorly, and in every debate
before Christmas was allowed to have shown no abilities, whether
his indolence or his dissatisfaction increased."

^' On the report, Charles Fox, a warm friend of General Bur-
goyne's, had intended to fall heavily on Lord Gr. Germaine, who
happening not to come to the House, Fox turned his artillery
against Lord North, and uttered one of the most severe philip-
pics ever pronounced on his accumulation of places, heaped on
him in proportion to his miscarriages.''

December 4. On Mr. Coke's motion upon Sir Henry Clinton's
proclamation — " I think it was in this debate that Lord G. Ger-
maine asserted that the King was his own Minister, which Charles
Fox took up admirably, lamenting that his Majesty was his oicn
unadvised Minister."

December 12. On Temple Lutterell's motion for a court-
martial on Pattison, after Keppel had spoken and retired,
" Charles Fox, as his relation and friend, said Admiral Keppel
would scorn recrimination, and therefore, lest it should have that


look, he would move for the order of the day to supersede it.
The order of the day was called for, and the molion dropped."

" Lord Beauchamp (afterwards Marquis of Hertford), a Lord
of the Treasury, had told me that he had thoughts of moving to
take off double taxes from Koman Catholics. In that respect the
Opposition was as forward as the Court. Charles Fox, on the
report of the land-tax, before Christmas, had moved for that re-
peal, but was told that he was too late, as the bill for the land-
tax was too far advanced, and that he must wait till another

Mr. Fox's liberality to Catholics at this period, whether origi-
nally suggested by Burke, or by his own sense of justice and be-
nevolence, is most remarkable. Walpole, who records it, mani-
festly disapproves, and with the exception of Burke and Sir G.
Savile, there were few of the friends of liberty at that time who
could distinguish between absolute liberty for religious opinions,
and an approbation of those so tolerated. — v. H.


" Saturday, [^December 12, 1778.]

" Dear Brother : —

" I am very sorry, as you will be, that you did not come to
town, for we had yesterday the most interesting debate I ever re-
member to have heard. You will see accounts of it in the news-
papers. The House was violently disposed to Keppel, who spoke
like a man inspired, and no tool was bold enough to venture one
word in favor of Palliser. The Admiralty have certainly taken
a step that is not defensible, and it can hardly be believed that
Lord Sandwich would have been so hasty to order a court-martial
if he had not wished ill to Keppel. I saw the Duchess at the
opera to-night, and she sees the thing in the proper light. I
asked her if she had seen Sandwich, and she said he had not been
there yet this year. The court-martial is ordered for the 7th of
January. What Opposition will do on this subject is not yet
decided, but I think we must have a strong question against the


Admiralty. I think last night we should have carried any ques-
tion. Palliser's conduct is, to be sure, the most atrocious that
ever was heard of. The post is waiting, so adieu.

''R. F."

[The negotiations described in the preceding letters not having
come to a successful termination, Lord North, amidst expressions
of attachment to the King, appears to have reiterated his former
applications for leave to resign ; for on the 10th of November,
1778, the King writes to him] : — "On coming home, I found
Lord North's box, containing sentiments of aflfection to my person,
although in other respects not very agreeable to my wishes. You
cannot be surprised that, surrounded with difficulties, and an op-
position to Government, formed of men that, if they could suc-
ceed, would restrain no one of the absurdities they have sported,
I think the duty, nay, personal honor, of those in public station
must prompt them to make every effort to assist me who have
unreservedly supported them." [The nature and degree of sup-
port expected by his Majesty appear from a subsequent letter
(November 14), in which he says] : " If the Ministers, in their
speeches, show that they will never consent to the independence
of America, and that the assistance of every man will be accepted
on that ground, I am certain the cry will be strong in their fa vor.^'
[In the same letter he complains of Lord North saying that he
had not the requisite authoriti/ for the conduct of affairs at this
time.] " The word authority puzzles me ; for, from the hour of
Lord North's so handsomely devoting himself, on the retreat of
the Duke of Grafton, I have never had a political thought which
I have not communicated unto him, have accepted of persons
highly disagreeable to me, because he thought they would be of
advantage to his conducting public affairs, and have yielded to
measures my own opinion did not quite approve. Therefore, I
must desire to have an explanation in writing on what is meant
by that word/'




The year commenced with Lord KeppeFs trial, at Portsmouth.
Lord Rockingham and many of his party took lodgings in the
town during the trial.

'' Charles Fox, being told by one of the Cavendishes, who had
been at Portsmouth, that their friends there were finely warm,
replied: ' Then I will go there to see what their warmth is, for I
have never seen any in them.' " h. w.

At this time fresh negotiations seem to have been set on foot.
On this subject I find, in the Hockingham correspondence, the
following letter : —




''January 24, 1779.
My dear Lord : —

" It would be needless in me to remind you of the many con-
versations that have passed between us last summer and the
beginning of the winter, upon the subject of a proposition which
I was desired to make to you and others.

" You know how widely we difi"ered in opinion upon that mat-
ter; and I am sorry to say that it happened upon this occasion,
as upon such occasions is too usual, that the more we discussed
the subject, and the more we disputed upon it, the more we be-
came attached to our original opinions. What you considered as
a step of the most dangerous tendency to the Whig party, I
looked upon as a most favorable opportunity for restoring it' to
that power and influence which I wish it to have as earnestly as
you can do. The very circumstances which you thought likely to
render the proposed arrangement weak, I considered as means of
strength and stability ; because it has always been, and I believe
always will be, my opinion that power (whether over a people or
a king) obtained by gentle means, by the good-will of the person
to be governed, and, above all, by degrees, rather than by a sud-


den exertion of strength, is in its nature more durable and firm,
than any advantage that can be obtained by contrary means. I
do not say all this in hopes of convincing you, but only in my
own justification for entertaining sentiments so opposite to those
of the person in the world I most respect. In short, our dif-
ference of opinion is quite complete. You think you can best
serve the country by continuing in a fruitless opposition ; I think
it impossible to serve it at all but by coming into power ; and go
even so far as to think it irreconcilable with the duty of a public
man to refuse it, if offered to him in a manner consistent with
his private honor, and so as to enable him to form fair hopes of
doing essential service. I know there are some people, and per-
haps you may be one, who will say that these opinions are the
consequences of my particular situation, or at best that I am
warped towards them by that situation. All I can say is that I

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