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

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seem to tend, know what my conscience as well as honor dictates,
as the only way left for me." [Lord North's reply to this m.ys-
terious announcement of what his Majesty intended to do, in case
the House of Commons persisted in their resolution to put an end
to the American war, must have expressed more strongly than he
had hitherto done his determination to resign, for on the following
day the King writes to him] : " After having yesterday assured
you, in the most solemn manner, that my sentiments of honor
would not permit me to send for any of the leaders of Opposition,

' The present King, George IV., told me a story of his father's phm of
retiring to Hanover, and described, with more hnmor than filial rever-
ence, his arrangement of the details, and especially of the liveries and
dresses, about which he was so earnest that it amounted almost to in-
sanity. The period, however, of these strange fancies was, I think, that
of Lord George Gordon's riots, not of the fall of Lord North's ministry —
perhaps he might have talked of such a project on both occasions, and
he was more likely to communicate his half-formed intentions to his son
in 1780 than in 1782.— V.H.


and personally treat with tliem, T could not but be liurt at your letter
of last night. Every man must be the sole judge of his own
feelings; therefore, whatever you 07* any man can say has no avail
loith me. Till I have heard what the Chancellor has done from
his own mouth, I shall take no step; and if you resign before I
have decided what to do, you will certainly forever forfeit my re-
gard/' [It is but justice, however, to George III. to add that,
after this ebullition of temporary resentment, his letter to Lord
North, when the sacrifice had been consummated, ends with his
former expressions of affection and regard. On the 27th of March,
he writes] : " At length the fatal day is come, which the misfor-
tunes of the times, and the sudden change of sentiments of the
House of Commons have driven me to, of changing my Ministers,
and a more general removal of other persons, than, I believe, was
ever known before. I have to tlie last fought for individuals, but
the number I have saved, except my Bedchamber, is incredibly
few. You could hardly believe that even the Duke of Montague
was strongly hinted at; but I declared that I would sooner let
confusion follow than part with the late governor of my sons, and
so unexceptionable a man. So that he and Lord Ashburnham
remain. The effusion of my sorrows has made me say more than I
intended; but I ever did, and ever shall, look on you as a friend,
as well as a faithful servant/'


[from the original in the handavriting of general fitzpatrick.]

Wednesday, the 20th of March, 1782. Lord North announced
to the House of Commons the resignation of the Ministry. At
his instance, the House consented to an adjournment, in order to
afford time for the arrangement of their successors, till Monday.
Previous to this the Chancellor had been with Lord Rockingham,
to know upon what terms he would undertake to form an Adminis-
tration. He answered, that the measures he should propose were
as follows : A power to accede to the independence of America ;



a reduction of the influence of the Crown by an abolition of offices j
and Bills to deprive contractors of their seats in the House of
Commons, and revenue officers of their votes at elections. With
respect to any reform in the representation, or limiting the dura-
tion of Parliaments, he declined laying himself under any restric-

On Monday the House adjourned again.

On Thursday, 21st of March, Lord Shelburne was sent for to
Buckingham House. He did not relate to Lord Rockingham what
passed between the King and himself, a reserve with which many
were dissatisfied. He said, generally, that the conversation had
ended in nothing.

Friday and Saturday passed without any further overtures being
made to any of the Opposition. Lord Gower was said to have
been consulted, but everybody saw the impossibility of forming an
Administration without Lord Rockins-ham and his friends.

On Sunday morning, Lord Shelburne was again sent for. He
then came from the King with an offer of the Treasury to Lord
Rockingham, himself to be one of the Secretaries of State ; and
declared himself in possession of full powers from his Majesty to
treat both as to men and measures. Lord Rockino:ham's first
impulse was to decline the offer, upon the ground that, if it was
the King's intention to place him at the head of the Treasury, he
could have no fit objection to conversing with him upon the ar-
ranirement of the Administration.

Charles Fox, though he acknowledged the truth of this, joined,
however, with the Duke of Richmond in persuading Lord Rocking-
ham to accede to the proposal, in order to avoid the appearance of
impeding the formation of a Ministry, from motives which might
be ascribed to pique or jealousy, at a moment when the public
were naturally extremely anxious and impatient for the establish-
ment of a Government.

Lord Rockingham, however, accompanied his acceptance with a
list of those whom he expected should compose the Cabinet, leav-
ing a blank for Lord Shelburne, to fill the office of Chancellor, as

1782.] CHARLES JAMES FOX. , 235

he might be supposed to know Mr. Dunning's inclinations upon
that subject. The list was as follows : —

LoKD Rockingham . . . First Lord of the Treasury.

Lord J. CAVENDisn . . . Chancellor of the Exchequer

Admiral Keppel . . . First Lord of the Admiralty.

Duke or Richmond . . . Master-General of the Ordnance.

Charles Fox & Lord Shelburne Secretaries of State.

Lord Cajiden .... President of the Council.

Duke of Grafton . . . Lord Privy Seal.

General Conway . . . Commander-in-Chief.

A large meeting of members of the House of Commons was
held in the evening, at the house of Mr. Thomas Townshendj to
whom this list was communicated. Accordius: to the general con-
duct and principles of the persons composing it, Lord Rockingham
and Mr. Fox seemed to have the preponderating scale in this ar-
rangement; the list was approved of, and sent to Lord Shelburne,
who returned for answer his perfect approbation of it, and trans-
mitted it to the King. On Monday morning, he was to receive
the King's answer, and it was resolved at this meeting of Opposi-
tion not to accede to any further adjournment of the House of
Commons unless these terms were complied with, and to one not
exceeding two days if they were. Lord Shelburne wished to have
the House adjourned over the Easter holidays, but Charles Fox
would not by any means consent to it, and told him his determi-
nation to oppose any such measure, if proposed ; in which opposi-
tion there was no doubt he would have been successful from the
temper of the House.

Lord Shelburne staid with the King from eleven o'clock till two,
when he came to Charles Fox, who was preparing to go down to
the House, and told him the proposals were substantially agreed
to, and that Mr. Dunning would move an adjournment one day
only for the final arrangement of them. Lord Thurlow was to
continue Chancellor. They had a conversation of some length,
while several members were waiting in the antechamber to carry
down to the House of Commons the result of these negotiations.
Charles Fox told Lord Shelburne that he perceived this Adminis-


tration was to consist of two parts — one belonging to the King, the
other to the public ; an observation the truth of which was very
soon confirmed. Lord Shelburne, without concert or communica-
tion with the other Ministers, added Mr. Dunning to the Cabinet,
which was injudiciously acquiesced in by Lord Rockingham and
his friends ; he was created Lord Ashburton, and made Chancel-
lor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with an additional salary during
life. In consequence of this promotion, it was thought right that
Lord Rockingham should ask a peerage for Sir Fletcher Norton,
although none of the party placed much confidence either in his
abilities or integrity, but on account of his having been persecuted
by the Court for his conduct when Speaker of the House of Com-
mons. Lord Howe and Admiral Keppel were made Viscounts.
Colonel Barre was appointed Treasurer of the Navy, and, at Lord
Shelburne's instance, got a pension of 2000/. a year for life ; and
Lord Tankerville, another of his friends, was appointed Postmas-
ter, Lord Barrington being removed to make room for him, with a
pension of 2000*?. a year for life. These pensions gave much dis-
"Batisfaction to the public, and the odium of them was always art-
fully thrown upon Lord Rockingham, although his own friend,
Mr. Burke, who was appointed Paymaster of the Forces, enjoyed
his salary during pleasure only. Considering the principles upon
which the Administration came into power, the granting these pen-
sions was certainly not justifiable.

[It may not be uninteresting to add, from Mr. Adam's papers,
some farther particulars of the change of Ministry in March,

[Between the 8th of March, when Lord John Cavendish made
his motion of censure on Ministers, and the 15th, when Sir John
Rous moved to withdraw from them the confidence of Parliament,
it appears that full powers had been given to the Chancellor, Lord
Thurlow, to treat with the Opposition. Lord Thurlow, after
giving notice of his commission to Lord Shelburne, had an inter-
view with Lord Rockingham. The demands of Lord Rocking-
ham were the following : That the Contractors' Bill, Burke's


Bill, and Crewe's Bill, should be made Government measures,
and that a Ministry should be formed on the basis of peace and
economy. To this basis the Chancellor had no objection, but he
would not give his consent to the three bills, and so the negotia-
tion ended.]

[Overtures were then made to Lord Gower to undertake the
Government. Mr. Adam saw a letter from the King to Mr. Jen-
kinson on the subject, directing the chancellor] " to take every
step to widen the bottom of his Administration ;" adding that the
King '^can never submit to a total change without abandoning his
jprinciples and his Jionor, which he will never do."

[Lord Rockingham, at his own request, had a second meeting
with the Chancellor, but insisting on his former demands, the
Chancellor declared] " he would have no farther communication
with a man who thouofht the exclusion of a contractor from Par-


liament, and the disfranchisement of an exciseman, of more im-
portance than the salvation of the country in its present situation.
Lord Rockingham," he said, '' was bringing things to a pass, where
either his head or the King's must go, in order to settle which of
them was to govern the country."

[On Wednesday, the 20th of March, when Lord North an-
nounced to the House of Commons that the Administration was
dissolved, he had been authorized by the King to make that de-
claration only half an hour before he came down to the House.
The King having observed to him that, considering the temper of
the Commons, he thought the Administration was at an end. Lord
North remarked, " Would it not be better in that case to say so
at once?" "Well, you may do so," was the reply. Having,
obtained this permission, which as far as his own resignation was
concerned, he had often before solicited in vain. Lord North hur-
ried down to the House, and as soon as he could obtain a hearing,
announced that the Ministry was totally at an end. " He spoke with
much sagacity," says Adam, " and a proper feeling on the occasion.
No man ever showed more calmness, cheerfulness, and serenity.
The temper of his whole family was the same. I dined with
them that day, and was witness to it."]


[Lord Holland has left a lively account of the scene that passed
in the House of Commons on the night when Lord North an-
nounced his Administration was at an end.]

I have heard my uncle Fitzpatrick give a very diverting ac-
count of the scene that passed in the House of Commons on the
day of Lord North's resignation, which happened to be a remarkably
cold day, with a fall of snow. A motion of Lord Surrey's, for
the dismissal of Ministers, stood for that day, and the Whigs
were anxious that it should come on before the resignation of
Lord North was officially announced, that his removal from office
might be more manifestly and formally the act of the House of
Commons. He and Lord Surrey rose at the same instant ; after
much clamor, disorder, and some insignificant speeches on order,
Mr. Fox, with great quickness and address, moved, as the most
regular method of extricating the House from its embarrassment,
" that Lord Surrey be now heard." But Lord North, with yet
more admirable presence of mind, mixed with pleasantry, rose
immediately, and said, " I rise to speak to that motion ;" and, as
his reason for opposing it, stated his resignation and the dissolu-
tion of the Ministry. The House, satisfied, became impatient,
and after some ineffectual efforts of speakers on both sides to pro-
cure a hearing, an adjournment took place. Snow was falling,
and the night tremendous. All the members' carriages were dis-
missed, and Mrs. Bennet's room at the door was crowded. But
Lord North's carriage was waiting. He put into it one or two
of his friends whom he had invited to go home with him, and
turning to the crowd, chiefly composed of his bitter enemies, in
the midst of their triumph, exclaimed, in this hour of defeat and
supposed mortification, with admirable good-humor and pleasantry,
'' I have my carriage. You see, gentlemen, the advantage of being
in the secret. Good-night.'^

[To resume the extracts from Mr. Adam's papers. Lord Shel-
burne was sent for by advice of the Chancellor, who was offended
with the reception his offers had met with from Lord Rockingham.
The first time Lord Shelburne saw the King, was on Thursday
(March 21st). He received the message while he was at dinner


with some friends. He immediately left his company, and went
to Buckingham House. The interview was long, and Lord Shel-
burne communicated nothing of what had passed to any of the
Rockingham party, though he spent the evening with them in a
great party at Devonshire House. To avoid inquiries, he sat down
to play at faro ; but no one there knew where he had been, except
Lord Weymouth and Mr. Kigby, who had seen the Chancellor
after the interview.] " I was informed of it," says Mr. Adam,
" next morning, between nine and ten o'clock, by Mr. Jenkinson,
and between eleven and twelve T called on Lord North, and told
him that I had heard such a report, and had reason to believe it
to be true, but did not mention my authority." " Lord North,"
adds Mr. Adam, " was hurt and mortified that he had not been
informed of it by the Chancellor."

[The second interview of Lord Shelburne with the King was
next day or the day after that. Still no communication with the
Rockinghams. On the Sunday, which was the following day, he
was again with his Majesty at nine in the morning, and on that
day, at one o'clock, his servant was seen at Mr. Fox's door. Mr.
Adam adds that in the course of the day Lord Rockingham sent
his plan of Administration, but that it required persuasion on the
part of his friends to prevail upon him.]

[As Mr. Adam was not at that time in the confidence of either
the Rockingham or Shelburne party, the account he gives of the
difficulties they had to get over in forming their Administration is
derived from common rumor, and not worthy therefore of inser-
tion; he was at that time the intimate friend of Lord North, and
consequently hostile to those who were to succeed him.]

Thus ended the Administration of Lord North, and with it the
American War.

* We may conclude this period by a review of the memorable
events which marked the early periods of Mr. Fox's political life.

The politics of the Court received from him, for a time, a vigor-
ous support; but he soon burst the chains in which he had been
confined, and giving loose to his natural genius, displayed at once


the mighty power of his understanding, and the expansive bene-
volence of his heart.

Mr. Grattan, who had heard Mr. Fox at various epochs, declar-
ed his preference for the speeches delivered during the American
war to all the other efforts of his eloquence.

The American war was indeed a subject fit to inspire the genius
of an orator beyond all other occasions of modern times. The
singular folly of the original provocation ; the absurdity of renew-
ing the quarrel, when the embers of a former dispute were yet
warm ; the want of foresight which was exhibited in making con-
cessions always a year or two after the time when they would
have been successful in closing the breach; the wretched plan
upon which the war was carried on ; the extravagance of attempt-
ing to conquer America when a French and Spanish fleet rode
triumphant in the Channel ; the opposition to all wise counsels
persisted in till the very members of the Ministry fell off from the
body; the animating struggle which at the end made victory
doubtful in each successive fight ; above all, the immense conse-
quences involved in the contest; all these were circumstances to
quicken into life the energies of a great orator.

In reviewing the history of this period, it is impossible not to
perceive the blindness and weakness of nearly all the various rulers
who succeeded each other in the government of the country.

Mr. Grenville, seeing the progress made by the North Ameri-
can colonies, and their obvious tendency to evade and disregard
the British laws, thought to bind them by regulations which could
scarcely be enforced in the Thames and the Mersey. Pteflecting
that seventy millions of debt had been incurred during the Seven
Years' war, in securing and extending our American empire, he
proposed to make the triumphant and formidable colonists pay one
hundred thousand pounds a year to the British revenue !

Lord Rockingham repealed the Stamp Act, but thought it neces-
sary to maintain the right of taxing America. Whatever this
right might be as a question of public or national law, it was
obvious it could not be exercised with justice or equity; but per-


haps it was not practicable at that time to abandon it, nor do the
Americans appear to have resented the barren claim.

The Ministry of Lord Chatham, however, reached the climax of
improvidence and absurdity. It had been proved that the attempt
to tax America had provoked resistance; it was therefore deter-
mined to try a new tax with the certainty of rousing a new resist-
ance. Mr. Grenville had failed in obtaining a substantial revenue
from America; it was therefore decided to maintain a tax, for the
sake of a tax, for no object but that of a quarrel, when all prospect
of revenue had disappeared.

It is due to Lord Chatham to say that the tea-duty was im-
posed when he was incapable of attending to business. It was
afterwards retained, when other taxes were given up, by the Min-
istry of the Duke of Grafton, against the opinion of the Duke of
Grafton himself, of Lord Camden, of Lord Shelburne, and of
General Conway.

Surely such a decision, carried by a majority of one in the Ca-
binet, ought to have opened the eyes of all the Whig members of
that Cabinet. It was clear that Lord North, the scion of a Tory
family, the inheritor of Tory principles, had inaugurated a Tory
Government on the appropriate occasion of enforcing the payment
of a tax against justice and against policy, for the purpose of set-
ting up Authority against Liberty.

When Lord North was made First Lord of the Treasury and
Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was still time to conciliate
America. Lord Chatham would have willingly concurred in any
plan by which the right of taxation should be surrendered, and
the supremacy of the mother country retained. But neither the
King nor his Ministers had the wisdom to make with dignity, and
with effect, concessions which they made three years afterwards
without dignity and without effect.

It cannot be denied, however, that in his resistance to American
claims George III. had the full concurrence of his people. The
national pride revolted from any submission to demands loudly
put forth, and accompanied with menaces of rebellion.

The further question remains : Had Lord Chatham been called
VOL. I. — 21


to the councils of his Sovereign, and had he succeeded by his
supreme authority in England, and his wide popularity in Ame-
rica, in reconciling the two nations, would such a result have been
permanently advantageous to both?

On the one hand, it may be said that, so long as they kept
united, England and America might have led the civilization of
the world. Had they forbidden the invasion of France in 1792,
that invasion would not have taken place. The fury of the Jaco-
bin party in France, the massacres of the Reign of Terror, the
bloody wars of Napoleon, might all have been spared to Europe.
A powerful statesman like Mr. Fox, united with Mr. Pitt, might
have said to Prussia and to Austria, " You shall not interfere in
the internal concerns of France ;" and to the French Government,
" You shall not invade the territory of any independent state."
A minister speaking this language, with the resources of Great
Britain, Ireland, and America in his hand, would not have spoken
in vain. Europe in 1800 might have enjoyed the blessings which
half a century later she reaped from peace and commerce; En-
gland would have been spared the burden of seven hundred mil-
lions of her National Debt. If at the close of the eighteenth
century the union of two such mighty states under one govern-
ment had been found to be incompatible with the prosperity of
the American provinces and the pretensions of American states-
men, the knot might have been gently untied. These great
kindred nations, instead of nourishing for two generations senti-
ments of hatred, resentment, scorn, and antipathy towards each
other, might have parted with a mutual desire to pursue by differ-
ent paths the same end, and to accomplish by different means the
great objects of freedom, knowledge, and Christianity.

On the other hand, it must be confessed that the history of the
world might have flowed in a different course. The settlement
supposed to have been made by Lord Chatham might have been a
hollow truce, denounced as soon as the ashes of that great man
were deposited in Westminster Abbey. The struggles of Europe
during the French Revolution might have aroused America to assert
her independence, and republican France might have had in her


contest with England the strenuous aid of republican America.
The monarchy of England might have fallen ; her independence
might scarcely have survived the fatal war.

These things are hidden from our eyes. We can perceive that
Lord Chatham^ Mr. Fox, and Mr. Burke excelled in wisdom Lord
North and Lord Thurlow ', but how long the separation of Ame-
rica from the mother country might have been prevented, and in
what circumstances it might at last have occurred, are matters on
which science must fail, and even speculation must be vague.




The Memoirs of Walpole furnish some accounts of the forma-
tion of the new Ministry, which, though not in every point to be
relied on, agree in the main with the facts derived from other and
authentic sources.

'' The King, though reduced to the necessity of taking new
Ministers, was not at all disposed to add grace to it, nor to smooth
his condition by persuading them, whoever they should be, that
they were not utterly unwelcome to him. On the contrary,
though it was evident that Lord Rockingham was the sole person,
who, by his extensive connections and the fairness of his character,
could form an Administration of any consistency, that very reason
made the King determined not to let the choice fall on him. He
would not see the Marquis, but, on the 21st, sent for Lord Shel-
burne, and offered to place him at the head of the Treasury,
which Lord Shelburne not venturing to accept, he made the same
offer to Lord Gower with the same success."

" Lord Shelburne, ambitious and impatient as he was to attain
that eminence, stood on too narrow a bottom to venture to close

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