Charles James Fox.

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

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ingham's Administration, but adds, " The material [features of
the Administration] were the masterly abilities of Charles Fox,
and the intrigues of Lord Shelburne ; the former displayed such
facility in comprehending and executing all business, as charmed
all approached him. No formal afiectation delayed any service,

scarcely understood, though he thought it for a season very fine. When,
however. Hare, Charles Fox, and Fitzpatrick heard his report, and he
from their comments collected that he should "get nothing from Shel-
burne and be laughed at by them," he waxed as furious as his nature
could be, but being very good-humored, as well as very shabby and
interested, he could not help laughing himself at the ridiculous figure
he made, and has related it more than once to me as well as to others. —
V. H.


or screened ignorance. He seized at once the important points of
every affair^ and every affair loas thence reduced within a small
compass, not to save himself trouble, for he at once gave himself
vp to the duties of his office.'^ His good-humor, frankness, and
uncerity pleased, and yet inspired a respect, which he tooh no
other pains to attract. The foreign ministers were in admiration
of him : they had found few who understood foreign affairs, or
who attended to them, and no man who understood French so
well, or could explain himself in so few words." — H. W.

" While Fox thus unfolded his character so advantageously,
Shelburne was busied in devoting himself to the King, and in
traversing Lord Rockingham and Fox in every point. If they
opened a negotiation, he commenced another underhand at the
same court. Mr. Fox dispatched Thomas Grenville to Paris.
Lord Shelburne sent one, two, or three privately to the same
place, and addressed them to different Ministers or persons of
supposed credit." — ii. w.

On the 7th of May, Fox writes to Fitzpatrick : " William Pitt
moved for a committee upon representation to-day. The House
is just up. For the motion 141, against it 161, so that we are
beat, though Lord John, &c., all voted with us. The country
gentlemen were against us, Powys, Marsham, &c.''

[Sketches of the impressions made by an important debate are
generally interesting, and the reader may like to see a short ac-
count of this debate from a letter of G-eneral Burgoyne to Mr.
Fitzpatrick, of the. 8th of May:] " We had yesterday a strange
day, upon Pitt's motion for an inquiry into the representation ;
friend against friend among us : on the other side, the late Minis-
try voted in phalanx. Lord North and Robinson excepted, who
were absent ; Burke retired quite against us in opinion ) Powys

^ He never touched a card, and was, during all his three short Adminis-
trations (till his fatal illness), assiduous in his duties, yet never trouble-
some or harsh to those under him, nor unnecessarily busy or meddling,
in little matters — a fault in office as frequent and as mischievous as
indolence. — V. H.


was against us ; T. Pitt violently so, and took the lead in the
Opposition. The Advocate spoke long, ill for him, but offensively
against Charles. He seems to have taken up that line of late.
Charles in his very first form, and Sheridan much above any-
thing he has yet done in the House : I think I never heard more
wit than part of his speech against the Advocate. We lost the
question by 20."

[Mr. Burke was prevailed upon to absent himself from this dis-
cussion; but in a subsequent debate he appears to have expressed
himself warmly, if not violently, on the general question.] " On
Friday last [says Sheridan to Fitzpatrick in a letter of the 20th
of May], ^' Burke acquitted himself with the most magnanimous
indiscretion, attacked W. Pitt in a scream of passion, and swore
Parliament was and always had been precisely what it ought to
be, and that all people who thought of reforming it wanted to
overturn the constitution." [The occasion for making this speech
was the motion of Alderman Sawbridge for shortening the dura-
tion of Parliaments.]

The following letter of Mr. Fox, written on the 11th of May,
exhibits the progress of dissension and mutual alienation in the
Ministry; and if on the one hand it shows how Mr. Fox could be
mistaken in his estimate of character, on the other hand it places
in a favorable point of view his political foresight and sagacity.
" With respect to things here, many unpleasant circumstances
have happened this week. Our having been beat upon Pitt's
motion will, in my opinion, produce many more bad consequences
than many people seem to suppose, among which the kind of spirit
and confidence which it has given to the old Ministerialists is per-
haps not the least. The very thin attendances which appear on
most occasions are very disheartening and sometimes embarrassing
to me. Upon the bill for securing Sir Thomas Rumbold's pro-
perty, we were only 36 to 33. The Attorney and Solicitor-Grcne-
ral were both against me, and I had the mortification to depend
for support upon Lord-Advocate, Jenkinson, and Mansfield. The
first of these, upon Pitt's motion, chose to speak in the most
offensive manner to me personally, by marking, in the most



pointed way, the different opinion he entertained of the purity of
Pitt's intentions and of mine. I know most people think that he
has taken ill some things that I have said, and that all this is only
warmth in consequence ; but I own I cannot help suspecting that
he means to show that he does not consider me as a person who
has power to hurt him, and that he is very well with those who
have; for he always calls himself a supporter of the present
Grovernment, and has, I am pretty sure, established a sort of con-
nection with your brother-in-law. Lord Rockingham's illness,
which is now over, has prevented me from bringing this matter to
the crisis to which it must come, and shall come, if I am to remain
the King's Minister in the House of Commons. You will easily
perceive by this letter that I am out of humor, and you know me
enough to know I am not inclined to be so without reason." [He
adds afterwards:] "I have given you but a small part of the
cause of my ill-humor, when I have confined myself to the House
of Commons. The House of Lords has been the most shameful
scene you can imagine. The Duke of Richmond, in points where
he was clearly right, has been deserted by every Minister present
more than once. Lord Rockingham and Lord Keppel were

" Carlisle received the staff on Sunday, and is, I believe, in per-
fect good-humor. The history of that transaction is a most curious
one. Lord Rockingham offered; Lord Carlisle, after some time
to consider, accepts ; and then Lord S. says, he had thought of it
for the Duke of Marlborough, and that something at least must
be done for Lord Charles Spencer before this matter is settled. I
talked to him very roundly upon this affair, and of course he and
his friend gave way, and the thing was done, only less graciously
than it ought. In short, everything that we apprehended upon
this subject is true even beyond our apprehensions; it must be
our business to preserve our credit and character, which I think
we cannot lose [but] by our own faults, and which is most dearly
indeed all that we have to stand upon. He thinks, I know he
does, that he has other ground. How it will bear him, ?7 fattt
voir. That he will not delay long trying it I very much believe,


especially if we should be fortunate enough to make a peace,
which I do not wish for less ardently than I did, although I am
convinced that in signing it I shall sign the end of this Ministry.
Faisons noire devoiTj arrive qui pourraj is the maxim which pru-
dence as well as honesty must dictate to us. You recommended
me to keep up my attention to two great political persons, and I
have, I do assure you, spared no pains to follow your advice.
With respect to the first in rank of the two, I have succeeded to
my utmost hopes, so much so, that if we fail in his object, I am
sure he will be rather displeased at others than at us. I like him
better every day ) he is natural, open, and remarkably free, at
least as far as I can judge, from those meannesses which from his
blood and his situation might be expected.^ I wish I could say I
was quite as well satisfied in regard to the other person, who is
perhaps the most material of the two. He is very civil and
obliging, profuse of compliments in public; but he has more than
once taken a line that has alarmed me, especially when he dis-
suaded against going into any inquiries that might produce heats
and differences. 2 This seemed so unlike his general mode of
thinking, and so like that of another, that I confess I disliked it
to the greatest degree. I am satisfied he will be the man that
the old system, revived in the person of Lord S.,will attempt
to bring forward for its support. I am satisfied he is incapa-
ble of giving into this with his eyes open; but how he may be led
into it step by step is more than I can answer for. I feel myself,
I own, rather inclined to rely upon his understanding and in-
tegrity for resisting all the temptations of ambition, and especially
of heivg first, which I know will be industriously thrown in his
way, and contrasted with that secondary and subordinate situation
to which they will insinuate he must be confined while he con-
tinues to act in the general system."

[On the 18th, he writes to Mr. Fitzpatrick :] ^^ Nothing has
happened much to alter my opinion from what is contained in my
letter of this day se'nnight ; Lord Scarborough's death has occa-

' I confess I am at a loss to say who this is. ^ ]vjj., pjtt.


sioned another little manege, just like that about the Steward's'
staff, and I foresee it will end as that did. Lord Robert will have
it, but he will have it the latter end of next week, instead of the
beginning of this as he ought to have had it. Indeed, if every
vacancy that happens is to occasion as much negotiation as these
two have done, it will be a pleasant business for those who have,
or ought to have, the disposal of them.''

[Another short letter from Mr. Fox to Mr. Fitzpatrick, while the
latter remained in Ireland, has been preserved; but it contains no
allusion to domestic politics, and as Mr. Fitzpatrick returned to En-
gland in the middle of June, their correspondence was necessarily
brought to a close. In the absence of other information, it may
therefore be worth while to insert the following letter from Mr.
Hare, because it shows the view taken of Mr. Fox's position by
one of his most intelligent and confidential friends. After men-
tioning the change in Mr. Fox's mode of life, his seldom looking
in at Brookes's and never dining there, and humorously describing
the disappointment of those who had paid up arrears of four or
five years' subscription, that they might enjoy the society of a
■ Minister, he goes on to say :] " The Advocate has, on so many
occasions, shown such hostility, mixed with a great degree of
arrogance, if not impertinence, towards Charles, that Charles, with
all his good-nature and forbearance, has been rather exasperated
against him. I thought it proceeded from the Advocate's being
out of humor at the late reverse in his fortunes, and apt to take
offence when none was meant; but Charles suspected it was a con-
certed scheme between the Advocate and a friend of yours, whom
I need not name. Charles sent a civil message to the Advocate
by the Duke of Buccleugh, and he returned a very general, vague
answer, which convinced Charles that his suspicion was founded.
I literally have not spoken to Charles for some days, and do not
know whether anything more has passed; but when I last talked
with Charles, he was determined that, if the Advocate persisted
in this improper behavior, he should be turned out, or that he,
Charles, would go out. What made this conduct in the Advocate
more alarming was that William Pitt, one day after Charles had


declared the state of the nation to be in all respects more distress-
ful than he had imagined, and the conduct of the late Ministers
more culpable in rejecting all offers of mediation or neglecting all
overtures of peace, and after he had declared that these things
must be inquired into; William Pitt agreed with the Advocate,
who had objected to any inquiry, on the pretence that it would
cause altercation, revive animosity, and take up too much of the
time of Ministers, and he totally differed from Charles in every-
thing that he had said on the subject. This circumstance very
much increased our suspicion that the Advocate's hostility was
systematical, and concocted not a hundred miles from Berkeley
Square. Since I wrote this I have seen Charles, who has received
a message from the Advocate by Lord Maitland, to assure him
that he never meant any incivility to him, and that on the con-
trary he was the person amongst his Majesty's Ministers to whom
he bore the most entire good-will. We shall see how he will act
up to these professions in public. The moment Lord Scarborough
was dead. Lord Rockingham wrote to the King at Windsor to
recommend Lord Robert Spencer for his place, but received for
answer that it had better be given to Lord Charles. Lord Rock-
ingham persists for Lord Robert, and Lord Shelburne will cer-
tainly fail getting it for Lord Charles, by which means he flattered
himself he should lay the Duke of Marlborough under an obliga-
tion. They must come to some explicit agreement about patron-
age and recommendations to places, for, besides the ill-will that
this competition excites, the time of the Cabinet is as much taken
up in settling the Vice-treasuryship as the kingdom of Ireland.
You have seen by the papers that the Chancellor opposed the
contractors' and the Cricklade bills. Crewe's bill was in the
House of Lords yesterday, and he said he should reserve his op-
position to it for the third reading, but that if anybody wished to
divide against it in that stage he was ready. He intends likewise
to oppose the bill for restraining Sir T. Rumboldt from leaving
the kingdom, and from concealing or alienating any part of his
property — in short, to oppose everything that is attempted by the
new Government. Irish affairs come on in both Houses to-mor-


row, and I shall not be surprised if he endeavors to work mis-
chief; but if he does, I hope they will see the necessity of turning
him out."

[No further correspondence has been preserved that carries on
the history of these dissensions to the end of the Eockingham
Administration, but that they continued unabated to the last, is
clear both from Fitzpatrick's journal, and from the letters of
General Burgoyne and of the Duke of Portland, written to Mr.
Fox before they were aware of his resignation. General Bur-
goyne, in a letter of the 5th of July, after describing the deep
affliction of the Duke of Portland on the intelligence of Lord
Kockingham's death, and his "apprehensions from the present
state of the Cabinet," suggests him as a fit person to succeed that
nobleman in the Treasury, as well as in the principal lead of the
party; and concludes by saying to Mr. Fox:] "Upon an occasion,
which seems to threaten a speedy dissolution of the Administra-
tion, I cannot refrain from repeating (though I think it unneces-
sary) my devotion, my invaluable friend, to your fortunes, and
there will be no sacrifices in my sphere that will not be made with
pleasure when thought necessary." [The Duke of Portland writes
on the following day :] " You will not be surprised at my not
being able to write to you yesterday. I received the fatal letter
on Thursday evening, and have scarcely now recovered that state
of composure which is necessary for the arrangement of my
thoughts. Little time or consideration, however, are requisite for
directing our conduct in the present critical and important mo-
ment. Confidence I conceive to be wholly out of the question;
power must be taken as its substitute, and unless you can possess
that, and convince the public of your possessing it, both your
honor and duty to the country dictate your retreat. My opinion
may possibly and indeed may most probably be too late, for I
cannot but suppose upon recollection that the fate of Administra-
tion is by this time decided. I own I tremble for the event,
because I see inevitable and complete ruin, the consequence of
the restoration of the late system. I thank you sincerely for your
letter of the 28th. The event it announced the probability of has


been long (comparatively with your political existence) expected
by me ; and my ideas of its having happened will appear by the
direction of this letter to you in your private capacity. If Richard
brings me the account I expect, I suppose there can be no impro-
priety in my applying for a release in peremptory terms, and that
I may consider myself at liberty as soon as the session is con-


[Before proceeding to the breaking up of the Kockingham
Administration, it will be necessary to revert to the negotiations
for peace, in which Mr. Fox was incessantly and actively engaged
during the short period he remained in office. When the Rock-
ingham party came into power, Great Britain was engaged in
hostilities, not only with her revolted colonies, but with France,
Spain, and Holland, and was embarrassed besides by the preten-
sions of the armed neutrality, to which most of the non-belli-
gerent powers had given their accession. France and the United
States were bound by treaty not to make peace separately. Spain
and Holland had not acknowledged the United States, and had
contracted no engagements with them. The first object of Mr.
Fox was to open a separate negotiation with Holland, through the
mediation of Russia. At a Cabinet Council, held on the 28th of
March, the day after the Ministry came into office, the following
minute was agreed to : ^]

" Present : — Lord Chancellor, President, Lord Privy Seal,
Duke of Richmond, Lord Rockingham, Lord Shelburne, Lord
Ashburton, General Conway, Admiral Keppel, Mr. Fox, Lord
John Cavendish.

"It is humbly recommended to his Majesty to direct Mr. Fox
to acquaint M. Simolin that the King is willing to enter into
treaty of peace with Holland, upon the footing of free navigation,
according to the treaty of 1764, and that for the purpose of faci-
litating such treaty his Majesty is willing to agree to the imme-

' From a copy in the handwriting of Mr. Fox.


diate cessation of hostilities, if that should be deemed an expedient
measure by their High Mightinesses."

[This offer seems to have been communicated to the Dutch
government by M. Simolin (the Russian Minister in London),
without waiting for instructions from St. Petersburg ; for, on the
12th of April, it was known to Dr. Franklin, at Paris/ and on
the same day Mr. Fox writes to Mr. Fitzpatrick :] " You will have
seen how handsomely the Russians have supported my offer.
People here are very sanguine about peace with Holland; /
doubt J" This doubt was but too well founded. On the 21st of
April he writes again to Mr. Fitzpatrick, "No chance, I fear, of
peace with Holland."]

[When this proposal was first conveyed to the Empress, she
seems to have entered into it with eagerness. On the 21st of May
the King writes to Mr. Fox : ^] " Undoubtedly, the appearances
in Russia are as favorable on the Dutch affairs as the most san-
guine mind could expect, and the levity of the Court alone gives
distrust as to the final issue. I have also some fear that Mr.
Grenville's negotiation at Paris will cause some disgust, as the
joint mediation at Vienna is one of her favorite projects." [But
the good offices of the Empress seem to have been accompanied
by proposals to which his Majesty was not prepared to accede.
On the 15th of June the King writes to Mr. Fox:] "There is
no doubt but the Empress of Russia seems to continue in better
humor; but there are points in the communication of so serious a
nature — and that must affect so much in futurity — that I am cer-
tain Mr. Fox must see the propriety of laying this dispatch of
Sir James Harris before the Cabinet before he offers me any
opinion on the subject, and, consequently, takes any step in it and
in the communication M. de Simolin will make."

[Accordingly, on the 26th of June a Cabinet was held, and the
following minute agreed upon] :^

1 Franklin's Works, by Sparks, ix. 206.

2 In the lianchvriting of George III.

2 From a copy in the handwriting of Mr. Fox.


^'Present — Lord Chancellor, Lord President, Lord Privy Seal,
Duke of Richmond, Lord Shelburne, Lord John Cavendish, Lord
Keppel, Lord Ashburton, General Conway, Mr. Fox.

" It is humbly recommended to his Majesty to direct Mr. Fox
to acquaint M. Simolin that his Majesty is desirous of entering
fully into the ideas of the Empress, and to form the closest con-
nections with the Court of Petersburg, and that his Majesty is
willing to make the principles of her Imperial Majesty's declara-
tion of the 28th February, 1780, the basis of a treaty between
the two countries.

" It is further humbly recommended to his Majesty to direct
Mr. Fox to acquaint M. Simolin with the substance of the in-
structions to Mr. Grrenville, as the best method of letting the
Court of Petersburg know that ultimatum which she asks.^'

[That the answer returned did not meet the wishes of the Court
of St. Petersburg appears from the private letter sent with it
from Mr. Fox to Sir James Harris.]

St. James's, June 29, 1782.

^^ Dear Sir : —

" I return you many thanks for your private letter, which per-
fectly convinced me, but unfortunately not others, so that the an-
swer is as you will see ; however, it is not such a one as to offend,
and I have endeavored in the manner to make it such as to keep
up the good disposition at your Court. I hope you will endeavor
to represent it as like a complete complaisance as the thing will
bcar.^ I shall send a courier in a few days.

" I am,
^^ Dear sir, yours ever,

"C. J. FOX."

[The reply of Sir James Harris to this private communication
did not reach England till Mr. Fox was out of office. It is never-
theless worth while to preserve it, as it contains the opinion of a

1 Cipher.
VOL. I. — 23


very able diplomatist on the expediency at that moment of our
acknowledging the principles of the armed neutrality,]

[Private.] "Peteksburg, July, 1782.

" Dear Sir : —

'^I have many thanks to return you for your private letter
of the 29th of June. You encourage me to be prolix (perhaps
troublesome) and officious. I had great satisfaction in hearing
you approve what I had written relative to the expediency of a
recognition of the principles of the armed neutrality. Besides
the immediate advantages to be derived from a measure so very
flattering to the Empress, I am convinced, in my own mind, that
such a recognition would contribute to annul the ill effects of this
new-fangled doctrine, and that a perseverance on our part to
oppose is the surest method of giving it permanency and con-

^^ It is in itself so contrary to the Czarina's ideas of self-defence,
that none of the members of the league (particularly Russia)
ever can possibly adhere to its principles, if engaged in a mari-
time war, and we, it is hoped, never shall again find ourselves in
the same isolated situation we now stand in.

" The Dutch and Portuguese already enjoy by treaty this free
trade. The Danes are tied up by the explanatory article ; and
the remaining maritime states cannot, from the diversity of their
interests, ever reap any advantage from it in a future day ; and
it is impossible that Kussia and Sweden, Prussia and Austria,
should not act against each other if once a system is established
in Europe, and the establishment of such a system seems now to
be a general wish.

^' It may be observed, too, that all the powers in Europe unit-
edly enjoy at this moment — in fact, if not by right — the privi-
leges we deny them. They have all subscribed to the neutral
league, and it is idle for us to dispute its validity. We may in-
deed contest its equity, but we must submit to the law it imposes.
I again, too, repeat, that it will acquire vigor and duration from

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 31)