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

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ment, as Secretary of State ; and that though he had been pre-
vented from assuming on that pretence the direction of the gene-
ral negotiations for peace, his friend Mr. Oswald had been once
sent back to Paris, by order of the Cabinet, with propositions to
Dr. Franklin, and so far as it appears had never been recalled, and
might therefore still be considered as in communication with the
American Minister, and entitled to hold conversations with him
on public business. But, on the other hand, it is impossible to


justify Lord Shelburne for his favorable reception of so important
a paper as the one he had received from Franklin about Canada,
without communicating the substance of it at least to his col-
leagues ; nor can he be acquitted of presumption in proposing,
without their knowledge, a separate mission to negotiate with the
American Commissioners, nor of want of judgment in leaving to
Franklin the decision of a point of so much delicacy, which might
affect materially the future progress of the negotiation. That
this suggestion put a stop to the proposed confidential communi-
cation of Franklin to Mr. Grenville is not improbable, though
Franklin accounts for his reserve on this occasion by his finding
Mr. Grenville's powers to treat defective; but if we may judge
of the value of such communications by the confidential conver-
sations he had with Oswald, it may be doubted whether much
was lost by the want of them. He would have drawn from Mr.
Grrenville what he could for the advantage of his own country,
and given him nothing in exchange but honeyed words and vague
assurances of returning affection. He was in truth very hostile
to England, and had never forgiven the treatment he received
from Wedderburn. The anecdote denied by Mr. Sparks, that
before the signature of the preliminaries of peace he dressed him-
self in the coat he had worn at the Privy Council on that occa-
sion, rests, nevertheless, on authority not slightly to be rejected.
It was related to Lord Holland by Lord St. Helens, one of the
plenipotentiaries employed in negotiating the treaty, and the last-
ing impression it made on Lord St. Helens leaves little doubt of
the accuracy of his recollection. He could not speak without in-
dignation of the triumphant air with which Franklin told them
he had laid by and preserved his coat for such an occasion.]

[Before dismissing the subject, it may be proper to insert some
unfinished remarks Lord Holland has left on these occurrences,
and on the consequent dissensions they produced between two
persons so nearly related to him as Mr. Fox and Lord Shelburne.]
Of these interviews and conversations (with Mr. Oswald and Mr.
Grenville), as well as of his correspondence with Lord Shelburne,
Mr. Fox, and others, Dr. Franklin has left a long and minute
VOL. I.— 26


account in his private correspondence. He soon perceived that
Mr. Oswald and Mr. Grenville were organs of two distincts wills
in the Cabinet of St. James's. " Mr. Oswald/' he says, ^^ appears
to have been the choice of Lord Shelburne, Mr. Grenville that of
Mr. Secretary Fox. Lord Shelburne is said to have acquired
lately much of the King's confidence. Lord Shelburne seems to
wish to have the management of the treaty; Mr. Fox seems to
think it is in his department."^ Franklin at that time preferred
Oswald to GrenvillC; and there are traces of memoranda and other
communications from Lord Shelburne to Franklin, of which Fox
and Grenville had no cognizance at the time. Franklin thought,
at this period of the negotiation (end of May and beginning of
June), that Lord Shelburne and his immediate agent were more
inclined to concessions to America, and especially of Canada, than
Mr. Fox, whom Oswald described as startled at it, but to whom
it does not seem to have been thus early communicated. Towards
the end of the Rockingham Administration, and on the close of it,
Franklin seems to have had misgivings of the designs of Lord
Shelburne respecting the independence of America, and to have
credited the report of Lord Shelburne's overruling in the Cabinet
Mr. Fox's decided plan of " unequivocally acknowledging Ameri-
can independence," and that the intention of that party in the
Cabinet was '^ to retain the sovereignty for the King."^ This
suspicion, which reached Franklin, was much credited at the time
by well-informed persons. Some passages in Mr. Fox's speeches
seem to indicate a defeat in the Cabinet on the subject of Ameri-
can independence; and General Fitzpatrick, in his Journal, dis-
tinctly afl&rms that Mr. Fox had resolved before Lord Rocking-
ham's death to resign, because he had been " outvoted in Cabinet,
on the question of acceding unconditionally to American inde-
pendence." On the other hand, it is clear that the Cabinet
minute of the 18th of May, preserved in Mr. Fox's papers, where
ten of the Cabinet, including Lord Shelburne and his friends,

• Franklin's Works, by Sparks, ix. 335, 336.
2 Ibid. ix. 347, 362, 367.


were present, recommends instructions to Mr. Grenville '^ to make
propositions of peace to the belligerent powers upon the basis of
independence to the thirteen colonies in North America, and of
the treaty of Paris/' [to which might be added the Cabinet minute
of the 23d of May, instructing Mr. Grenville to propose the inde-
pendence of America in the first instance, instead of making it the
condition of a general treaty.]

Whatever may have been the nature and extent of the dififer-
ences between Lord Shelburne and Mr. Fox, and whatever may
be thought of the grounds of complaint against Lord Shelburne,
there can be no doubt, after reading the preceding letters, that
differences of opinion, suspicions of underhand dealing, and hostile
cabals and intrigues, and great resentment thereupon, subsisted
in the minds of Mr. Fox and Mr. Grenville ; and the bare exist-
ence of such differences unquestionably persuaded Mr. Fox, that
the public business of the country, and yet more particularly the
negotiations for peace, could not be conducted with advantage,
with such dissensions and jealousies, either between the two
Secretaries of State, to whose hands the official correspondence
was intrusted, or between a Secretary of State and Prime Minis-
ter, who received the King's pleasure upon them. It was upon
that conviction — surely not unreasonable — that his resignation
was grounded, and upon it the vindication of that step must rest.


The difficulties which the Rockingham Administration had to
encounter in their endeavors to preserve peaee and restore tran-
quillity in Ireland, and their merit in overcoming these difficul-
ties, which was chiefly effected by the confidence in their princi-
ples and character, will be made apparent by the following letters
and correspondence from Irish patriots as well as from men in




"Dublin, 11th April, 1782.

"No man can be more rejoiced than I am at this late happy
though tardy change. I rejoice in it as a friend to individuals,
but more especially as a member of the empire at large, which
will probably be indebted to it for its salvation. I hope, also, and
doubt not, that I shall have reason to rejoice in it as an Irishman,
for I cannot conceive that they who are intent upon the great
work of restoring the empire, should not be ardently attentive to
the real welfare of all its parts; or that true Whir/s, genuine
lovers of liberty, whose principles I know, honor, and strive to
imitate, should not wish to diflfuse this invaluable blessing through
every part of those dominions whose interests they are called upon
to administer. The appointment of the Duke of Portland, and of
his secretary, is a good presage. I know and respect their princi-
ples, and should be truly unhappy if anything in their conduct
respecting this country should prevent my perfect co-operation with
them. For, my dear Sir, with every degree of affection for our
sister kingdom, with every regard for the interests of the empire
at large, I am an Irishman ; I pride myself in the appellation,
and will in every particular act as such, at the same time declar-
ing that I most sincerely and heartily concur with you in thinking
that the interests of England and of Ireland cannot be distinct ]
and that therefore, in acting as an Irishman, I may always hope
to perform the part of a true Englishman also.

" With regard to what you hint respecting an adjournment, I

' [The letter of Mr. Fox, to which Lord Charlemont's is a reply, has
been published in Hardy's Life of Lord Chaiiemont (p. 217) ; and so also
is Lord Charlemont's answer, from which the following extracts, taken
from the original in Lord Charlemont's handwriting, are printed, partly
on account of their connection with those important events that follow,
and partly on account of a slight omission in Mr. Hardy's edition of the


sincerely hope it will not be desired, as the matter seems to me to
involve some great, not to say insurmountable difficulties. The
eyes of all the nation are eagerly fixed on the meeting of the 16th.
The House is convened for that day by this very particular sum-
mons, that every memher should attend, as he tenders the rights of
Pai'liament. The declaration of independent legislature is on that
day to be agitated. It is expected by the people with the most
anxious impatience, and the minds of all men are so fixed upon
the event of that day, which they have every reason to imagine
will be favorable to their wishes, that I should greatly fear the
consequence of any postponement, especially as, from sad experi-
ence, the people have been taught to suppose that a question post-
poned is, at the least, weakened. This too is an act of the House,
and of the House alone. Government has nothing to say to it,
nor will any popularity be gained to the Administration which
may happen to be present at the carrying this question. On the
contrary, success will be looked upon rather as a defeat than as
voluntary acquiescence. Such are the difiiculties which occur.
However, though they may appear insuperable, so strong is our
wish not to throw any unnecessary obstacle in the way of the
present Administration, that we shall wait to be determined by

^' I have seen Grattan, and have communicated the kind para-
graph in your letter respecting him. He desires his most sincere
thanks for your goodness and friendly opinion of him. TVe are
both of us precisely of the same mind. We respect and honor the
present Administration. We adore the principle on which it is
founded. We look up to its members with the utmost confidence,
for their assistance in the great work of general freedom, and
should be happy in our turn to have it in our power to support
them in Ireland in the manner which may be most beneficial to
them, and most honorable to us; consulted but not considered.
The people at large must indeed entertain a partiality for the
present Ministers. True Whigs must rejoice at the prevalence of
Whiggish principles. The nation wishes to support the favorers
of American freedom, the men who opposed the detested, the cx-


ecrated American war. Let our 7'i'c/7its be acknowledged and
secured to us — those rights which no man can controvert, but
which to a ti^ue Whig are self-evident — and that nation, those
lives and fortunes which are now universally pledged for the
emancipation of our country, will be as cheerfully, as universally
pledged for the defence of our sister kingdom, and for the support
of an Administration which will justly claim the gratitude of a
spirited and grateful people, by having contributed to the comple-
tion of all their wishes.

" I am, &c.


The affairs of Ireland were in the department of Lord Shelburne,
with whom of course all official communication was carried on by
the Irish government. But while Mr. Fitzpatrick, who was Chief
Secretary, remained in Dublin, there was a continual interchange
of letters between him and his friend Mr. Fox. Some letters
have also been preserved of the Duke of Portland, who was Lord
Lieutenant. From these materials such extracts will be made as
throw light on the views and opinions of the parties on Irish affairs.


ISth April, 1782.

'^ I have had a great deal of conversation this morning with the
Duke of Leinster, who seems to me to talk reasonably enough
upon the affairs of Ireland. Two things in particular that he
said I think very well worth your attention. One is an idea
which he started of having a bill in Ireland similar to that which
Crewe moves here, which, he says, besides the popularity of it,
would be of incredible advantage to the revenue. If it is liked,
I really think it unexceptionable, for the more independently
Parliament is chosen the more inclined it will be to support good
government. The other is a scheme of something like a Cabi-
net Council, He describes the want of concert and system which
comes from the want of such a thing, to be very detrimental in


every respect, and particularly in parliamentary operations, where
those who wish to support Government often do not know till the
moment what is the plan proposed, and consequently are wholly
unable to support it either systematically or effectually. Another
great inconvenience, which he attributes to this want, is that the
Lord Lieutenant, not having any regular Ministry to apply to, is
driven, or at least led, to consult Lees and such sort of inferior
people, and by that means the whole power is (as it was here)
centred in the Jenkinsons and Robinsons, &c., of that country.
Nobody is responsible but the Lord Lieutenant and his secretary ;
they know they are to go away, and consequently all the mischiefs
ensue that belong to a government without responsibility.^ I
have not talked with anybody upon this, nor indeed had time to
think it over myself, but it really strikes me as a matter very
well worth weighing, and I wish the Duke of Portland and you
would turn your minds to it, especially if,, as I take for granted,
this idea was suggested to the Duke of Leinster by other consid-
erable men on your side of the water. I have only stated it to
you as it strikes me, upon first hearing the thing broached. ^^


'' April 15, 1782.

" I have seen a long letter from Mr. Ogilvie to the Duke of
Richmond, containing a very detailed account of a conversation
with Lord Charlemont, which I do not much like. It seemed
that Lord C. wished exceedingly that we should take some step to-
wards the repeal of the act of 6th Greorge I., before anything else
was done or attempted. I mention this to you, that pains may be
taken to explain why that was not done, viz., that it was perfectly
inconsistent with the intention of entering into a treaty to settle
finally the future connection between the two countries, to take
any step at all, previous to the opening of that treaty; and you will

^ It is curious to seethe question of " responsible government" started
in Ireland more than half a century before it was a watchword in Canada.
—J. R.


observe that tbis same reason applies to the not passing of Yelver-
ton's Bill. I dare say it was unnecessary to say all this to you,
but I am really so anxious for the success of your Administration,
and have such a dread of being upon ill terms with persons so
like ourselves in their ways of thinking, as Lord Charlemont and
Grattan, that I cannot forbear thinking and writing about it con-


" Dublin Castle, Aj^ril 17, 1782.
" Dear Charles : —

" I shall begin my letter with giving you a caution concerning
the communication of its contents too generally on your side of
the water, and with another, respecting the confidential letters you
write me, which you had better never trust to the post, as we havft
the misfortune of being here in the hands of the tools of the
last Government, and there is even reason to suspect that our let-
ters may be opened before they reach us. I wish you, therefore,
to trust them only in the hands of messengers ; it is amazing how
deep a root the interior Cabinet had taken; and you will, I dare
say, soon find that you have not extirpated it effectually by the
removal of its principal members. If you have time to read it,
I shall give you a short account of my proceedings here, and of
the opinions I have formed of the state of things. The first person
I saw after landing, before I could go out to pay my devoirs at the
castle, was Charles Sheridan, and as I knew his connections with
Grattan, I was glad of an opportunity of learning his intentions at
the meeting of Parliament, which Sheridan assured me were by
no means whatever to consent to the adjournment. I informed
him of our proceedings in England, and used every argument pos-
sible to induce him to postpone his declaratory resolutions, which
I desired Sheridan to convey to him, and at the same time ex-
pressed a wish, if he did not object to it, to see him. I then
went to Lord Charlemont, to whom I delivered Lord Rockingham's
letter, who, with the utmost degree of kindness and cordiality.


expressed his perfect confidence in Administration ; but told me
he had just left a meeting at Grrattan's, where it had been deter-
mined to consent to no adjournment, as they considered themselves
pledged to the public positively to bring forward their declaratory
resolutions on that day.

" My having made my first application to Lord Charlemont (as
I foresaw it must) gives much offence to the supporters of the late
Government, notwithstanding which I determined to continue my
negotiation with Grattan, in order, if possible, to dissuade him
from bringing forward his resolutions ; he had with great civility
declined meeting me, at least, till after the 16th, and persisted in
his intention of consenting to no adjournment, unless the Duke
of Portland would pledge himself that all the claims of Ireland
should be agreed to : urging, that the question being sure of passing
both Houses unanimously, whatever his confidence might be in
the new Government, he should be responsible to the public should
any of their claims, upon coming into discussion, be afterwards
refused. I complained of the hardship of their giving us no more
confidence than they would have done the last Government had it
continued ; upon this, he said he would consent to waive his reso-
lutions, and throw them into the form of an address, which, he
would send me a copy of, in answer to the message it was sup-
posed the Duke of Portland would bring to the House, and which
he considered as a mode less harsh and offensive to the English
Parliament than the intended resolutions. In the mean time I saw
the Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons, the
former of whom I believe an honest man, but the latter the most
undisguised rogue I ever met with. He is much in the councils
of the popular leaders, and urges them on to every excess of vio-
lence, for the sake of popularity I suppose. This is no small in-
convenience, as, in all the House of Commons business, we cannot
avoid being very much in his hands. I had information from several
quarters, that many supporters of the last Administration were all
this time very busy in endeavoring to indispose the minds of people
towards the new Ministers, and grounded their suspicions of them
on the newspaper representation of your speech, which contained


some exceptional expressions; for the very mention of the words,
supremacy of England, is enough to inflame this country in its pre-
sent ferment. This was the situation of things on Sunday when
the Duke arrived; the time before the meeting being so short, he
determined to converse with and consult as many persons of all
descriptions as possible upon the state of affairs, and the proba-
bility of an adjournment being obtained, and they universally
pronounced it impracticable. Mr. Grattan's address was conceived
in such peremptory terms, and the claims contained in it were so
extensive, that the Duke of Portland very wisely, I think, declined
agreeing to its being moved, and the Provost and Speaker (the
latter of whom I know to have seen and approved of Grrattan's
address, though he pretended to lament extremely its violence)
undertook to draw up another, which should contain the same
substance, but be softer in the expression, and which, if moved by
some person authorized by us, might be preferred to the more
violent one; this they accordingly did ; but as its being moved
on our part would have absolutely pledged the Duke of Portland
to support all the claims contained in it, it was judged more ex-
pedient simply to move a common address in answer to the mes-
sage, and afterwards submit to the torrent of the times ; which
prevented a single man's daring to open his lips against any part
of Grattan's amendment, though not a few, even of the most
independent men, were known to disapprove of parts of it; some
as to the modification of Poynings's law, and still more to the
claim of final judicature. You will see a short account of the
debate pretty accurately drawn up by one of the under secreta-
ries. Debate indeed it can hardly be called, since that implies a
free discussion; and upon this occasion no one man presumed to
call in question a single word advanced by GJ-rattan, and spoke
only to congratulate Ireland on her emancipation, as they called
it, and to load the mover from every quarter of the House with
the grossest and most fulsome adulation. Grattan's speech was
splendid in point of eloquence, all declamation ; very little, and
what there was, weak, argument; his manner, I think, though
certainly very animated, affected to the last degree. Though the


Duke of Portland has been very cautious to keep himself clear
from being considered as pledged in the smallest degree, every
body seems completely happy, and considers the whole matter as

" Upon the whole of this business I see the matter in a gloomy
point of view; you have sent us upon a hopeless errand; for it
was too late even to prevail upon them to consider for a moment
what they were doing, and the real truth is, that there is no
existing government in this country. This is, I firmly believe, in
consequence of Lord Carlisle and Mr. Eden's having, under the
auspices of Lord Hillsborough, conducted the affairs of this king-
dom with no discredit to his Majesty's Government, and with
many increasing advantages to both kingdoms. The House of
Lords have gone through the same ceremony to-day. Charles
Sheridan thinks all this mighty fine, and very promising; so, I
dare say, will his brother; so far, however, I agree with the latter,
that the repeal of the 6th of George I. must absolutely be com-
plied with, right or wrong.

"But what to me appears the worst of all is that, unless the
heat of the volunteers subsides, I dread G-rattan's. For, though
everybody seems to agree that he is honest, I am sure he is an
enthusiast, and impracticable as the most impracticable of our
friends in the Westminster Committee; his situation is enough to
turn the head of any man fond of popular applause, but the bril-
liancy of it can only subsist by carrying points in opposition to
Government ; and though he chose to make a comparison yester-
day between Ireland and America, giving the preference to his
own country, I confess I think the wise, temperate, systematic
conduct of the other, if adopted by Ireland, would bring all these
difiiculties to a very short and happy conclusion, to the satisfac-
tion and advantage of both parties. Lord Shelburne's speech
gives great satisfaction here, and probably if there had been any
chance of soothing this country into moderation, would have done
infinite mischief. It is curious enough that while he is recom-
mending us to support the authority of England more than we


either can or, I think, ought to do, he should be declaring in the
House of Lords that the claims of Ireland must be acceded to.

" You will probably be anxious in England at not having heard
an account sooner, but the Duke of Portland has been writing a

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