Charles James Fox.

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

. (page 27 of 31)
Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

consenting, and on this in accepting anything less than the imme-
diate repeal of the 6th of Greorge I. ; and yet I would not despair
of some middle term being thought of which would answer the pur-
pose, if I was instructed to assure them that the independence of
their legislature would certainly be conceded, that is, supported,
in Parliament by the present Ministry. I had some conversation
with Grattan upon the mode. He was very reasonable, and pro-
fessed the strongest disposition to accommodate, saying that his
7'eason for preferring the Address to resolutions was, that he thought
the Parliament of Ireland less pledged to adherence hy the one than
the other. He also insisted upon the necessity of any concession
on the part of England being considered here as matter of
favor; that it was the duty of this country to consult our honest
pride, and that if the language did not afford words that would
reconcile our feelings to the measures we might think it right to
adopt, in the present crisis, words should be made for the purpose.
He suggested that the preamble of an act for granting the inde-
pendence of the Irish legislature (not absolutely insisting upon


the repeal of 6th of George I., but certainly not pointing out any
mode by way of substitution) might run, '• Whereas it is rightful,'
conceiving that the ambiguous sense of that word might gratify
the feelings of the two countries. Our conference was interrupt-
ed by a foolish ceremony that could not be avoided, and I have not
seen him since till the levee of to-day, when I desired an early
opportunity of renewing the discourse, to which he most readily
assented. I have given you an exact account of the parts of the
conversation which have given rise to my expectations. Fitzpat-
rick thinks they go too far ; but I leave you and our friends to
draw their own inferences. I should myself be fearful of these
effects elsewhere. I will not now detain you any longer ; but I can-
not conclude this letter without expressing to you my most anxious
wishes for a speedy and favorable determination. There is still an
appearance of Government; but if you delay, or refuse to be
liberal, Government cannot exist here in its present form, and the
sooner you recall your Lieutenant, and renounce all claim to this
country, the better; but, on the contrary, if you can bring your
minds to concede largely and handsomely, I am persuaded that
you may make any use of this people, and of everything they are
worth, that you can wish; and in such a moment it will be happy
for them that the Government of England shall be in hands that
will not take undue advantage of their intoxication.

" Ever most sincerely yours, &c.,


[Intelligence having arrived in London that the Irish Parlia-
ment had adjourned on the 4th of May, Mr. Fox wrote to Mr.
Fitzpatrick in better spirits, so far as Irish affairs were concerned.]


"J/a?/ll, 1782.

"We had just made up our minds to bring on the Irish
business in Parliament here, when the Duke of Portland's dis-
patch of the 5th of this month arrived. The news it contained


of adjournment of your Parliament, and the expectation it gave
of another letter soon from the Duke, have induced us to wait till
we hear again from you. I really begin to have hopes that this
business will terminate better than I had expected; and that with
a concession of internal legislation as a preliminary, accompanied
with a modification of Poynings's Law, and of a temporary Mu-
tiny Bill, we may be able to treat of other matters, so amicably,
as to produce an arrangement that will preserve the connection
between the two countries."

Of the further proceedings in Irish affairs, during the remainder
of the summer, there are no documents in the manuscript collec-
tions at Holland House. Suffice it to say, that the act of the 6th
George I., for the better securing the dependency of the kingdom
of Ireland on the Crown of Great Britain, was repealed by the
English Parliament, and with this repeal the Irish people and
Irish Parliament were at first quite satisfied. But doubts having
been started whether claims then abandoned might not be revived,
and Lord Mansfield having decided in the Court of King's Bench
an Irish cause, which had been brought into his Court before the
act of George I. was repealed, all Ireland was again in a flame;
insomuch that in the following year it was thought prudent to
pass a bill renouncing in the most express terms, on the part of
Great Britain, all authority, legislative or judicial, over Ireland.
The following letters from Mr. Yelverton and Mr. Grattan, written
during Lord Shelburne's Ministry, in which frequent allusions are
made to the conduct of Mr. Fox, will show what were the opinions
of the best Irish lawyers and patriots on the necessity of this


'' December Zl, \1%2.
^' Dear Sir : —

"I thank you most sincerely for your kind communication of
what passed in the House of Commons, and for giving me an
opportunity of explaining my sentiments on the subject. Ever
VOL. I. — 28


since you left this kingdom, the doctrine of renunciation has been
gaining ground. Almost all the volunteer corps have declared
either for that or a Bill of Rights, and so have even two or three
county meetings. It was in vain to argue that the national faith
was pledged to the repeal of the 6th George I., and that this had
all the effect of renunciation, if it was not renunciation itself;
for that the 6th Greorge I. was only a judgment pronounced by
England in her own favor, and that the repeal of the act was a
reversal of the judgment. The people did not understand the
subject, and were therefore easily misguided. You know that Mr.
Flood's harangues first led them astray, but Lord Beauchamp's
pamphlet completed the delusion. You cannot conceive what a
mischievous effect that pamphlet produced, particularly in the
north. But, notwithstanding all this clamor, I should have been
of opinion that every attempt to carry the compact between the
two kingdoms one iota beyond the terms agreed upon in the Duke
of Portland's Administration, ought to have been resisted, if Lord
Mansfield's decision, coming at the time it did, had not given a
new turn to affairs. That decision, though in ray opinion no
violation of the compact, is by many of the best affected men in
this country considered as such, and has given very great umbrage,
and even taught many to believe that the late adjustment is
imperfect, and that something is yet wanting to give it security
and force. In order to quiet those jealousies, we could think of
nothing better here, than that some act of your Legislature should
pass, which should have for its avowed object to deprive the
English Courts of the appellate jurisdiction (a measure to which
I am glad to find the Attorney-General sees no objection), and
which should anticipate Lord Beauchamp on the point of renun-
ciation, by reciting in the preamble that the British Parliament
had, by the repeal of the 6th George L, renounced all legislative
and judicial poiuers over Ireland; in short, an act, the preamble
of which should be the declaration of Mr. Fox, and the measure
of the Attorney-General the enacting part ; which should not
introduce renunciations as anything new, but explain it as a thing
already done. If an act of this kind were passed; I have every


reason to believe it would give perfect satisfaction. The people
already begin to expect something to this effect, and to express
their pleasure at the prospect of seeing it accomplished. The
adherents to G-rattan will be pleased with it, because it will prove
the truth of what they have always asserted, that the British
nation was sincere, and that the repeal of the 6th Greorge I. was
intended, and did operate as a renunciation ; and even the disciples
of Flood will not dislike it, because they will claim the credit of
it, though without any just foundation. It will set the good faith
of England in a conspicuous point of view, and at the same time
clap an extinguisher on Irish sedition.

"I agree entirely with the Attorney-General, that the Irish
Act for reforming erroneous judgments and decrees has sufficiently
secured the final judicature to Ireland; because, as he very truly
observed, if a writ of error were to be now brought to remove a
cause into England, the Irish judges would pay no regard to it,
unless it can be presumed that they would act in open defiance of
their own law. And it is also my opinion that Lord Mansfield
was, strictly speaking, justifiable in what he did. The practice of
removing causes from the Court of King's Bench in Ireland to the
Court of King's Bench in England was coeval with the first union
of the two kingdoms under one Sovereign. Before the late ad-
justment took place, an Irish cause had been removed into Eng-
land, pursuant to this ancient practice. The cause was, therefore,
become English; it was a part of the business of Lord Mansfield's
court; it was his duty to dispose of it as such, and no law of ours
could prevent him from doing so. Besides, the whole proceeding
is nugatory. It was so much breath wasted and time misspent ;
for Lord Mansfield's judgment cannot now be received in this
kingdom. But it matters not so much how this proceeding ought
to operate, as how it really does operate. All men are not lawyers.
It is, therefore, generally considered as a breach of English faith
— it certainly has all the appearance of a breach — and if it is not
repaired in some way or other, I fear it will produce all the mis-
chiefs of a real infringement. If the way proposed, or something


like it, be adopted, either Ireland will be happy and contented, or
she does not deserve to be so.

" In the accounts which I have seen of the conversation in the
House of Commons, I do not think anything seems to be mis-
stated, though I presume the accounts are, on the whole, very
imperfect. It gives your friends here great pleasure to find that
you still interest yourself in Irish affairs, and that Mr. Fox, in his
manly and liberal declaration, has done justice to himself and
them. I barely know Mr. Fox's person, and am not at all ac-
quainted with Mr. Burke, but, as I have an ambition to know them
both, I beg you may give my compliments to them, and assure
them of the great respect in which I hold their characters; with-
out concealing from them, however, that I was once jealous of
them for the opinions which I conceived they held upon the affairs
of Ireland, though, I am now happy to find, without any just


"Dublin, January 5, 1783.
" Dear Sir : —

" I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of your letter to the
Attorney- Grcneral. It is fully adequate to the honorable senti-
ments, and agreeable to the private and public faith, which you
have shown in every transaction in which you have been concerned.
Mr. Fox's conduct and declaration I must acknowledge and feel;
they are liberal to Ireland, and just to those lately concerned in
her redemption ; and I must say of the Duke of Portland, and
those connected with him, that there are no hands in which the
government of a country, or the honor of individuals can be more
safely deposited.

*^As to my sentiments, which you are pleased to inquire after,
relative to Irish affairs, they are conformable to Mr. Yelverton's
letter, viz., a bill relative to the Judicature, with a preamble ex-
planatory of the repeal. It occurred to me when I read Lord
Beauchamp's pamphlet, that when his intended bill was rejected,
a resolution might follow, similar to that which we adopted in


Ireland, asserting the independency of the Irish Parliament to
have been already recognized by the repeal, and the question of
legislature settled thereby.

"Lord Mornington and I have had several conversations on
Irish affairs ; he is most fully possessed of my mind on all political
subjects — a great friend of the Duke of Portland's government,
and personally acquainted with, and I believe attached to you. I
shall only add my sincere wishes on every public and personal
consideration for your health, prosperity, and power, and am, dear

"Yery cordicilly, with great respect
"And regard,

" Your most humble servant,



"Dawson Street, February 18, 1783.
" Dear Sir : —

" I most entirely agree with you on the Irish subject, that the
measure to be adopted was, to assert the security of the British
Parliament against clamor. We had done so by resolution in
the Parliament of Ireland, when we rejected Mr. Flood's Bill of
Right. Corresponding measures in Great Britain, had supported
both Parliaments against the growth of demand, had cut up every
road or pretence of doubt. The faith of nations had been vindi-
cated, and those who accused Great Britain of prevarication had
not been encouraged. Y^ith respect to the bill which I under-
stand is brought in by Government, from what I can collect it is
not our idea at all, but does us as great injustice as our merits are
capable of receiving. However, where the substance purports
repeated security to our freedom, I acquiesce in the formation,
however injurious to me.

" I think we had a right to be warranted by the Parliament of
England when we vindicated her sincerity; however, we must
have no personal feelings on the subject. My language to the



Lord-Lieutenant was, ^consult measures, not men; you will do
whatever you think will add to public security or your own ease/
I understand the difficulties to the mode which we desired were
started by Lords Thurlow and Asbhurton. In short, we were in
a situation in which we would not deprecate anything. This was
the idea of Yelverton, myself, and some others.

" I most warmly feel your conduct, and that of Mr. Fox, on
the day of asking leave to introduce the bill. I lament that the
formation of it, and the government of both kingdoms, was not
in both your hands. I think, in that case, the confidence we
placed in the sincerity of the Parliament of England had been
justified and encouraged.

"I should have answered your letter before, but, by an accident,
did not receive it until the other day. I request to be remem-
bered to Mr. Fox ; and believe me to be, with great sincerity, high
esteem, and respect,

" Your most faithful, humble servant,


"It is reported here that the Opposition in England are be-
come strong, and that Mr. Fox will come into power. If so, it
is not too late ; amend the Irish bill according to your own idea.^'

[Before quitting the subject of Irish politics during the Rock-
ingham Administration, it may not be improper to notice a sug-
gestion made to the Duke of Portland, of obtaining from the
Irish Parliament an acknowledgment of the " supremacy of
Great Britain in all matters of state and general commerce."
This project was devised by Mr. Ogilvie, husband of the Duchess
Dowager of Leinster ; communicated by him to the Duke of
Portland, as a measure in. which the leading Irish politicians
might be induced to concur ; eagerly embraced by the Duke ; and
conveyed by him to Lord Shelburne, who, in the absence of his
colleagues, expressed his own satisfaction with the plan. The
scheme, however, turned out to be a mere vision of Mr. Ogilvie's;
and it would not deserve to be noticed at all, if it had not been


"brought forward by Mr. Pitt, in 1799, as one of his proofs that
the Irish settlement of 1782 was not considered as a final measure,
even by its authors. The correspondence on this suggestion by
Mr. Ogilvie, was read by Mr. Pitt in the House of Commons,*
and has been republished by Mr. Henry Grattan, in his Memoirs
of his father.'' Mr. Grattan has also reprinted a private letter
from Mr. Fitzpatrick to his father, in 1800, giving a history of
the transaction, obtained from Mr. Ogilvie ; but having omitted
his father's reply, it is here subjoined, as not only most character-
istic of that most eminent and excellent man, but expressive of
his favorable recollections of the fair and open conduct of Mr.
Fox in 1782.]


'' February U, [1800].

^^ Dear Sir : —

^' Your letter of the 28th I did not get till this moment. Being
directed to me as ' Right Honorable,' the Post-Office affected not
to know me, and the letter remained either there or at the Parlia-
ment House, and came to me this morning with an inscription,
^ not known.' I am vexed at not having received it before, be-
cause I must have appeared to you dilatory and improper, in not
giving it an immediate answer. I am excessively glad to find
that you and I entirely concur upon the subject of the Duke of
Portland's dispatch. When Mr. Pitt stated it, I was not able to
read, and nobody was suffered to speak to me on the subject of
public matters. I heard of it after, and had a conversation re-
garding it with Mr. Fox, who said he believed it a sudden idea of
the Duke of Portland's, adopted without communication or con-
sult, and as suddenly dropped. I never saw the Duke's dispatch ;
but, understanding that he had mentioned a communication with
somebody in Ireland on the subject of it, I had a curiosity to
inquire^ and found, to my astonishment, that it was Mr. Ogilvie.

' Hansard's Debates, xxxiv. 977-982.
2 Memoirs of Henry Grattan, ii. 284-291.


I was not at that time acquainted with Mr. Ogilvie, at least, to
the best of my recollection. However, an event of so unim-
portant a nature as my first acquaintance with him, I may not
accurately retain in my memory ; but this I accurately remember,
that I never permitted myself to be approached by Mr. Ogilvie in
the character of a statesman. I have not the least recollection of
the transaction he states ; but this I know positively, that neither
Lord Charlemont nor myself would have communicated with Mr.
Ogilvie upon any public business confidentially — least of all, on
that which the dispatch refers to. Had the measure been of no
consequence, and had we been disposed to it, it was not through
such a man as Mr. Ogilvie we should have communicated our sen-
timents to the Lord-Lieutenant. In short, we would not have
talked seriously with Mr. Ogilvie upon any political subject. He
was not a member of Parliament; he was not a politician; he was
not an L-ishman ; and he was an entire stranger to me, and, I
believe, to my Lord Charlemont.

'^ Mr. Ogilvie, as the husband of the Duchess of Leinster, was
entitled to respect ; but, as a statesman, would have exposed him-
self to much ridicule, and would have exposed any public measure
and those who communicated with liim. If, therefore, he at that
time brought such a proposal, which I have not the least recol-
lection of, we must have marvelled at his presumption, and
laughed at his project. I remember, afterwards, in ^85, at the
time of the propositions, to have had some political communica-
tions with him, in common with others of the Opposition, which
was at that time very general and numerous. He was at that
time in Parliament, in Opposition, and a partisan, v/ho wrote a
pamphlet. I recollect, afterwards, I think it was in the year ^87,
being visited by Mr. Ogilvie, upon his going to England. He
came to me, and wished to have my sentiments touching a new
Irish Administration, which he imagined at that time he might
be able to form, upon seeing his friends in England ; and I shall
never forget a very obliging and liberal olfer which he made me
at that time,. namely, the place of Chancellor of the Exchequer,
and this of his own mere motion, without any authority whatso-


ever from any persons in power. At first, I laughed at the con-
versation with as much civility as I could, wishing to put an end
to such senseless importunity ; but, recollecting immediately that
he might go to England, and state that I had tolerated his over-
tures, I told him explicitly that I would take no office under the
Crown, being paid by the people. His solution was prompt and
ingenious. ^ You may take the office, and the salary you may
give to your clerk, which I am ready to be.' These are the only
political communications I ever recollect to have had with this
enlightened statesman ; and, from the nature of them, you may
see how far he was authorized to undertake, or to say anything for
my Lord Charlemont or myself, on the subject of the dispatch by
the Duke of Portland, in which the Duke was totally unauthorized,
most lamentably weak, and appears to be a poor conspirator
against his own measures and against his own Cabinet, in con-
junction with a gentleman who would have given an air of ridi-
cule to any measure, and who appears to have been employed to
negotiate a business which would have damned the first character
in this kingdom.

" I perfectly recollect the conversation you state to have taken
place in the House of Commons between you and Mr. Flood, and
the very fair and honorable part which you took through the
whole of that business; and, however English Cabinets- and
English Secretaries have sometimes been disingenuous to Ireland,
I feel a pleasing recollection, even now, that there were two with
whom I was connected, you and Mr. Fox, in whose open dealing
our country and all her friends might repose entire confidence.

"Perhaps I shall see you once more. If so, I shall rejoicej
if not, I shall always remember you with affection. Eemember
me to Mr. Fox; tell him I did not stay a moment in London,
otherwise I should have gone to see him. I am glad to find that
he is so much recovered from that terrible accident.

" The Union I fear will be carried. If it be, it is because the
Government will have bought the Parliament, and dragooned the
people. I think it will prove ultimately bad for both kingdoms;
for it will not be an union of affection nor of honor, but of hatred


and contempt, perfidy and meanness. I thought it better, not-
withstanding the infirmity of my head, and my inability to enter
into any House of Commons contest, to make an efi'ort, and bear
my last testimony for the constitution of '82. I find myself
better, but am not yet able to write, and therefore I have gotten
a gentleman to write this for me. I conclude by assuring you
how sincerely

" I am yours,


" I am not certain whether we did not dine together at Mr.
Ogilvie's in '82; if so, I must have known him at that time; but
you will recollect we were then in power, and more likely to be
invited by persons we were scarcely acquainted with."

[Mr. Fitzpatrick had previously communicated with Mr. Fox,
and had received from him the following account of his recollec-
tions of what had passed on this subject in 1782; from which it
will be seen that whatever hopes might have been at one time
entertained of establishino- the connection between the two kino;-
doms on a more solid and permanent basis than was effected by
the settlement of 1782, these hopes were speedily extinguished,
and the measures that might have been founded on them entirely

''February 19, 1799.

" Dear Dick : —

"Before I received your letter, the debate between you and Pitt
had led me to recollect as much as I could of what passed in 1782 ;
and the contents of the Duke of Portland's private letter are not
very diiferent from what I guessed them to be; only as it was a
private letter, I should have thought it more likely to have been
addressed to Lord Rockingham, or to me, than to Lansdowne.
The date of it being anterior to your answer to Flood, in my
opinion, sets all right; for I well remember that those hopes, held
out by the Duke of Portland, vanished almost as soon as they
were communicated, and possibly even before he had an oppor-
tunity of conversing with you about them, certainly many days


before jour debate with Flood; for if the Duke of Portland would
answer truly, I am sure he would say that twenty-four hours, or,
as I believe, much fewer, were the term of their duration. Ogilvie
was the channel through which they were communicated to him,
whose officiousness probably made him act without any authority;
and, if I remember right, the Dulie of Portland's letter was written

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 31)