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

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preponderated, he soon disapproved the measure of retreat. Burke
and Charles Fox as inconsiderately, and the Cavendishes, though
more decently, as steadily, condemned the Duke's separation from
them. Fox being his Grrace's nephew, the Duke was most
offended with him. I was fortunately one of those evenings with
the Dake when Fox came to expostulate with him. I would have
retired, but the Duke pressed me to stay. Fox was very urgent,
the Duke very firm. I interposed, and told Fox that though I
was persuaded no man in England was so fit to be Minister as
himself, yet I could not but disapprove his, and his friends, dis-
uniting the party, nor thought they had sufficient grounds for
breaking with Lord Shelburne ; I intreated both him and the
Duke to argue without passion, and to remember, that being such
near relations, they must come together again, and therefore I
hoped neither would say what the other could never forgive. I
did prevent any warmth, and they parted civilly, though equally
discontent with each other.'^

" The paucity of followers was a sad lesson to the resigners of
their ill-digested precipitation. Fox grew sensible of it, and con-
fessed it. Richard Fitzpatrick, his friend, and Secretary of Ire-
land, who seconded the admonitions of the Cavendishes to the
Duke of Portland to quit his viceroyalty, as he did, though en-
treated by the new Premier, in the King's name, to retain it —
Fitzpatrick, I say, though his sister was Shelburne's wife, chose to
follow the fortune of his friend rather than of his brother-in-law.
Meeting me at the play, on his return from Ireland, he said to me :
^ I fear you disapprove us, and indeed I do not know whether we
have not been in the wrong.' I replied : ^ Mr. Fitzpatrick, I feel
too much concern to have any room for hlame.'

) ;;


"The point that struck most with the Duke was his cousin and
friend Admiral Keppel, whom the zeal of Lord Rockingham and
the Cavendishes, on his trial, called on to fulfil his debt of grati-
tude. To Lord Shelburne he had had no obligations. To the
Duke of Richmond the same as to the Cavendishes. The Duke did
prevent the Admiral's immediate resignation, but he declared he
meditated it, and did intend it so much, that he satisfied the
Cavendishes ', and they, in their turn, chose to seem satisfied that
by maintaining friendship with him they might preserve opportu-
nities of urging him to resign. This dubious conduct of Keppel
led the Duke to profess the same kind of neutral ambiguity.
Keppel professed to retain the Admiralty but till the peace. The
Duke the Ordnance, till he should complete his reforms. It
would have been improper in Keppel to resign at that moment;
he had sent Admiral Pigot to supersede Lord Rodney, who had
just obtained a great victory. News had come of the Quebec
fleet being taken. Had Keppel retired then, he would have
opened new ways to his enemies of loading him with obloquy, and
given them power to oppress him."

"General Conway was not in the same difficult situation. He
had uniformly on all occasions declared himself of no party, nor
in any opposition but to the American War. He had never en-
gaged in any concert, or councils, with Lord Rockingham; and if
he leaned to any faction by ties, it was to the Duke of Grafton,
who chose him into Parliament, and who adhered to Lord Shel-
burne, and to his son-in-law the Duke of Richmond. He looked
on the resignation of Fox as a violence of faction, which might
impede the peace and restore the old Ministers ; and could have
no idea why the Duke of Portland should be Minister, or why any
man should resign because he was not. Still less did he think
that the government of the army ought to be an instrument of
faction, and, having long determined to confine himself to his pro-
fession, he would not be the tool of intrigues. Fox and Burke
resented his neutrality, and the latter, particularly, ridiculed it in
a speech in the House of Commons, though it was Conway's motion
that gave the first majority to the Opposition. Fox had pro-


nounced a sublime panegyric on the services of Conway, whom he
congratulated as having twice saved the country j jQrst, by moving
the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1765, and recently, by moving to
stop the prosecution of the American War. Conway replied [i. e.
to Burke] with temper, called the House to witness how often he
had disclaimed all factions, and referred to the disinterestedness of
his life for the purity of his intentions and conduct.'^

" But Conway's strongest reason for remaining in office was of
far higher nature than any political ties. Negotiations for peace,
both with France and America, were in agitation: was the con-
sideration whether Portland or Shelburne should be Prime
Minister important enough to cross such urgent objects?"

" In a conversation with Lord J. Cavendish not long afterwards,
I told him frankly that I did rejoice that Mr. Conway had retained
his post. He had pledged himself to the House of Commons and
to the public that America was disposed to make peace with us :
was not his honor then at stake to endeavor to realize his engage-

Walpole relates at some length a curious, and not very credi-
table proposal, made to him by Burke, which, though it has no
immediate connection with Mr. Fox, I cannot help extracting, or
rather abridging from Walpole' s narrative. After Lord J. Caven-
dish had notiJSed his resignation, and within forty-eight hours of
the time at which he was to deliver up the seals of the Exchequer,
Burke, who was only an acquaintance, not an intimate friend of
Walpole, requested him to apply to his brother. Sir Edward (who
was a stranger to Burke, and a warm enemy of his politics), to
resign his place of Clerk of the Pells, worth 7000/. per annum,
in consideration of the full yearly value being secured to him by
Mr. Burke, and of the disposal of a small place then in the younger
Burke's possession. Walpole, after some intercourse and explana-
tion with Burke, and through his son, convinced him that the
proposal (which Walpole terms frantic) was quite inadmissible,
and, though Walpole did not refuse to convey it to Sir Edward,
Burke gave it up. Burke's son "dropped that his father had
always intended to get the office of Clerk of the Pells." This


acknowledgment draws from Walpole some severe but just reflec-
tions on Burke's having omitted that office in the great sinecures
abolished by his bill.*

^' On this change of Ministry, it came out that Lord Shelburne
had obtained a pension of 3100^. for life, for Colonel Barre. Lord
Shelburne had had the address to persuade Lord Rockingham, and
he had had the folly, with Lord J. Cavendish and Frederick Mon-
tague, to pass that grant. It was so offensive, that notice was
immediately taken of it in the House of Commons, where Barre's
defence was still more imprudent than his acceptance of the grant.
He pleaded having lost his commission in the army, for having
opposed the Court from his conscience ; and urged that, had he
remained in the service, he might by that time have been a gene-
ral, and have had a regiment or government equal in value to his
pension. The House accepted that broker-like apology. Lord
North's and Bobinson's pensions had escaped, by the same gene-
ral timidity."

" Scandalous as Barre's case was, I think Dunning's still worse.
He and Barre, the latter indeed more brutally, had declared, on
Burke's reforming bill, for taking away all sinecure patent places,
even from the present possessors, though, as it appeared in 1783,
the lawyers and the whole of the House of Commons, within a
very few, declared that no freehold was or ought to be more
sacred. Dunning, being a lawyer, had less excuse than Barre for
breaking a law which he had himself co-operated in making. Par-
liament had voted abolishment of the Duchy of Lancaster, yet,
besides the peerage. Dunning, by Lord Shelburne's interest, had

' [Such is the account of the strange proposal, given by Walpole, in his
Journal, and faithfully abridged by Lord Holland; but from an original
letter of the younger Burke, which Walpole has left among his papers, it
appears that it was the son, and not the father, for whom the place was
destined, in case Sir Edward Walpole had been prevailed on to resign it.
"Young Bui'ke told me," says Walpole, " his father always intended to get
him the place of Clerk of Pells ; therefore it was omitted in the new Bill
(i. c, Burke's second Reform Bill)." "My father always intended to get
this for me; therefore the Clerk of Pells omitted ; you won't mention this."]

VOL. I. — 30


obtained the Duchy of Lancaster, with a pension of 4000^. a year
for life. It has been not uncustomary to give pensions to eminent
lawyers who accept great offices, to indemnify them for losing the
gains of their profession — but why the abolished Duchy? Was
it not wanton insolence ? Did he not seem, the moment he became
a courtier, to have satisfaction in laughing at his own act of patriot-

^^This effrontery of Shelburne, Barre, and Dunning, and the
rapacious profligacy* of the two latter, was still more cruelly con-
trasted at the end of the year. Shelburne, pretending to pursue
reformation, struck off a parcel of small offices and pensions, that
had been bestowed on old servants and dependents, now grown
old, and incapable of getting their bread; yet Dunning's and
Barre's pensions perhaps wasted more public money than the
salaries of fifty reduced persons would discharge. The whole
scene of reformation was a mummery that at once insulted the
nation, virtue, and charity, and enriched only the principal

" The Rockingham party, in a (cabinet) council of nine, had
proposed to declare America independent, previously to any treaty.
Shelburne objected, and they were divided four and four. Con-
way turned the question in favor of the negative, by representing
that the acknowledgment of independence might be a leading
argument for their making peace with us; but should they refuse
peace, should we not weaken our right of warring on them by
having acknowledged their independence?"

In alluding to these transactions. Lord Shelburne, with some
humor, observed to Mr. Fox, that " that innocent many General
Conway, never perceived that he had the casting-vote of the
Cabinet." Mr. Fox quoted this saying of Lord Shelburne, in
proof of the felicity of expression which, in spite of the incor-
rectness of his language, Lord Shelburne often attained. He

^ Rather hard words these to be used by a man who himself enjoyed
more than one sinecure, and whose relations and friends (Walpoles, Sey-
mours, &c.) had so many thousands of the public money. — V. H.


added another instance of it, wbich marks, at the same time, the
state of the Cabinet in which thej sat and disputed together. "It
was very provoking, I must own, for you,^' said Lord Shelburne
to Mr. Fox, " to see Lord Camden and the Duke of Grafton come
down, with their lounging opinions, to outvote you in Cabi-
net." — V. H.

[At Lord Rockingham's death, there were of the old Whig,
Newcastle, or Rockingham party, five members left in the Cabinet,
viz. : Mr. Fox, Lord John Cavendish, Lord Keppel, General Con-
way, and the Duke of Richmond. Of these, Mr. Fox and Lord
John Cavendish resigned immediately on the appointment of Lord
Shelburne to be the First Commissioner of the Treasury. Lord Kep-
pel considered himself bound to remain in office till the campaign
was at an end, and, in fact, he did not resign till January, 1783.
Conway, who affected to be no party man, retained his situation as
Commander-in-Chief till the dismissal of the Coalition Admi-
nistration. The Duke of Richmond not only continued in office,
but used his utmost endeavors to persuade his friends not to
resign. His motives for this conduct will be found in the extracts
from Walpole's journals, and in the comments of Lord Holland
annexed to them. It cannot be denied that, whatever plausible
reason, or first excuse there may have been for the preference
given to the Duke of Portland over him, the consequences were
most injurious to the Whig party. The defection of a man of
such weight and abilities as the Duke of Richmond, induced or
encouraged others to follow his example, and his firmness during
the memorable contest of 1784 is said to have prevented Mr. Pitt
from following the example of his cousin. Lord Temple, by
resigning in despair. It was on that occasion George III. was
reported to have said, " there was no man in his dominions by
whom he had been so much offended, and no man to whom he was
so much indebted as the Duke of Richmond."]

Immediately, or almost immediately after the nomination of
Lord Shelburne to the Treasury, the following hasty, discursive, and
somewhat disingenuous paper was communicated to Mr. Fox : —

" The question in the present crisis seems to me to be, first^


whether Lord S. is hostilely inclined; that is to say, whether he is
resolved to co-operate with the scheme of Government you have
been so long opposing. If he is, is that system with his assistance,
and all such other aids as late circumstances may have added to
it, strong enough to stand against the strength now in being, or
soon likely to exist, which can be brought against it? If it is, I
see but two lines; one to endure the servitude, and to take in
common with others (since no better can be done) whatever sweets
it may afford; the other (supposing the advantages not to com-
pensate the mortifications, disgraces, and uncertainty, &c.) is mere
despair — to throw up the game, and give all for lost. If, on the
contrary, there is still stuff sufficient, there is hope in the battle.
Another question will be, whether now or hereafter, that is to say,
on a supposition he is an enemy, if the fortress is not inexpugnable,
and you are resolved to fight it out. If you fight now, it must be
by going out, or rather your going out will be the immediate and
inevitable consequence. If, hereafter, you must keep your places
at all events — let what will hajJpen — things go on as they may (for
turn you out they dare not, and certainly will not), till next
session. Then my notion is, that still continuing to be ministerSj
you slioulcl put the whole to issue sturdilt/ and violently in the House
of Commons. Perhaps this is all nonsense. My reasons for
thinking it plausible are, that it is always better to fight on strong
ground — I mean by that, ground of power, or at least the appear-
ance of power. Secondly, it will preclude the disadvantages of
putting people to the trial of giving up their places, by which
means many would act with you when it came to the point, who
would not at this time declare enmity. So far with regard to those
who stand in suspense. Thirdly, with regard to those who will
wish to side with the victors, your going out now must give the
appearance of being beat, which will be ambiguous while you con-
tinue in. Fourthly, if this country is really and to all intents a
monarchy, where everything is decided by the factious manoeuvres
of the closet, you must consider the Parliament as only a sort of
auxiliary to give you the preponderance over your colleagues. I
do not know whether this is taking the matter in a new light. I


rather suspect it is the true one, and that the affairs of this country
must hereafter be regulated upon it.''

This paper is without date or signature, but seems to be in the
handwriting of Mr. Burke. * It is, however, so low in tone, so
obscure in language, and so vague in purpose, as to be very unlike
any composition of Mr. Burke.*

The following, which takes a similar view of the question, and
must have been written before any definitive resolution was adopted,
has the initials E. B. annexed to it.

" The more I think of the matter of our conversation this day,
and the more I tumble it over in discourse with others, the more
fully I am convinced of the utter impossibility of your acting for
any length of time as a clerk in Lord Shelburne's Administration.
If that be the case, the only question upon your staying in will
be, whether office be not the best post to occupy in the war that
must be between you. If you go out now, I hardly think much
can be done until Parliament meets. That must be the seat of
war, and whether your being in, and leaving him to turn you out,
may not be the best course, may admit of a question. To proceed
in this way, however, with a fairness that would, without it, give
a bad or doubtful appearance to your conduct, I would not only
oppose, but propose, and would state the Duke of Portland, or
get a brother Cabinet Councillor to propose yourself. This is al-
ways the best course; for the mere negative to a Minister I never
knew to answer. It gets no party. If your friends will not act
with you, all plans are vain. But if they should, and yet are not
willing at present to retire, it would be fair to tell the King that,
in this instance, you are not willing to throw his affairs into dis-
order, that you cannot confide in Shelburne, and that you remit
the matter to the sense of Parliament, which, in some way, you
are resolved to take as soon as it meets. This is the best trimming
way to proceed in, in order to act openly, and yet not to bring on
a decision, which your friends are not ready for. But none of
these are to be compared to a unanimous and firm decision against
the measure, which must oblige them either to renounce it, or to
form arrangements for which I do by no means conceive them at



present to be ready. But if }^ou do neither the one nor the other
of these things, then you are fairly bullied, and may be obliged
to act a truckling and subservient part to those whom you neither
love nor respect.

" Yours ever,

"E. B."

[The remaining letters, though few in number, are worth inser-
tion. They corroborate and illustrate Mr. Fitzpatrick's narra-


" I have only time to write a line to beg you to come to town
to see the denouement of this farce, whether the title of it ought
to be Les Dupes, or Honesty the icorst Policy, or what I cannot
tell; but the last scene is certainly come.

" Yours affectionately,



''July 3, 1782.
" Dear Brother : —

^' I did not write to you last night because nothing was decided,
neither is there anything absolutely so yet. Whatever is right is
never done, nor will be, in this instance, I am afraid. From the
first moment I saw our heaufrlre I was sure that everything had
been settled in the closet, and that he had the appointment of First
Lord of the Treasury in his pocket. But if it is suffered, there
is certainly a total end of Whig principles, and everything more
in the hands of Satan than ever. Charles is very decidedly of
this opinion, and will move heaven and earth to resist the appoint-
ment ; but the rest of the Cabinet are not equal to take that de-
cisive line of conduct, though, in my opinion, the House of Com-
mons are universally against Shelburne. Charles wishes you


would come to town. Mj intention was to have been at Ampthill
on Friday, and Sunday is the latest I can stay, though I should
wish to see this, which I consider as the last stake, decided before
I go. If they let him have the Treasury in his hands, it must
inevitably be over with them, as a party, and with Charles, and
with the House of Commons, and with everything that is good.
Lord Shelburne has managed the thing skilfully, and made a
speech well adapted to the circumstances of the times to-day.
Adieu. If you do not come to town to-morrow or next day, I will
be with you on Saturday.

" Yours affectionately,

" R. F.

" I am sure Lady 0. will disapprove of the sacrifice of every-
thing that is right to Shelburne House. I have told him my
opinions with great freedom, and he received them. with great good-
humor, kindness, and condescension from so (jreat a man."


''Jidy A, 1782.
" Dear Dick : —

" Last night, I thought everything finally and rightly settled.
This morning, I am again afraid. The Duke of R. [Richmond]
has been with me, and says he thinks Lord S. willing (as I thought
he would be) to give up the point of America. He is now gone
to persuade Lord John to be Secretary of State, in which, if he
succeeds, I shall have a hard task to refuse, but am still of opinion
that even in that case I shall do it. One of the many mischiefs
of all these negotiations is that, when it breaks, it will prevent
such of our friends as differ in opinion with us upon the prudence
of the measure from acting heartily with us hereafter. I wish I
could see you. I shall be about all morning. I did not think it
had been in the power of politics to make me so miserable as
this cursed anxiety and suspense does,

" Yours most affectionately."



«' July 5, 1782.
^^ Dear Brother : —

'■'' I agree with you perfectly, that honesty is the worst policy,
and always was of that opinion. It is that, however, which
Charles has had the magnanimity to adopt, and that in a manner
which all men of real sense and spirit admire, though, perhaps,
few will dare to imitate. The opinions of the public stand thus
upon the question. All persons who have any understanding, and
no office, are of opinion that Charles has done right. All persons
who have little understanding, are frightened. And all persons
who have offices, with some very few brilliant exceptions, think
he has been hasty. I shall stay to-morrow for a meeting of Whigs^
where the Duke of Richmond means to endeavor to persuade others
to keep him in countenance by keeping their places. This will
be no difficult matter, perhaps, but to persuade the Whigs out of
office that the measure is right, will be difficult.

^^ I have been, this evening, with the greatest and most abso-
lute Minister in the world, who is so happy that he cannot conceal
his joy at being ybrce*:/ into his present situation. He is, however,
very good-humored, and very liberal of his offers, I assure you ;
titles, honors, offices, emoluments, all are in his hands. This
world was made for Cassar.

" Adieu, dear brother ; I will dine with you on Sunday, and
shall proceed the next morning.

*' ' Victrix causa Deo placuit sed victa Catoni.'

^^ Yours affectionately,

"R. F."


"Shelbukne House, July 4, 1782.
" My dear Lord : —

"•' The loss of Lord Rockingham, among other consequences,

has occasioned my being called upon to succeed him. You know


me enough to be certain that it is not an event which suits me or
mine. In the situation of public affairs, I do not think myself at
liberty to decline it, and hazard the loss of what we are all engaged
in. I am desirous of getting my own Board filled not merely
with politicians, but friends, and I shall be very happy if you will
add to it the character of a relation.

"Mr. Fox resigned this day, on account of this appointment
not beino; from among the late Lord Rockingham's friends. I do
not find any person has announced a resolution of the same sort,
except Lord J. Cavendish, who was always determined to retire.
I beg to be very affectionately remembered to Lady Ossory, and
am most truly yours,



" My dear Lord : —

"From the moment of the death of poor Lord Rockingham, T
was fearful the consequence would be the dissolution of the new
system. I cannot but truly lament that it has happened. I am
much obliged to you for so early a mark of your attention to me,
but must beg leave to decline your obliging offer. I assure you
it is not from any political motives, not having had any concert
with anybody, or taken any engagement, since this event. I
know how precious your time is ; therefore I shall only add, that
I am,

" My dear Lord,

" Yours, &c.,


I have transcribed these letters, not merely because they relate
to persons nearly connected with my family, but also because they
give a picture of the state of parties and feelings of individuals ;
and above all, show the confidence and friendship which Mr. Fox
inspired in men of understanding, with whom he was in any way

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 31)