Charles James Fox.

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

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my dear Richard.

*^ P. S. I hear the stage in England is worse than ever. Re-
member me to your brother. I hope the report of his being to
be made a peer is true."


" From the time that I left you, dear Richard, at Ahuacks,
(For which I have no rhyme but the okl one of Calmucks, )
I slept while I came a confounded slow pace,
Till at last I arrived about eight at this place.
From hence we are now just about to embark,
And hope to reach Calais before it is dark ;
I begin, I can tell you, already to curse
The engagements I made to write always in verse.
For the Muses are coy, and the more that I woo 'em
The more difficult 'tis, as I find, to get to 'em ;
They are whimsical women, but spite of their malice
I will send you a letter to-morrow from Calais."


" My stay at Geneva was short. I was then travelling with
Charles Fox, who wrote to Yoltaire to beg he would allow us to
come. He very civilly answered, the name of Fox was sufficient,
though he received hardly any visitors, et que nous venions pour
I'interrcr. He did not ask us to dine with him, but conversed a
short time, walking backward and forward in his garden, gave us
some chocolate, and dismissed us. I am sorry to give you so mea-
gre an account, but all I can recollect of his conversation, and
that a mere nothing, is that, after giving us a list of some of his
works, which he thought might open our minds, and free them
from any religious prejudices, he said, ' voila des livres dont il
faut se munir.' "




[For the second of the periods into which these collections
are divided, some of the materials are derived from the manu-
script memoirs and journals of Horace "Walpole. These papers,]
" the property of Lord "VValdegrave, were lent to me," says Lord
Holland, ^^and have been long in my possession. I copy, as
permitted by Lord Waldegrave, all relating to Mr. Charles Fox
from them." The memoirs extend through the years 1768,
1769 [1770 and 1771, after which the manuscript collections of
Mr. Walpole are continued under the title of journals].

[Extracts from the Walpole papers have generally the initials
'^ H. W." at the foot of each paragraph, and where the words
are copied verbatim they are printed within inverted commas.
Extracts from other journals and correspondence, and observa-
tions by Lord Holland, have no distinctive marks annexed to
them. The additions of Mr. Allen are, as usual, within brack-

[Lord Holland had copied into his original collections every
syllable written by Horace Walpole, after the commencement of
1768, that related to his uncle, or to his grandfather, and
wherever he found charges and insinuations against them, which,
in his opinion, were malignant and unfounded, he has subjoined
such answers as his knowledge of the transactions enabled him to
'give. It has been thought unnecessary to include in the present
collection the whole of these passages. It is impossible not to be
sensible of the valuable services which Mr. Walpole's sprightly
correspondence and labored memoirs have rendered to the history


of the last century, both in respect to the manners of the age
and to the political intrigues of the times. But no man is less
to be trusted than Mr. Walpole, when he either praises a friend
or abuses an enemy. He was a gossip, credulous and spiteful.
He relates every story he hears, and, without examining into its
truth, explains it as best suits his prejudices of the moment.
With the first Lord Holland, as the last eminent survivor of
those who had adhered to his father, he was for many years on
the most intimate and friendly terms. But having betrayed, as
he relates and justifies in his published memoirs, the confidence
reposed in him by Mr. Fox at a very important crisis, their con-
fidential intercourse had ceased, and it is manifest that, being no
longer trusted by him, he is consequently often mistaken in the
motives he assigns for his conduct. In October, 1762, Mr. Fox
had been prevailed upon to undertake the defence of the peace
with France, for which Mr. Grenville was thought inadequate ;
and, in the execution of that task, he had recommended and pur-
sued a system of intimidation, if not persecution, alike repug-
nant to his own nature and to the practice of the English govern-
ment for the last forty years, but necessary in his opinion to
break the formidable aristocracy which had ruled the kingdom
during that period.^ In consequence of this change in his politi-
cal system and connections. Lord Holland, as he soon after be-
came, forfeited the friendship of the Duke of Cumberland, his
early patron, and separated from his old friend, the Duke of
Devonshire, and the other leaders of the Whig party. Horace
Walpole sympathized with many who, he thought, had sufi'ered
unjustly from this persecution ; and though Lord Holland, on the
resignation of Lord Bute, withdrew from any active part in pub-
lic affairs, what had been done inflamed Mr. Walpole with re-
sentment, and made him ever after the bitter enemy of Lord
Holland. Whatever rumors he heard, whatever gossip reached

^ [It was said on this occasion, in allusion to the Duke of Newcastle's
exertions in favor of the Hanover succession, that Lord Bute had turned
out every man brought in by his Grace except the King.] — J. A.

VOL. I. — 6


his ears^ to the prejudice of any member of the Fox family, he
seized on with avidity, committed to paper without hesitation,
and, without revision or subsequent correction, bequeathed as
historical facts to posterity. Much caution and reserve are,
therefore, necessary in quoting from his works, where Lord Hol-
land or his sons are concerned. When he speaks with admira-
tion of the precocious talents of Mr. Fox, his testimony may be
credited, because his political partialities, as well as his personal
prejudices, were all the other way. Where he paints his dissi-
pation and enlarges on his extravagance, the tales he relates are
worth preserving, as consonant to general tradition, and conform-
able to what has been handed to us of the manners and character
of the age. But the false coloring, and misrepresentation of
facts, with which he gives pungency to his narrative, it would be
idle to repeat for the mere purpose of exposing and refuting

Mr. Fox was returned for Midhurst in the parliament which
met on the 10th May, 1768. He was then only nineteen years
and four months old. He sat and spoke before he was of age.


[x\s he was absent from England when the Parliament met,
he did not take his seat till the second session, which began in
the following November. His first speech appears, from Sir
Henry Cavendish's debates, to have been made on the 9th March,
1769, when he was little more than twenty years old. He spoke
again on the 14th April, and a third time on the 8th May.^ His

■ I have in my possession a sii^gular proof of the figure and impression
Mr. Fox made on his first appearance as an orator. A young artist, and,
I believe, a reporter of debates, a Mr. Surtees, of Maniforth, in the county
of Durham, happened to be in the gallery when he first spoke. At that
period no stranger was allowed to make notes, or take any paper or note-
book into the gallery for that purpose. But this gentleman, struck with
the appearance of the youthful orator, tore off part of his shirt, and
sketched on it, with a pencil or burnt stick, a likeness of him, which he
afterwards tried to finish at his lodgings, and which, owing to the care of


first speech seems to have been nothing more than a few words
on a point of order ; his second was in support of the expulsion
of Wilkes ; his third on the petition against the return of Colonel
Luttrel for Middlesex ; the two last on the side of government.
None of these speeches are reported well or at length, but they
seem to have made a favorable impression on his audience.]
Horace "Walpole alludes in terms of qualified praise to the second,
in his account of the debates of the 14th and 15th April, which,
as usual, he jumbles together and confounds in one. ^'Norton,
Lord North, and the Attorney-General De Gray, spoke firmly for
Luttrel. Stephen Fox indecently and indiscreetly said, ' Wilkes
had been chosen by the scum of the earth,' an expression after
retorted on his family, his grandfather's birth being of the lowest
obscurity. Young Payne (Sir Ralph), in a pompous oration,
abused the supporters of the Bill of Rights, protesting on his
honor that his speech was not premeditated, but, forgetting part,
he inadvertently pulled it out of his pocket in writing. Charles
Fox, with infinite superiority in parts, was not inferior to his
brother in insolence.'' — H. w.

[To this speech, his father, Lord Holland, alludes in a letter
to Mr. Campbell of Cawdor, with the partiality perhaps of a
parent, but which the extorted praise of Horace Walpole goes
far to justify, " I am told that few in Parliament ever spoke bet-
ter than Charles did on Tuesday — off-hand — with rapidity, with
spirit, and such knowledge of what he was talking of as surprised
everybody in so young a man. If you think this vanity, I am
sure you will forgive it."] [Of his speech of the 8th May there
is a short notice in a letter from Sir Richard Heron to Sir Charles
Bunbury, who was then at Paris, dated 9th May, 1769 :] " I
shall be happy to see you returned to your country, and assisting
it in the Senate. Mr. Charles Fox, who I suppose was your
school-fellow, and who is but twenty, made a great figure in the
debate last night upon the petition of the Middlesex freeholders.

Mr. Sharpe and kindness of Mr. Fletcher, is still preserved in my posses-
sion at Holland House, retaining many traits of resemblance to the dark,
intelligent, and animated features of Mr. Fox. — V. H.


He spoke witli great spirit, in very parliamentary language, and
entered very deeply into the question on constitutional principles/^
'^Charles Fox/^ says Horace Walpole, in his account of this de-
hate, " not yet twenty-one, answered Burke with great quickness
and parts, but with confidence equally premature." [Of the
whole debate on the 8th May and of the state of parties at that
period, as they appeared to Lord Holland, there is preserved an
interesting account in another letter of his to Mr. Campbell of


" 3Iai/ 11, 1769.

'' Dear Sir : —

"I delayed thanking you for your kind letter of April 27 till the
Parliament should be up, which it was on Tuesday, after a debate
of Monday till two o'clock on Tuesday morning, in which I am
told (and I willingly believe it) Charles Fox spoke extremely well.
It was all oif-hand, all argumentative, in reply to Mr. Burke and
Mr. Wedderburne, and excessively well indeed. I hear it spoke
of by everybody as a most extraordinary thing, and I am, you
see, not a little pleased with it. My son Ste spoke too, and (as
they say he always does) very short and to the purpose. They
neither of them aim at oratory, make apologies, or speak of them-
selves, but go directly to the purpose, so I do not doubt they will
continue speakers; but I am told Charles can never make a bet-
ter speech than he did on Monday. I send you a list of the
speakers and the members.^ I hear Norton's speech was the
best that ever was made, and convincing to the last degree. Lord
Temple and Lord Shelburne, Gr. Grenville, Lord Rockingham
and Lord Lyttleton, notwithstanding all their disagreements, are
now thoroughly united to carry on the wicked work they have
been always engaged in when they have not been in place, and
dined together with the minority on Tuesday at the Thatched

1 [The names of the speakers and members agree "with the account in
Sir H. CaYendish's Debates, and need not therefore be inserted.]


House, invited by Mr. Dowdeswell when they were all in the

''The King was extremely insulted when he went to the
House, which I should hope might make him less unconcerned
than he seems to be. He carries himself so it is hard to know
whether he is concerned or not. A lord who is near him told
me, that after the great riot at St. James's, or rather in the
midst of it, when he came out to the levee, you could not find
out, either in his countenance or his conversation, that every-
thing was not quiet as usual. My notion of the mob is, that it
is hired by French money, that D'Eon is a distributor of it, and
that Lord Temple and Lord Shelburne encourage it.

''You are mistaken in thinking I could be of service if I was
consulted, for I really cannot foresee the consequences nor the
design of what they are about, and should therefore not know
what to advise.

" Mr. Wilkes has quarrelled with his friends, because, he says,
they divert the attention of the public from him. They do so,
and I believe he is near meeting with his reward — a just contempt
as well as abhorrence. But the spirit of disorder, licentiousness,
and faction still continues, and whether it will be better or worse
for not flowing from Mr. Wilkes's direction, I can't tell. You
must observe I don't mention Lord Chatham. Nobody does
now, and that is a step, as far as it goes, to your more favorable
opinion of him. I believe Lord Temple has been telling lies
these three months, and, no longer ago than last Sunday, assured
several people that Lord Chatham had prevailed to have the
prorogation of Parliament put off for three or four days, and
would come down and speak ; whereas the poor man has all the
time been confined to his room, if not to his bed. If I knew
nothing of Lord Temple but this profligate and scandalous lying
disposition, I should hate him as I do.

"Except two or three days that I shall go to Kingsgate, I
shall be to be found here, and never so happy as when found by
you. You may then tell my sons what they desired me to ask
you, whether you cared about the Pembrokeshire petition, and



wliat part you would have them to take in it. Did they get any
instructions from Pembrokeshire at last? which I see is asserted
in the newspapers. If they did not, I think the sheriff should
advertise the fjilsity of it.

^'Ever, dear Sir,

^' Yours, most obliged and

'^Most affectionate,
(Signed) ''HOLLAND."^

When Mr. Fox was chosen for Midhurst, and during the
whole of the ensuing session of 1768 and 1769, the Duke of
Grafton was minister ; but even during the early part of that
period, although Lord Chatham was nominally his colleague, he
had ceased to attend the cabinets, or even to communicate his
view of public matters to the Duke of Grafton, who was embar-
rassed for want of his counsels, and alarmed at the absence of
his support, and consequently obliged to look for assistance else-
where, especially as the affair of Wilkes and the Middlesex elec-
tion grew daily more perplexing and unpopular. He got more
and more connected with the Bedfords, and was openly supported,
especially in the business of Wilkes, by the family, friends, and
followers of Lord Holland. On the 12th of October, 1768,
Lord Chatham wrote to the [Duke of Grafton, imploring his
Majesty's permission to resign the Privy Seal on the score of
health, expressing at the same time his resentment at the usage
received by his friends Sir Jeffrey Amherst and Lord Shelburne.
With much reluctance and after a fruitless attempt from the
King to prevail on him to withdraw his resignation, to which he
replied by reiterating his supplication to be allowed to resign,
his request was complied with.] He then resigned, and Lord
Shelburne, to avoid dismission, says Horace Walpole, followed
him. Lord Camden, Lord Chatham's friend, remained Chancel-
lor; and Lord Bristol, reputed so hitherto, was appointed Privy

^ The letter is signed by Lord Holland, but written, as all or most of
his. are in 17C9, in another hand.


Seal ; and Lord Rocliford Secretary of State. Lord Chatliam
was soon after, through the means, says "VValpole, of Calcraft,
reconciled to Lord Temple and Mr. Grenville, and in opposition.
Such was the state of parties when Mr. Fox first entered Par-
liament and took a part in the debates. — v. H.

I am not sure through what interest Lord Holland bought, as
I am confident he must have done, the seat at Midhurst. But
Mr. Fox came in for that borough, no doubt, in the character of
a supporter of Grovernment, and his father was throughout 1768
and 1769, not only on the side of Government, but a bitter and
eager opponent of Mr. Wilkes, as may be inferred from the votes
of his sons and from his own private letters.

[Among many letters indicating the political tendency of Lord
Holland's opinions at this period, the following extract from one
of his letters to Mr. Campbell of Cawdor deserves insertion. It
shows under what political impressions Mr. Fox made his entrance
into public life, and it is curious, besides, as a just tribute to
Lord Chatham from his old political rival and opponent. It was
written from Nice, on the 20th of April, 1768, at the time when
the return of Mr. Wilkes from exile had been followed by his
first election for Middlesex.] — " Irresolution," Lord Holland ob-
serves, " has been a general fault, and is surely a most fatal
weakness. I think Pitt almost the only man that I have seen
in power, who had not that faulty though he had many otliers, ;
for which reason I wish he were again well, and for the first
time in my life, should be glad to see him at the head of every-
thing, undertaking to stem that torrent which he has so long and
so much contributed to swell.'^ [Pitt did get well, but he took
a part directly opposite to that which Lord Holland seems to have

[Lord Holland and his sons took a warm and active part in
support of Colonel Luttrel. Stephen Fox proposed him on the
hustings, and at Holland House a great breakfast had been pre-
pared for the troop of gentlemen who were to have escorted him
to Brentford ; but a mob that assembled before his father. Lord
Irnham's door, compelled these gallants to disperse and make


their escape, as tliey could, by breaking an opening through the
garden-wall behind the house. This prominent and undisguised
opposition to their idol exasperated the city and the populace
against Lord Holland and his family. Petitions and denuncia-
tions from the Middlesex electors, letters and speeches from the
Lord Mayor and Alderman Beckford, threats from the Livery,
and instructions given to their representatives to institute a par-
liamentary inquiry into the conduct of Lord Holland, and, if
matter was found, to impeach him, followed in succession, but,
as Horace Walpole^ concludes his account of these transactions,
"it came to nothing,'' and their silence cleared him.]

[On the 9th of October following. Lord and Lady Holland,
with their sons, Charles and Henry, went abroad with Lady Cecilia
Lennox (Lady Holland's sister), who had been ordered to the
continent for her health. She was unable to proceed farther
south than Paris, where she died on the 13 th of November. The
rest of the party remained at Paris till the end of the year, when
Charles and Henry returned to England, and Lord and Lady
Holland went on to Nice. During his stay at Paris, Mr. Fox
made himself remarked for his losses at play. His mother
appears, from her correspondence, to have been elated with the
fashionable society in which he lived, but if Madame Du Deffand^
does not exaggerate, he paid well for it.]


[Mr. Crawford, who accompanied Mr. Fox and his brother on
their return from Paris in January, 1770, told Lord Holland, in
1813, that] " they arrived in London the night before Parliament
met, that Mr. Fox sat up all night at the Star and Garter, and
made his maiden speech next day in answer to Sir George Saville."
[That the speech he made on his return from Paris with Mr.
Crawford, was not his maiden speech, has been already shown.
On the debate of the 9 th of January (which must be the one

' MS. Memoirs.

2 Letters to Horace Walpole, 10th and 26tli December, 1 7G9.


meant by Mr. Crawford)], Walpole says, that after Conway had
answered Sir George Saville with wisdom and temper, '' though
Charles Fox replied (to Saville that is) with much applauded fire,
moderation had made its impression." — h. w.

" On the debate of the 25th of January ,^^ says "Walpole,
^' young Charles Fox, of age the day before, started up and
entirely confuted Wedderburne even in law, producing a case
decided in the courts below but the last year, and exactly similar
to that of Wilkes. The court, he said, had had no precedent, but
had gone on analogy. The house roared with applauseJ^ — li. w.
[In the following month,^ Mr. Fox was appointed one of the
Lords of the Admiralty. At the time of his admission to office,
the contest between the party styling themselves the King's
friends, and the survivors of those ministers who had governed
the country in the latter years of G-eorge II., still raged with
violence, though it was fast drawing to a close. It had subsisted
during the administrations of Lord Bute, George Grenville, Lord
Rockingham, and Lord Chatham, without any decisive victory
on either side. Lord Chatham had entered on his second admin-
istration with every advantage he could desire.^ Selected by the
King in preference to Lord Rockingham and Mr. Grenville —
idolized by the people, who recollected with pride and exultation
the glories of his first administration — feared by the House of
Bourbon, which, in all its branches, trembled at his name — he
had the imprudence to sacrifice his popularity and station in the
country for a peerage, to ofi'end by his haughtiness and caprice
the Whig aristocracy, without whom he was unable to form a
stable government that could keep his enemies in awe — and,
lastly, from bad health and waywardness of temper,^ he abandoned
the motley administration he had formed to the Duke of Grafton
and Charles Townshend. In vain the Duke of Grafton applied
to him for assistance and advice. In vain the King urged him

1 February 24th.

2 July, 1766.

3 From bad health, as it now appears, aiFecting his mind as well as his
body. — See Lord Mahou, vol. v. and vi. — J. K..


■with earnestness; and with every appearance of sincerity, to un-
dertake the direction of affairs. In his replies to the King he
was humble and submissive in language, adulatory and even
abject in his professions of personal regard and gratitude for his
Majesty's condescension, but positive in his refusal to engage in
business, for which his health, he alleged, rendered him utterly
incapable. Once or twice he admitted the Duke of Grafton into
his presence, but declined to converse with him on public affairs.
When this farce had continued more than a year and a half, the
Duke of Grafton, who had been relieved by death from the levity,
versatility, and indiscretion of Charles Townshend,^ formed a
coalition with the partisans of the Duke of Bedford, and appointed
Lord North his Chancellor of the Exchequer.^ Lord Chatham
remained in seclusion and retirement, nominally in office, but
unable or unwilling to execute even the slight duties attached to
the Privy Seal.]

[The minister, strengthened by the accession of the Bedford
party, and hopeless of further aid from Lord Chatham, began to
view the private friends Lord Chatham had introduced into office
as persons that might be got rid of whenever it suited his con-
venience. Lord Bristol had retired from Ireland f Sir Jeffrey
Amherst was removed from Virginia ; Lord Shelburne, after
submitting to have his department curtailed by the appointment
of a colonial secretary, found himself slighted, his nominations
thwarted, and himself threatened with dismissal. Boused by
these marks of disrespect. Lord Chatham resigned,'* and in the
month following his resignation he became reconciled to his
brothers-in-law, Lord Temple and Mr. George Grenville, both of
whom were in flaming opposition to the Government he had
quitted. The session of Parliament that followed was marked
by the repeated expulsions of Wilkes, and the outrageous reso-
lution of the Commons that his competitor Luttrel was duly
elected member for Middlesex. Lord Chatham was silent and

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 31)