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

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after our armies had been defeated, the concession was useless
and insufficient.

Such, then, was the period when Mr. Fox was dismissed from
office ; and it is impossible not to agree with Lord Holland that
it was fortunate for his character and reputation that he could
oppose the American war, and the measures connected with it,
without any deviation from consistency.

Mr. Fox was at this time twenty-five years old ; well instructed
in poetry, ancient and modern, in history, and in the constitution
of his country. One blot alone weakened his influence, absorbed
his time, and ruined his fortune. His passion for gaming had at
this early age involved him in debt to an enormous amount. His
mind was greatly distressed by this burthen, and he was propor-
tionably happy when his father relieved him by paying £140,000
out of his own property. It is stated by Gibbon that on one
occasion he sat playing at hazard for twenty-two hours in succes-
sion; at that sitting he lost £11,000. Often must he afterwards
have said with Mirabeau, ^^Ali! que V immoralite de ma Jeunesse
a fait de tort a la chose piibliquer' In one of the debates on
the militia in November, 1775, " Charles Fox saying it was not
fit to be trusted in hands who could petition the King for pushing
the war against America, Mr. Acland, his cousin, a hot Tory, re-
sented it and said, ' It was fitter in their hands than in those of
men who had ruined themselves by the most scandalous vices.'
This personality, unprovoked by any, gave offence. Fox replied
he confessed his errors, and wished he could atone for them.''^

In 1774 the breach between the mother country and the colo-
nies was not irreparable. It is true there was a party which
sought independence, but that party was yet small, and only
gathered strength from the faults of the British Grovernment. —
We might disregard the expressions of Franklin, who was not a
very sincere or upright man ; but Washington, a witness above
all exception, writes thus to a captain in the British army, sta-
tioned this year at Boston : —

^ Horace Walpole.


'^ Although you are taught to believe that the people of Mas.
sachusetts are rebellious, setting up for independency, and what
not, give me leave, my good friend, to tell you that you are
abused, grossly abused. This I advance with a degree of confi-
dence and boldness which may claim your belief, having better
opportunities of knowing the real sentiments of the people you
are among, from the leaders of them, in opposition to the present
measures of administration, than you have from those whose
business it is, not to disclose truths, but to misrepresent facts, in
order to justify, as much as possible, to the world their own
conduct. Give me leave to add, and I think I can announce it
as a fact, that it is not the wish or interest of that government,
or any other upon this continent, separately or collectively, to set
up for independence ; but this you may at the same time rely on,
that none of them will ever submit to the loss of those valuable
rights and privileges which are essential to the happiness of every
free state, and without which life, liberty, and property are ren-
dered totally insecure/^*

The King was, from the commencement to the end, indignant
at the resistance of the Americans, and fearful of the dismem-
berment of his kingdom. At the same time, he would not seek
for advice which might prove unpalatable. He sincerely hated
the politics of the Whig party, and was provoked at the conduct
of Lord Chatham.^

^ Sparks's Life of Washington, vol. i., p. 130.

2 "In August, 1775, the King wi'ites thus of Lord Chatham: 'The
making Lord Chatham's family suffer for the conduct of their father is
not in the least agreeable to my sentiments. But I should choose to know
him to be totally unable to appear on the public stage before I agree to
any offer of that kind, lest it should be wi'ongly construed as fear of him ;
and indeed his political conduct the last winter ivas so abandoned that he
must, in the eyes of the dispassionate, have totally undone all the merit
of his former conduct. As to any gratitude to be expected from him or
his family, the whole tenor of their lives has shovs^n them void of that
most honorable sentiment. But when decrepitude or death puts an end
to him as a trumpet of sedition, I shall make no difficulty in placing the
second son's name instead of his father's, and making his pension 3000Z.' "
— North Papers.


Lord Nortli^ with all his Tory jDrinciples and predilections,
saw the folly of an obstinate refusal of concessions to America
— but unfortunately his concessions were always some years too
late ; he perceived, likewise, the weakness of his own adminis-
tration, but he could not withstand the desires and almost entreat-
ies of the King, that he would remain in office.

Lord Chatham, in spite of his own experience, his success in
1759, when he governed with the Whig party, and his failure in
1767, when he attempted to govern without them, still clung, in
spite of uncertain health, and the small number of his followers,
to the notion of being sole Minister, supported by the King and
the country. Thus, in the end of the year 1774, Burke writes
to Lord Rockingham : " One cannot help feeling for the unhappy
situation in which we stand from our own unhappy divisions.
Lord Chatham shows a disposition to come near you, but with
those resources (query reserves), which he never fails to have, as
long as he thinks that the closet door stands ajar to receive him.
The least peep into that closet intoxicates him, and will to the
end of his life."^ In this spirit he spoke when he called upon
Lord Rockingham in the beginning of January : " Lord Chat-
ham, in point of looks, is very well, and in the extent of our
conversation I thought his countenance denoted more than a
transient appearance of a tendency to something like cordiality ;
but our interview lasted near a full hour, and I confess that I
was neither much edified, and perhaps had as little reason to be
satisfied with some of the ideas and some of the expressions which
he dropped. He favored me with his opinion that the Declara-
tory Bill had been the cause of the revival of all the confusion
— that the line of distinction between the no right to tax, and
the right to restrain their trade, &c., was a most clear proposition.
That it might be easily so clearly laid down, that he who runs
may read. That to be sure some persons might be prejudiced
with difi"erent ideas, but those prejudices should be cleared away
by reflection," &c.^ All this, when the real difficulty arose from

' Rockingliam Memoh'S, vol. ii. p. 260.

2 Lord Rockingham to Edmund Burke. Rockingham Memoirs, vol. ii-
p. 261.


the tea duty imposed by Lord Chatham's own Chancellor of the
Exchequer, was not a little provoking. Lord Chatham's conduct
was in keeping with his language. In a letter to Lord Stanhope
of the 19th, having seen Lord Rockingham on the 8th, Lord Chat-
ham says: "Be so good as not to communicate what my intended
motion is to any one whatever," &c. On the 30th, he accordingly
moved an address, to remove the troops from Boston, without
any concert or communication whatever. Lord Rockingham sup-
ported the motion, but many of his friends were absent, having
had no notice of the nature of Lord Chatham's motion. Thus
finished this "appearance of a tendency to something like cor-

Yet Lord Chatham's followers, Lord Camden and Lord Shel-
burne, were men of reputation and talent, although not strong
enough to form a government themselves. They remained, after
his death, a separate body, able to strengthen or to dissolve the
great Whig party.

Lord Rockingham was the acknowledged head of the Whigs.
No man, not even excepting Lord Althorp, ever carried into pub-
lic affairs a purer love of the public welfare. His good sense was
never at fault — his judgment clear, his power of expression in
writing not inferior to his judgment; his capacity for uniting and
guiding men of separate views and jealous tempers generally
acknowledged. But he had two deficiencies. First he was no
orator, and could seldom be induced to rise in the House of Lords.
Secondly, want of health and of natural vigor made him inactive,
and inclined to fear rather than hope.

In the House of Commons, Dowdeswell was somewhat heavy;
and Burke, whose manner and brogue were strongly against him,
was one

"Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
And thought of convincing while they thought of dining ;
Though equal to all things, for all things unfit,
Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit;
For a patriot too cool, for a drudge disobedient.
And too fond of the right to pursue the expedient."


The Duke of Richmond, a man of talent and spirit, was apt to
despond and to abstain from debates in the House of Lords, from
one motive or another. Thus the Opposition was languid, and
produced little impression on the nation.

At the general election of 1774, the Court candidates not
only prevailed in the counties and small boroughs, but were tri-
umphant in the City of Westminster. The ministerial majority
appeared unbroken and undiminished.

* Such was the state of parties when Charles Fox joined first
in the debates, and afterwards in the councils of Opposition.
He brought his great talents, his surprising vigor, his young
and fervent eloquence to the aid of Opposition. We shall see
how he promoted, and finally carried to a successful issue, the
resistance of the Whig party to the fatal policy of the xlmerican
War.* — J. R.

In the debate of the 25th of February, on a motion of Sir Ed-
ward Astley to render the Grrenville bill perpetual, in which
Stephen Fox took some part, and T. Townshend in answer laugh-
ed at him and his brother, " Mr. Ward spoke for the bill, and
then Charles Fox against it, having declared himself, before his
rupture with Lord North, as well as [having been] a principal
instigator of his opposition. He declared he retained his former
opinion; supposed he was peculiarly obstinate; but the House
was at last come to surrender its power and privileges. Mr. T.
Townshend, he concluded, did not imagine that he, circumstanced
as he was, should be able to carry any election either by money
or treasury influence. Ministers, said he, looking at Lord North,
every day shamefully and basely gave up the rights of the
House, and might go further and persecute persons for their
opinions; for his part he should be proud to be a martyr to that
cause." — H. w.^

After the debate, George Selwyn said to him, "Charles, for

1 It may be convenient to state once for all that the following para-
graphs, and generally the paragraphs between inverted commas, not
otherwise marked, are extracts from Horace Walpole. — J. R.
VOL. I. — 11


the future I will fast and eat salt fish on the day you was turned
out. You shall be my Charles the martyr now. I am tired of
the old one, your great-grandfather. His head can never be
sewed on again; but as yours can be, I will stick to you.^^

When Lord North complained of Charles's flippancies to the
King, his Majesty, who hated him, had said, ''Why don't you
turn him out? you may, if you will."

February 26. On the debate on the same subject, ''Sir
William Dolben, a bigoted Tory, reflected on Charles Fox''
[though joining with him in opposition to the bill], observing,
"that he talked as if the fate of Caesar and Rome depended upon
his conduct. He was tender in years, but tough in politics, and,
if he did not mistake, had already been twice in, and twice out of

March 14. On the bill for removing the Custom House from
Boston (the first step in the American war), "Charles Fox, with-
out heat, left himself at liberty to take what part he should

March 24. On the same bill, in committee, "Charles Fox
declared that he thought the Power of restoring the Port ought
to be in the Parliament, not in the Crown, which Phipps denied,
as mercy was one of the King's prerogatives. Charles Fox
pressed to know what the King's Ministers meant to do further,
as this would be but a feeble exertion, worse than none at all;
but Lord North, without satisfying him, promised to be consist-
ent without obstinacy."

March 28. On Massachusetts Bill, "Stephen Fox approved
•vigorous measures, but said the disorders arose neither from
Stamp Act nor its repeal, but that all colonies, when they ac-
quire strength, look with a jealous eye to the mother country."

April 12. On Lutterell's motion for censuring the Sherifis.
"Nobody seconding Lutterell, the orders o^ the day would have
been called for, but after another pause, Charles Fox rose, and
said Colonel Lutterell should not want a seconder, and then
poured out a torrent t)f invective against Lord North, for his
pusillanimity, and what ha called his impudent and shameless


silence; Lord North, with great quickness and humor, replied,
that he had never before heard of impudent silence — that he had,
indeed, seen gentlemen on their legs, whose shameless impudence
had shocked all mankind. The laugh of the whole House ap-
plied the likeness to the original it was drav/n for."

April 19. The two Foxes enumerated among the voters for
the repeal of the tea duty."^

April 22. On American Jurisdiction Bill, " Charles Fox said,
Rigby's politics were very distinct — how wise was another ques-
tion; he would tax the Americans when they were quiet, would tax
them as a boon for their submission — but we were now fighting
for taxation. We might speculatively have a right to tax Ireland.
In this country a dispensing power had once been contended for;
the moment it came to be exercised, nobody would bear it.
It was contrary to fact that the Stamp Act would have passed
without opposition. We were irritating the Americans without
a power to force them. Whoever would govern a country with-
out its consent, insured resistance."

May 3. On the Massachusetts Bill, " Charles Fox said. Lord
George Germaine thought that repealing the tea duty would be
giving up the Constitution. Was the tea duty part of the Con-
stitution ? The most absurd point of honor that ever was I
If taxation be intended, their charters must bo annihilated, and
[the colonies] could only be maintained by military force."

* Lord Holland, Mr. Fox's father, died on the 1st of July,
1774. Within less than a month afterwards, he lost his mother.
His brother Stephen died in the following November, leaving a
minor (the late Lord Holland) to inherit his title and estate.
Charles Fox succeeded his brother as Clerk of the Pells in Ire-


land.* — J. R.

In September, Parliament was dissolved.

December 5. On Address. '^ Charles Fox, Mr. Hartley, the
Burkes, and T. Townshend, were very warm on the views and
late measures of the Court."

^ The first vote in conjunction with the Rockingham party given by
Mr. Fox.— V. H.



January 23. ^^ Charles Fox spoke on a petition from mer-
cliants trading to America. "

January 29. ^'Charles Fox attacked Lord North violently,
who replied that though the gentleman had blamed all his admi-
nistration, yet he had defended and supported much of it, nor did
he know how he had deserved his reproaches. Fox started up and
said, he could tell the noble lord how: by every species of false-
hood and treachery. Fox was called to order. He rejoined,
that he saw the House would hear invectives only on one side."

February 2. On Lord North's motion for carrying on war,
"Charles Fox entered into the whole history and argument of
the dispute with great force and temper, and made the greatest
figure he had done yet, in a speech of an hour and twenty min-
utes. He said the greatest folly of his life was in having sup-
ported Lord North, with which his lordship was always upbraid-
ing him. He threw some reflections on George Grenville^ aiitlior
of the Stamj-) Act, which drew up the latter's son, who had not
yet opened, and who defended his father with spirit and decency."

"Before twelve, a division arrived on an amendment proposed
by Charles Fox, which tended to leave out all the substance of
the Address;" but the original Address "was carried, and it
was a vote for a civil war, by 304 to 105."

[In writing to Mr. Holroyd, afterwards Lord Sheffield (Febru-
ary 8, 1775), Gribbon, on occasion of this speech, says to him.
Fox, "taking the vast compass of the question before us, disco-
vered powers for regular debate, which neither his friends hoped,
nor his enemies dreaded." Of this speech of Mr. Fox no memo-
rial has been preserved, except the slight notice of Walpole and
the praise of Gibbon.]

February 20. On Lord North's plan of pacification, "Charles
Fox moved for the chairman's leaving the chair, and at half an
hour after ten at night, the question being put, it was resolved
in the negative by 271 to 88."


March G. On Massacliusetts Bill, and Dundas's wish that the
inhabitants might be starved, "Charles Fox opposed the engross-
ment, imputed all the present disturbances to the persisting in
taxation, and said the Americans had now discovered that taxa-
tion was used as punishment, and that it was bad policy to use
power to punish with, nor was it prudent to risk more in the
contest than was necessary. Was there a man would say that
the Americans had better starve than rebel? If the act should
not produce universal acquiescence, he would defy anybody to
defend the policy of it. Yet America would not submit. New
York only differed in the modes. He believed the Ministers did
not like their state of suspense. They wished to drive the colonies
into rebellion, and then their way would be plain."

March 23. Charles Fox speaks on Burke's plan for concilia-

April 5. On the new bill against refractory colonies, Burke
and Charles Fox, and many others of the Opposition, were absent.

May 15. Charles Fox spoke for receiving the New York re-

May 18. Sir G-. Savile moved the repeal of Quebec Bill, and
was "supported admirably by Charles Fox, but with no success.''

October 26. On Address. "The Solicitor-General (Wedder-
burne) having augured well from ill success, as the late war had
begun ill and ended gloriously, Burke took this up to ridicule ;
but Charles Fox took it up better, and said, 'The late war had
not turned to success till the Ministry had been changed (forget-
ting Lord Chatham had come in and his own father been of the
former administration, but with his usual quickness he soon re-
covered that slip, and said), Lord Hardwicke had been a great
lawyer but a wretched politician, and when he gave place to Lord
Chatham all had prospered.' ' But,' continued he, rising in en-
ergy, 'not Lord Chatham, not the Duke of Marlborough, no, not
Alexander, nor Caesar, had ever conquered so much territory as
Lord North had lost, in one campaign."'

November 16. On another conciliatory motion of Mr. Burke,
"Lord Ossory and Richard Fitzpatrick, nephews of Lord Gower,



but won over by Charles Fox, now declared themselves in Oppo-
sition. The elder brother spoke sensibly and well, the younger
very well. Charles Fox outshone himself, made a very pathetic
eulogium on the two brothers, and a very humorous description of
the Treasury Bench.^'

November 27. On Oliver's motion to ascertain advisers of
war, ^'Charles Fox endeavored to prevent a division, but the
Ministers knowing their strength forced it on to assure a negative,
after Lord North had avowed that he and various ministers had
given the advice. Not above ten were for the motion."

[No private letters or memorials of Mr. Fox have been pre-
served from the period of his dismissal from office to the close of
1775, when he wrote the following letter to Lord Ossory, who
was becoming a convert to his opinions on the folly and impolicy
of the American war.]


<' London, Saturday, Nov. 5, 1775.
''Dear Ossory: —

''As you desired me to let you know what is likely to come
on next week, I am glad to inform you that, on Friday next,
Burke will move to bring in a bill to secure the colonies against
Parliamentary taxation, and to repeal the obnoxious laws. I say
I am very glad that Burke is to move such a bill, because it will
be the fairest test in the world to try who is really for war and
who for j)eace. It is conceived in the most moderate terms im-
aijinable, and states no more than that the Americans have con-
sidered themselves as aggrieved by taxation, not that they are
actually so; and upon the ground of their having been in their
conception injured, is founded the repeal of the Tea Act, &c.,
and a general pardon and indemnity. I am sure, my dear Ossory,
if you do think seriously enough of this matter to let your opin-
ion regulate your conduct, it is impossible but you must consider
this as the true opportunity of declaring yourself. And, indeed,
if party does not blind me very much more than I am aware of,


this is an occasion where a man not over-scrupulous ought to
think for himself. It does not need surely the tenth part of
your good sense to see how cruel and intolerable a thing it is to
sacrifice thousands of lives almost without prospect of advantage.
^^ Make my best respects to Lady Ossory, and believe me, dear
Ossory, yours ever most sincerely,

"C. J. FOX."

[The exhortations of Mr. Fox were not unsuccessful. On the
10th of December, 1775, Lady Holland, sister of Lord Ossory,
writes to the Hon. H. E. Fox (afterwards Greneral Fox), then
on service in America] ^'my brothers are both in Opposition.'^

* The year 1775 had exhibited the Ministry in all its weak-
ness, and the Opposition in all its inutility. While on the side
of Government the most culpable improvidence hastened the loss
of America, on the side of the Opposition the most brilliant
talents and the most prophetic wisdom failed to save a shred of
authority, or to avert for a day the most dire calamities. Folly
paralyzed the Ministry; discord shattered the Opposition. Thus
Sir G. Savile and the Duke of Richmond both wrote in the most
desponding tone to Lord Rockingham. The former says, "I am
sure we tend, by all we can do, only to make the driving more
furious. It is a child pulling against a runaway horse j let him
alone, and he will stop the sooner," &c. Thus the Duke of Rich-
mond on a particular motion, "I confess that I feel very languid
about this American business. The only thing that can restore
common sense to this country is feeling the dreadful consequences
which must soon follow such diabolical measures.'' ^ — *J. R.


January. "What little life there was [in Opposition]
existed in the Duke of Richmond and Charles Fox. The latter

' Rockingham Papers, vol. ii. pp. 284-290.


bustled, tried to animate both the Duke and the Marquis, con-
ferred with Lord Shelburne, but neither abandonedj^jhis gaming
nor rakish life. Pie was seldom in bed before five in the morning,
nor out of it before two at noon/'

February 20. '^ Charles Fox made a motion in the House of
Commons for inquiring into the ill-success of the King's arms
in America, and laid open all the boasts, blunders, and disgraces
of the Administration; as Barre did still more severely, with
much irony on Lord G-. Germaine, whom he called the Pitt of
the day. Lord Ossory and Richard Fitzpatrick, nephews of Lord
Grower, but intimately connected with Charles Fox, both spoke

March 11. "Charles Fox made a panegyric on General
Montgomery (who had borne a most excellent character), and
reproached the Administration with having lost by ill-treatment
so amiable a man — a man distinguished by the friendship and
esteem of General Wolfe."

May 22. Charles Fox among the speakers in favor of a mo-
tion of General Conway's for the instructions to Howe.

[The following letters, written on intelligence of some successes
obtained in Canada, show Mr. Fox's concert with Lord Rocking-
ham, and also that Mr. Fox had gained the concurrence of Lord
Ossory, not only in his views of the impolicy of the war, but of
the injurious consequences to the liberties of England that must
attend its successes] : —



''June 2-1, 177G.

Online LibraryCharles James FoxMemorials and correspondence of Charles James Fox (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 31)