Imágenes de página

many eminent men then in the House of Commons. He was bred a Tory; but rather a political than a high-church Tory. Indeed I have never heard that at any period of his life Mr. Fox was charged with theological bigotry. At first he took the side of Administration, and was thought one of its ablest supporters; in so much, that he attracted the notice of Junius, who saw the bloom of talents destined to ripen into the most exquisite and valuable fruit. The facility with which he made himself master of a new question, and comprehended the strength, weakness, and tendency of a proposition or measure; his forcible argumentation, his readiness of the most appropriate, significant, and energetic language, soon rendered him conspicuous : his daily and obvious improvement shewed that his talents had not then nearly reached the pinnacle at which they were to arrive.

Mr. Fox's parliamentary exertions, from their commencement till his abandonment of Lord North, may be considered as the first.. EPOCH of his oratorial and political history. We see in him vast capacity; but hitherto. more capacity than fulness. We observe. strong pointed reasoning ; but not that variety and abundance of profound observations and just conclusions which the same mind, embracing more extensive and manifold knowledge, afterwards exhibited. He himself has declared, that he learned more from Mr. Burke than from all others. Even if he had not made that declaration, it would be very probable that he derived great benefit from intercourse with such a man as Burke: that the power of rapid acquirement would be successfully exerted, when there was within its reach such a multiplicity of the most valuable stores. It is evident that, from the beginning of his connection with Burke, his speeches, in a very short time, displayed much greater copiousness of matter and enlargement of political views. From that period also he often expatiated much more than formerly from the question at issue, directing his arguments fully as much against the measures, conduct, and character of the Minister and his coadjutors in the lump, as for or against the specific proposition brought forward.

[ocr errors]

Fox's parliamentary efforts, during the Ainerican war, formed a second Epoch in his oratorial and political history, when firstrate powers had abundant materials.

Mr. Fox had first been a Lord of the Admiralty; afterwards a Lord of the Treasury: but, opposing Government, in 1774, was dismissed. He had, some time before, begun to associate with several members of Opposition; and had been, by the sympathy of genius, attracted to Burke. Lord North had' repeatedly represented to him the suspicions to which his association with opposers of Government gave rise. • If,' said he,' we see a woman frequently coming out of a bagnio, we cannot swear she is not virtuous; yet we should judge of her from her company. Finding that, notwithstanding his expostulations, Charles still associated with the same gentlemen, Lord Nortli pro

cured his dismissal,, very abruptly, from office. Fox, although in his disposition candid, liberal, and of the most expanded benevolence, yet, in his temper, feeling and irritable, was filled with resentment at the mode of his dismission, which he imputed to Lord North ; and from that time became a most strenuous and formidable opponent of the Minister. From this period we are to date Charles James Fox's conversion to Whiggism. Far am 1 from imputing his change of principle to that change in his situation. His intimacy with Mr. Burke, probably, had great influence in the formation of the political creed which he then admitted. One of the principal features in Fox's character is openness. In every part of his public conduct, and, indeed, of his private, boldness and decision have been prominent. Whether the ends which he pursued were useful or hurtful, there was no artifice, no petty intrigue, no duplicity in the means: whether all was fair or not, at least, all was above board. Such a character was totally unfit for the tricks and supple

ness of a mere courtier. The greatness of his mind was as incompatible with the frivolity of court etiquette, as his openness with the duplicity of court artifice.

The proceedings respecting America opened a wide field of opposition. Although Fox attacked the measures of Administration in general, yet the principal butt of his eloquence was the NOBLE LORD IN THE BLUE RIBBON.

Fox, perfectly master of every kind and mode of argument, true and sophistical, close and loose, modelled his reasonings according to those of his principal opponent. Lord North, though a very ready, and, indeed, a very able reasoner, was by no means close. His arguments, though generally sufficiently logical, had not mathematical gradation and connection. He did not keep one object before him, and move directly towards it, without deviating to the right or left. He was diffuse and expatiatory. Fox, like one of those great generals who could

« AnteriorContinuar »