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the penal statutes, which are a disgrace to our law books. If I were to issue a proc. lamation (the King had just issued one against seditious writings), this should be my proclamation : If any man has a grievance, let him bring it to the bar of the Com inons' House of Parliament, with the firm persuasion of having it honestly investigated.' These are the subsidies that I would grant to government."
Such were, indeed, the subsidia, the support and strength in the hearts of his people, which the King of England needed. But George III. and his counselors at that ‘ime looked only to restriction and force. A repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts was not to be thought of (though strenuously urged by Mr. Fox), because Dr. Price and Dr. Priestley, who were leading Dissenters, had been warm friends of the French Revolution. The King would hear nothing of any relief for the Roman Catholics ; his coronation oath required him to keep them in perpetual bondage. As to parlia. mentary reform, Mr. Fox himself, at an earlier period, saw no plan which he thought free from objections; and hence Mr. Moore, and others of his friends, have been led hastily to represent him as a cold, if not a hypocritical advocate of this measure. But from a private letter (see article Fox, in the Encyclopedia Britannica), it ap pears that his views at this time experienced à material change. “I think,” said he," we ought to go further toward agreeing with the democratic or popular party than at any former period.” Accordingly, in May, 1797, he supported Mr. Grey's motion for reform in a speech (to be found below) of uncommon beauty and force. His great struggle, however, for the rights of the people was somewhat earlier, during the period which has been called (though with some exaggeration) the “Reign of Terror.” Lord Loughborough, and the other Whigs who seceded to Mr. Pitt, had urged the ministry, with the proverbial zeal of new converts, into the most violent measures for putting down political discussion. The Habeas Corpus Act was sus. pended; the Traitorous Correspondence Bill made it high treason to hold intercourse with the French, or supply them with any commodities; the Treasonable Practice Bill was designed to construe into treason a conspiracy to levy war, even without an wert act amounting thereto; and the Seditious Meetings' Bill forbade any assembly of more than fifty persons to be held for political purposes, without the license of a magistraté. The two bills last mentioned were so hostile to the spirit of a free government, that even Lord Thurlow opposed them in the most vehement manner It was during the discussion of the latter, that Mr. Fox made his famous declara. tion, that “if the bill should pass into a law, contrary to the sense and opinion of a great majority of the nation, and if the law, after it was passed, should be executed according to the rigorous provisions of the act, resistance would not be a question of duty, but of prudence."23
It was unfortunate for Mr. Fox that he was so often hurried into rash declarations of this kind. Threats are not usually the best mode of defending the cause of freedom. Nor is it true that men, under a representative government, have a right instantly to resist any law which the Legislature have regularly enacted, unless it be one diametrically opposed to the law of God. There is another remedy both in the judiciary and in the popular branch of the government. Mr. Fox's doctrine, that "a law, contrary to the sense and opinion of the great majority of the nation,” may be rightfully resisted, is a species of “nullification” hitherto unknown in America. Another of his hasty expressions did him great injury about three years after. At a dinner of the Whig club in 1798, he gave as a toast, “ The Sovereignty of the People of Great Britain." Exactly what he meant by this, it is difficult to say. He was a firma friend of the British Constitution, with its three estates of King, Lords, and Commons. He always declared himself to be against a republic; and he could not, therefore, nave wished that the functions of sovereignty should be taken from the
23 See Parliamentary History, vol. xxxiii., D. 456.
existing head of the government, and conferred on the body of the people or then representatives in Parliament. If he only meant that the King and Lords ought to yield in all cases to the deliberate and well-ascertained wishes of the people (a doubt ful doctrine, certainly, in a mixed government), he took a very unfortunate vode of expressing his views. It is not wonderful, at all events, that the King considered it as a personal insult, and ordered his name to be struck from the list of Privy Counsel. ! ors. a step never taken in any other case during his long reign, except in that of Lord George Germaine when convicted of a dereliction of duty, if not of cowardice, at the battle of Minden.
Mr. Pitt's ascendency in the House was now so complete, that Mr. Fox had no notive to continue his attendance in Parliament. He therefore withdrew from pubiic business for some years, devoting himself to literary pursuits and the society of his friends. At no time does his character appear in so amiable a point of view. He had gradually worn out his vices. His marriage with Mrs. Armstead, which was announced at a later period, exerted the happiest influence on his character. This was truly, as a friend remarked, the golden season of his life. He devoted much of his time to the study of the classics, and especially of the Greek tragedians. At this time, also, he commenced his work on the Revolution of 1688, which was published after his death.
From this retirement he was temporarily called forth by an occurrence which led to one of the noblest efforts of his eloquence. In December, 1799, Bonaparte was elected First Consul of France for ten years; and the day after his induction into office, he addressed a letter to the King of England in his own hand, making proposals of peace. Mr. Pitt, however, refused even to treat with him on the subject. Upon the third of February, 1800, the question came before the House on a motion for approving the course taken by the ministry, and Mr. Fox again appeared in his place. Mr. Pitt, who felt the difficulty of his situation, had prepared himself before hand with the utmost care. In a speech of five hours long, he went back to the origin of the war, brought up minutely all the atrocities of the Revolution, dwelt on the instability of the successive governments which had marked its progress, como inented with terrible severity on the character and crimes of Bonaparte during the preceding four years, and justified on these grounds his backwardness to recognize the new government or to rely on its offers of peace. When he concluded, at four o'clock in the morning, Mr. Fox, who was always most powerful in reply, instantly rose and answered him in a speech of nearly the same length, meeting him on all the main topics with a force of argument, a dexterity in wresting Mr. Pitt's weapons out of his hands and turning them against him.self, a keenness of retort, a graphic power of description, and an impetuous flow of eloquence, to which we find no par: allel in any of his published speeches. Both these great efforts will be found in this collection, with all the documents which are necessary to a full understanding of the argument. Respecting one topic dwelt upon in these speeches, namely, the justice of the war with France, it may be proper to add a few words explanatory of Mr. Fox's views, to be followed by similar statements, on a future page, as to the ground taken by Mr. Pitt.
Mr. Fox held that the grievances complained of by the English, viz., the opening of the River Scheldt, the French Decree of Fraternity, and the countenance shown to disaffected Englishmen (points to be explained hereafter in notes to these speeches) ought to have been made the subject of full and candid negotiation, England was bound not only to state her wrongs, but to say explicitly what would satisfy her But Mr. Pitt recalled the English embassador from Paris on the tenth of August 1792 (when Louis XVI. became virtually a prisoner), before the occurrence of any of these events. He suspended the functions of M. Chauvelin, the French embassa
for at London, from the same date. He began to arm immediately after the alleged grievances took place; and when called upon by the French for an explanation of this armament, he declined to acknowledge their agents as having any diplomatic character, so that the points in dispute could not be regularly discusseil ; and after the execution of Louis XVI., he not only refused to accredit any minister from France. but sent M. Chauvelin out of the kingdom. Mr. Fox maintained that England, under these circumstances, was the aggressor, though the formal declaration of war came from France. He who shuts np the channel of negotiation while disputes are pending, is the author of the war which follows. No nation is bound to degrade herself by submitting to any clandestine modes of communication ; she is entitled to that open, avowed, and honorable negotiation commonly employed by nations for the pacific adjustment of their disputes. Mr. Fox did not ask the ministry to treat with the new French government as having any existence de jure—he expressly waived this—but simply de facto; and as the English government had refused this, he held them responsible for the war. Such was his argument, and it was certainly one of great force. It may be true, as alleged by the friends of Mr. Pitt, that the French government were insincere in their offers and explanations; it is highly probable that the enthusiasm awakened by their triumph over their Austrian and Prussian invaders, had filled the nation with a love of conquest which would ultimately have led to a war with England. For this very reason, however, the course marked out by Mr. Fox ought to have been studiously followed. But Mr. Pitt shared in the common delusion of the day. He felt certain that France, split up as she was into a thousand factions, could not long endure the contest. “It will be a very short war," said he to a friend, " and certainly ended in one or two campaigns." Mr. Wil. berforce, who at this time enjoyed his confidence, while he would not admit that the English were strictly the assailants, says in his Journal, “I had but too much reason to know that the ministry had not taken due pains to prevent its breaking out.” As might be expected, Mr. Wilberforce united with Mr. Fox in condemning the refusal of Mr. Pitt to negotiate with Bonaparte.
But Mr. Fox's ardent desires for peace, though disappointed at this time, wero soon after gratified by the treaty of Amiens, at the close of 1801. It proved, however, to be a mere truce. War was declared by England May 18th, 1803. To this declaration Mr. Fox was strenuously opposed, and made a speech against it, which Lord Brougham refers to as one of his greatest efforts. It does not so appear in any of the reports which have come down to us, and his Lordship perhaps confounded it with the speech of October, 1800, which he does not even mention.
Mr. Pitt, who had been again placed at the head of affairs, died in January, 1806 ; and Mr. Fox, at the end of twenty-two years, was called into the service of his coun: iry as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, on the 5th of February, 1806, through the instru. mentality of Lord Grenville. His office was at that time the most important one un der the government, and he may be considered as virtually minister. One of his first official acts was that of moving a resolution for an early abolition of the slave trade, which he had from the first united with Mr. Wilberforce in opposing. This resolution was carried by a vote of 114 against 15, and was followed up, the next session, by effectual measures for putting an end to this guilty traffic. He soon after entered on a negotiation for peace with France, which commenced in a somewhat singular manner. A Frenchman made his appearance at the Foreign Office, under the namo of De la Grevilliere, and requested a private interview with Mr. Fox. He went on to say, that “it was necessary for the tranquillity of all crowned heads to put to death the ruler of France, and that a house had been hired at Passy for this purpose." On hearing these words, Mr. Fox drove him at once from his presence, and dispatched 1 communication to Talleyrand informing him of the facts "I am not ashamed to
confess to you who know me," said he, “ that my confusion was extreme at finding myself led into conversation with an avowed assassin. I instantly ordered him to leave me. Our laws do not allow me to detain him, but I shall take care to have him landed at a sea-port as remote as possible from France." A reply was sent from Bonaparte, saying, among other things, “ I recognize here the principles, honor, and virtue of Mr. Fox. Thank him on my part.” In connection with this reply, Tal. leyrand stated, that the Emperor was ready to negotiate for a peace, "on the basis of the treaty of Amiens." Communications were accordingly opened on the subject, but at this important crisis Mr. Fox's health began to fail him. He had been taken ill some months before in consequence of exposure at the funeral of Lord Nelson, and his physicians now insisted that he should abstain for a time from all public duties. In July the disease was found to be dropsy of the chest, and, after lingering for three months, he died at the house of the Duke of Devonshire, at Chiswick, on the 13th of September, 1806. He was buried with the highest honors of the nation in West. minster Abbey, his grave being directly adjoining the grave of Lord Chatham, and close to that of his illustrious rival, William Pitt.
Mr. Fox was the most completely English of all the orators in our language Lord Chatham was formed on the classic model—the express union of force, majesty, and grace. He stood raised above his audience, and launched the bolts of his eloquence like the Apollo Belvidere, with the proud consciousness of irresistible might. Mr. Fox stood on the floor of the House like a Norfolkshire farmer in the midst of his fellows : short, thick-set, with his broad shoulders and capacious chest, his bushy hair and eyebrows, and his dark countenance working with emotion, the very image of blunt honesty and strength.
His understanding was all English-plain, practical, of prodigious force—always directed to definite ends and objects, under the absolute control of sound common sense. He had that historical cast of mind by which the great English jurists and statesmen have been so generally distinguished. Facts were the staple of bis thoughts; all the force of his intellect was exerted on the actual and the positive. He was the most practical speaker of the most practical nation on earth.
His heart was English. There is a depth and tenderness of feeling in the na. tional character, which is all the greater in a strong mind, because custom requires it to be repressed. In private life no one was more guarded in this respect thar Mr. Fox; he was the last man to be concerned in getting up a scene. But when he stood before an audience, he poured out his feelings with all the simplicity of a child. "I have seen his countenance,” says Mr. Godwin, “ lighten up with more than mor tal ardor and goodness; I have been present when his voice was suffocated with tears.” In all this, his powerful understanding went out the whole length of his emotions, so that there was nothing strained or unnatural in his most vehement bursts of passion. "His feeling," says Coleridge, “was all intellect, and his intellect was all feeling." Never was there a finer summing up; it shows us at a glance the whole secret of his power. To this he added the most perfect sincerity and artless ness of manner. His very faults conspired to heighten the conviction of his honesty. His broken sentences, the choking of his voice, his ungainly gestures, his sudden starts of passion, the absolute scream with which he delivered his vehement passages, all showed him to be deeply moved and in earnest, so that it may be doubted whether a more perfect delivery would not have weakened the impression he made.
Sir James Mackintosh has remarked, that “Fox was the most Demosthenean speaker since Demosthenes,” while Lord Brougham says, in commenting on this pas sage, “ There never was a greater mistake than the fancying a close rsemblance be tween his eloquence and that of Demosthenes.” When two such men differ on a point like this, we may safely say that both are in the right and in the wrong. As to del
lain qualities, Fox was the very reverse of the great Athenian; as to others, they had much in common. In whatever relates to the forms of oratory-symmetry, dig nity, grace, the working up of thought and language to their most perfect expression -Mr. Fox was not only inferior to Demosthenes, but wholly unlike him, having no rhetoric and no ideality; while, at the same time, in the structure of his understand ing, the modes of its operation, the soul and spirit which breathes throughout his elo quence, there was a striking resemblance. This will appear as we dwell for a mo ment on his leading peculiarities.
(1.) He had a luminous simplicity, which gave his speeches the most absolute unity of impression, however irregular might be their arrangement. No man ever kept the great points of his case more steadily and vividly before the minds of his audience.
(2.) He took every thing in the concrete. If he discussed principles, it was always in direct connection with the subject before him. Usually, however, he did not even discuss a subject-he grappled with an antagonist. Nothing gives such life and in. terest to a speech, or so delights an audience, as a direct contest of man with man
(3.) He struck instantly at the heart of his subject. He was eager to meet his opponent at once on the real points at issue; and the moment of his greatest power was when he stated the argument against himself, with more force than his adversary or any other man could give it, and then seized it with the hand of a giant, tore it in pieces, and trampled it under foot.
(4.) His mode of enforcing a subject on the minds of his audience was to corne back again and again to the strong points of his case. Mr. Pitt amplified when he wished to impress, Mr. Fox repeated. Demosthenes also repeated, but he had more adroitness in varying the mode of doing it. “Idem haud iisdem verbis.”
(5.) He had rarely any preconceived method or arrangement of his thoughts. This was one of his greatest faults, in which he differed most from the Athenian artist. If it had not been for the unity of impression and feeling mentioned above, his utrcugth would have been wasted in disconnected efforts.
(6.) Reasoning was his forte and his passion. But he was not a regular reasoner. In his eagerness to press forward, he threw away every thing he could part with, and compacted the rest into a single mass. Facts, principles, analogies, were all wrought together like the strands of a cable, and intermingled with wit, ridicule, or impassioued feeling. His arguments were usually personal in their nature, ad hominem, &c., and were brought home to his antagonist with stinging severity and force.
(7.) He abounded in hits—those abrupt and startling turns of thought which rouse an audience, and give them more delight than the loftiest strains of eloquence.
(8.) He was equally distinguished for his side blows, for keen and pungent remarks flashed out upon his antagonist in passing, as he pressed on with his argument.
(9.) He was often dramatic, personating the character of his opponents or others, and carrying on a dialogue between them, which added greatly to the liveliness and force of his oratory.
(10.) He had astonishing dexterity in evading difficulties, and turning to his own advantage every thing that occurred in debate.
In nearly all these qualities he had a close resemblance to Demosthenes.
In his language, Mr. Fox studied simplicity, strength, and boldness. “Give me an elegant Latin and a homely Saxon word," said he, “and I will always choose the latter." Another of his sayings was this : “Did the speech read well when reported ? If so, it was a bad one." These two remarks give us the secret of his style as an orator.
The life of Mr. Fox has this lesson for young men, that early habits of recklessness and vice can hardly fail to destroy the influence of the most splendid abilities and the most humane and generous dispositions. Theagh thirty-eight years in public life, he was in office only eighteen months