« AnteriorContinuar »
tinuation of this work is published, we trust that an editor may be found who has heard of the duel between Pitt and Tierney, and who knows that Cuxhaven is not in Ireland.
Mr. Fox was first returned to the Parliament which met on the 10th of May, 1768, being then only nineteen years and four months old. He sat for the borough of Midhurst; his seat having, as it appears, been purchased by his father, Lord Holland. He came into Parliament as a supporter of the Government, of which the Duke of Grafton was then the head; and was, following his father's politics, an enger opponent of Wilkes. He began, even at the age of twenty, to show his remarkable powers of parliamentary debate"; and some of his earliest speeches, as we learn from the unwilling testimony of Horace Walpole, produced a strong impression upon the House.* In February 1770— being in his twenty-first year-he accepted
in Nov. 1788, a negative appears to be wanting :— The party in 'general are so hungry and impatient, that I think they will [not?] • act upon the better judgment of their leaders, and prevent them • from doing anything which allows a moment's delay.' (Vol. ii. p. 24.)
While the Editor details at length those well-known events which may be found in the Annual Register,' or any ordinary history of the time, he omits to explain those less obvious allusions on which a reader is most likely to desire explanation. Thus in vol. i. p. 258., Lord Grenville writes, on May 7. 1783:-'I am in some doubt what 'to do about coming over to you, as on account of the prince's • death, there is no levee to-day, nor, I fear, on Friday.' The prince here alluded to is Prince Octavius, son of George III., who died on May 3. at Kew Palace, of inoculation for the small pox, aged four years.
In vol. ii. p. 63. 'I was a little mortified at finding our friend Sir · P. P. among
them. Sir P. P. is Sir Peter Parker, as appears by a list in a subsequent page, p. 83.
Vol. ii. p. 139. • Pitt authorises me to say that he could find the means of opening a ten shilling government for him in England 'immediately.' A ten shilling government is a small military command with a pay of ten shillings per diem.
Vol. ii. p. 377. In a letter of May 3. 1797, Lord Grenville says to Lord Buckingham, 'Have you seen my Prince ? He is sensible
and well-informed, though not exactly the picture of a young lover.' The Prince alluded to is the Prince of Wirtemberg, who was married to the Princess Royal on May 13. 1797, and whose figure, of extraordinary obesity, was certainly not that of a young lover.
* Both Fox and Pitt showed their uncommon powers of parliamentary speaking from their earliest attempts. Sir R. Walpole, on the other hand, who for courage, readiness, and dexterity in debate, was afterwards second to none, failed in his first speech. See 'Lord • Mahon's History,' vol. i. p. 265. Ed. 12mo.
the office of a Junior Lord of the Admiralty, shortly after the appointment of Lord North as First Minister, upon the resignation of the Duke of Grafton.* In the Session of 1772, Mr. Fox made a motion for the repeal of the Marriage Act; on which occasion Horace Walpole — a witness whose language must not always be construed strictly -gives the following account.
"When he had moved this repeal, he had not read the Marriage Act, nor did he till some days after. A few evenings before he had been at Brompton on two errands; one, to consult Justice Fielding on the penal laws, the other to borrow 10,0001., which he brought to town at the hazard of being robbed. As the gaming and extravagance of young men of quality had arrived now at a pitch never heard of, it is worth while to give some account of it. They bad a club at Almack's, in Pall Mall, where they played only for rouleaus of 501. each, and generally there was 10,0001. in specie on the table. Lord Holland had paid above 20,0001. for his two sons. Nor were the manners of the gamesters, or even their dresses for play, undeserving notice. They began by pulling off their embroidered clothes and put on frieze great coats, or turned their coats inside outwards for luck. They put on pieces of leather (such as are worn by footmen when they clean the knives) to save their laced ruffles; and to guard their eyes from the light, and to prevent tumbling their hair, wore highcrowned straw hats with broad brims, and adorned with flowers and ribbons ; masks to conceal their emotions when they played at quinze. Each gamester had a small neat stand by him to hold their tea, or a wooden bowl with an edge of ormolu to hold their rouleaus. They borrowed great sums of Jews at exorbitant premiums. Charles Fox called his outward room, where those Jews waited till he rose, his Jerusalem Chamber.' (Mem. of Fox, vol. i. p. 70.)
On the 20th of February 1772, Fox, being then in his twenty-third year, resigned his seat at the Admiralty Board. His resignation was due, partly to some personal discontent with Lord North, but chiefly to his intention of opposing the Royal Marriage Act, a measure then in preparation, much desired by the King, but reluctantly adopted by his Ministers. While the Bill was pending in Parliament, the King wrote to Lord North in the following terms:- I expect every nerve to be strained to carry the Bill. It is not a question relating to administrations, but personally to myself; therefore I have a right to expect a hearty support from every one in my service,
and I shall remember defaulters.' It is evident from the King's language that no person who voted against this Bill could
The popular belief that Lord Bute continued to exercise a secret influence over the King, after his retirement from office, is, we may remark, conclusively refuted by the evidence adduced in vol. i. pp. 65–68. of the Memorials of Fox.'
continue to hold office under the Crown. Fox took an active part in opposing it during its passage through the House of Commons. • In the course of the debates (says Horace • Walpole) I have given very inadequate ideas of the speeches of Burke, Charles Fox, and Wedderburne, three excellent orators in different ways. Burke's wit, allusions, and enthusiasm were striking, but not imposing; Wedderburne was a sharp, clever arguer, though unequal; Charles Fox, much 'younger than either, was universally allowed to have seized
the just point of argument throughout with most amazing * rapidity and clearness, and to have excelled even Charles • Townshend as a Parliament man, though inferior in wit and * variety of talents.'
Fox afterwards introduced his Bill for amending the Marriage Act: it was opposed by Lord North and by Burke, and was ultimately thrown out. Walpole's account of Burke's, speech against this Bill is remarkable with reference to his subsequent career.
• Burke made a fine and long oration against the motion. · Burke was certainly in his principles no moderate man; and
when his party did not interfere, generally leaned to the more • arbitrary side, as had appeared in the late debates on the Church, in which he had declared for the clergy. . . . He spoke with a choice and variety of language, a profusion of metaphors, and ‘yet with a correction of diction that were surprising. His ' fault was copiousness above measure; and he dealt abundantly, 'too much, in establishing general positions. Two-thirds of this
oration resembled the beginning of a book on speculative doctrines, . and yet argument was not the forte of it.'
This first breach between Mr. Fox and Lord North was not of long duration; for in December of the same year 1772, an arrangement was made, by which the former returned to office and became a junior Lord of the Treasury. His habits of deep play, however, unhappily continued unbroken, and in order to pay his gaming debts, he actually incurred liabilities to the enormous amount of 140,0001., which sum was discharged by his father from his own estate. * A strange story is likewise told by Horace
* The following curious account of the occurrences of this time given to Lord Holland in 1823, by Lord Egremont, is worthy of attention by all persons who are in the habit of high play.
Lord • Egremont was convinced,' he said, "by reflection, aided by his subsequent experience of the world, that there was at that time some unfair confederacy among some of the players, and that the great losers, especially Mr. Fox, were actually duped and cheated ; • he should, he said, have been torn to pieces, and stoned by the
Walpole (the truth of which is recognised by Lord Holland) of his having been at this time duped by an impostor calling herself the Hon. Mrs. Grieve, who undertook to procure for him as wife, a Miss Phipps, recently arrived from the West Indies, with a fortune of 80,0001.
In the session of 1774, Mr. Fox, impatient of the restraints to which a member holding a subordinate office is subject, differed from Lord North and took an independent line with respect to the committal of Woodfall the printer for a breach of privilege. The King, who appears to have conceived a personal dislike to Fox on account of his opposition to the Royal Marriage Bill, was much displeased at his conduct on this occasion, and on February 15th, wrote thus to Lord North :
• I am greatly incensed at the presumption of Charles Fox in • forcing you to vote with him last night, but approve much of
the making your friends vote in the majority. Indeed, that 'young man has so strongly cast off every principle of common honour and honesty, that he must become as contemptible as
he is odious. I hope you will let him know that you are not insensible of his conduct towards you.' *
On a subsequent stage of the same proceeding, Fox repeated his insubordination to Lord North, who, in consequence, sent him a laconic letter, informing him that he was no longer a Lord
• losers themselves, for hinting such a thing at the time, and even
now, those of them, himself excepted, who survived, would exclaim • at such a supposition ; but he was nevertheless satisfied, that the
immoderate, constant, and unparalleled advantages over Charles Fox, and other young men, were not to be accounted for merely by the difference of passing or holding the box, or the hazard of the dice. • He had indeed no suspicions (any more than the rest had) at the * time, but he had thought it much over since, and he now had.'
George III. commented very freely on the public men whom he disliked, in his letters to Lord North. Thus in a letter of Aug. 1775, he speaks of Lord Chatham's recent political conduct as abandoned'; he describes Lord Chatham as totally devoid of the honourable sentiment of gratitude, and calls him 'a trumpet of sedition.' (Mem. of Fox, vol. i. p. 129.) In letters of the 16th of March, 1778, he speaks of Lord Chatham and his crew; and calls him that perfidious . man.' It seems to be ascertained that George III. had an attack of insanity (concealed from the public) so early as the year 1765. See • Adolphus's Hist. of the Reign of Geo. III.' vol. i. p. 175. ed. 1840; • Lord Mahon's History,' vol. v. p. 26. Nevertheless, the letters of Lord Grenville during the King's illness in 1788-9 (in the Buckingham Papers), convince us that the Ministers had, at that time, no suspicion of his having been previously insane. See particularly a letter in vol. ii. p. 5.
of the Treasury. Fox now put an end to his connexion with Lord North, went into Opposition, and began to act with the Rockingham party, though he did not formally join it till 1778 or 9. By this means he became the friend of Burke; a friendship which exercised much influence upon him. His independent political career, after he had broken through his original party ties, may be considered as commencing from 1774, when he was in his 25th year. This year, as Lord John Russell remarks, in an excellent review of our history from 1763 to 1774 (vol. i. p. 102—133.) was the turning point of the American war. then that Lord North, though he had originally been adverse to the imposition of the tea duty, decided to maintain it, by closing the port of Boston, and altering the charter of Massachussets. • In taking this course,' says Lord John, “ Lord North was warmly supported in the closet, and received the sympathy of the country. Yet it is impossible not to reflect that Lord
North was the same minister who in 1768 had, by his voice in 'the Cabinet, prevented the repeal of the tea duty, and the - abandonment of all taxation by Parliament for imperial pur
Had he supported that repeal in 1768, he would have prevented the American war; in 1774 he at least would have 'given a chance to peace; in 1778, after our armies had been defeated, the concession was useless and insufficient.'
Fox, from the time that he separated himself from Lord North, carried on an unremitting opposition to the American war.
His speeches, always marked by decided ability, had hitherto been desultory and occasional; but he now (as Gibbon said) discovered powers for regular debate, which neither his friends hoped, nor his enemies dreaded. Mr. Grattan (as we learn from Lord John), who had heard Mr. Fox at various epochs, declared his preference for the speeches delivered during the American war, to all the other efforts of his eloquence. His denunciations of Ministers and their policy were conveyed in the strongest language. Thus in 1777 he described Lord G. Germaine, as
* The division in the Cabinet of 5 to 4, by which it was decided to maintain the tea duty, was not in 1768, but on the 1st of May, 1769. See Lord ‘Mahon's History,' vol. v. p. 242, and Ap. p. xxxvii. The votes were as follows: For repeal.