« AnteriorContinuar »
the popular side, and that on which the ablest and most consti. lutional lawyers declared the justice to lie.
Thus he commenced his parliamentary career, in supporting the measures of government; and so highly did the minister of that day value his support, that, in a short time, he was advanced to a seat at the admiralty board. No sooner, however, did he become acquainted with the machinations of government, than he retired, as his friends say, in disgust; his mind revolting at the measures which were preparing for the disastrous scene of the American war. These measures, however, were said to have been softened duwn, and he was persuaded to resume his seat. In December, 1772, he was raised to a seat at the treasury board. For this he received the taunts of opposition as a placeman, which he repelled in an open ingenuous manner, denying the acceptance of his place to be the price of his services; and declaring, that he should no longer support the measures of government than he found them to be calculated to proinote the welfare of the state. He had now a most arduous task to perform ; for the incapacity of the ministry was such, as required the greatest talents to cover or excuse them. It is a singular proof of the mutability of human affairs to observe, that Mr. Fox had Lord North for his first colleague, and for his first oratorical adversary, Mr. Burke.
It is believed that the open rupture which afterwards occurred between him and the minister took place upon the subject of the Rev. Mr. Horne, now Mr. Horne Tooke, being summoned to the bar of the House of Commons, as the supposed author of a paper, which treated the speaker of that house (Sir Fletcher Norton) with great freedom. Mi. Fox was anticipated in his intention of re. signing by a very laconic. epistle in the following words : “ His majesty has thought proper to order a new commission of the treasury to be made out, in which I do not perceive your name." The manner in which this was conveyed, exceeded the insolence of the composition, it being by the hands of one of the door. keepers. Resentment and contempt now filled the breast of Mr. Fox instead of friendship and esteem; nevertheless, he, for a short time, continued to vote in favour of administration, though he scarcely ever spoke on that side. As soon, however, as Lord North's treatment of him was made known, he quitled the treasury bench, and seated himself on the opposite side. Many attributed this conduct to sinister motives, and perhaps it was not owing to the pure views of conscientious rectitude; but who can shew, by any instance, where he has made emolument a rule of action ?
Now in his proper sphere, the talents of Mr, Fox blazed forth in all their splendour. He joined a band of self called patriots,
whose efforts will be remembered to the latest posterity, as they had nearly overthrown our glorious constitution.
In the year 1772, Mr. Fox was involved in a duel with Mr. Adams, in consequence of that gentleman's having conceived himself to be the particular object of Mr. Fox's censure one evening at the house. A letter was sent to Mr. For the following day from Mr. Adams, requesting his authorizing the insertion of a paragraph in the public prints, declaring that the language of Mr. Fox was not personally intended for him. Mr, Fox, however, refusing to authorize its insertion by his name, contented himself by declaring that he had addressed himself to the whole of his party, and that Mr. Adams could not apply it individually, unless he felt himself in the predicament upon which he had animad. verted. The consequence was a duel, in which Mr. Fox was wounded at the second shot of his antagonist. Mr. Adams ac. knowledged Mr. Fox's conduct to be completely that of a man of honour, and it was extolled in all companies..
At the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, Mr. Fox quitted the administration of which he had been a member only as long as that nobieman had taken the lead. He said what is honourable to his memory : “In resigning my situation as secretary of state, I am not insensible to the inconvenience, I might almost say, to the necessity of its emoluments : but in a case where honour or profit must be sacrificed, I could not be long in resolving what to do..--I dictate to no gentleman how he is to act; but as there are several in the same predicament as myself, if they feel as I do, they will act as I do.” On this occasion, his example was followed by several of his friends. · As we have before observed, nearly the whole of Mr. Fox's political career was in opposition. At the conclusion of the American war, it must be remembered, that a coalition of two great parties took place, which brought him again, for a short time, into power. This step of our patriol was productive of much unpopularity to him, and it must be confessed, that in joining Lord North, against whom he had uttered the bitterest invectives, and whose measures he had so strenuously reprobated, there ap. peared a striking inconsistency.
The British dominions in the East Indies being at this time in a most alarming state, some prompt and decided measure was deens. ed necessary to stop the evil. On this, Mr. Fox brought in his famous India bill, the object of which was to invest commission. ers, appointed by parliament, with the direction of the company's affairs, for a duration of four years. This bill, notwithstanding the strong opposition of Mr. Pitt and his party, was carried by a
great majority in the House of Commons. The country, however, did not seem to approve of it ; petitions poured in from various quarters against it, and, on the motion for its commitment in the House of Peers, it was finally thrown out. The consequence was, that the coalition was dissolved, and Mr. Fox was again in oppo. sition. Mr. Pitt afterwards brought in his India bill, which leaving the company the perfect freedom of its charter, was found to be more congenial to the minds of the public, and it was carried in both houses of parliament ; but sabsequent experience has divided the opinions of the public upon the merits of the rival bills.
One of the most singular and unjustifiable traits of Mr. Fox's po. litical conduct, was his receding entirely from the business of par, liament during the powerful sway of the late premier. He pretend. ed that nothing was to be gained by his presence in the house, but that soinething might be for ever lost to himself, by continuing in a situation where he was liable, by provocation, to utter expressions which might be misconstrued by three-fourths of his hearers.
Mr. Fox was constantly a distinguished member of the Whig-club, among whoin his sentiments were uniformly utlered with the freedom and confidence of a brother. His enemies have exclaimed loudly against his acceptance of a gratuitous subscription from his friends; but, surely, of all pensions, none can be more honourable than such a one as this, where every subscriber acts from his own judgment and affections; and he, whose conduct arose from principle, and who could despise the personal advantages which genius, like his, may always command, honoured both them and himself by his acceptance of it. An exalted mind will both obligé and be obliged, and he who with holds from the one, or contemns the other, is equally actuated by selfish principles.
The attractions of fashion, and the force of custom, may, in the early part of his life, have drawn him into embarrassments which wisdom must condemn, and the expedients to which he had re. course, in order to extricate himself from those embarrassments, were not less deserving of censure; but we have never heard of one studied act of dishonour on his part.
His vivacity often exposed him to severe and partial animadversion, Such, for instance, as that when his brother's house 'was in fames, his offering to bet the noble owner, which beam, which partition, or which chimney, would next give way. That man, ners the most contrasted, and conduct the most opposite, have been seen in him, cannot be denied. Thus in the early part of his career, he was at once, the most consummate statesman and the mnost extravagant buck...while exerting the powers of his oratory to economise the nation, he was ruining his own fortune---while the senate listened with wonder and admiration at the wisdom of his orations, the young and the thoughtless were following him as the leader of their fashions and their follies. In dress he exceeded the most finished fop: he revived the fashion of red heeled shoes, which had been laid aside at the beginning of the last century, by wearing them on a birth-night; and a variety of personal de. corations of that time owed their origin to his fancy.
During the peace of Amiens, Mr. Fox visited Paris, and was received at the court of the First Consul with marks of the highest respect. This visit, however, did not increase the good opinion entertained of the orator in his own country.
The disastrous and unexpected events upon the continent, in 1805, having rendered the great designs of Mr. Pitt, for checking the ambition of France, and restoring the balance of Europe, inef. fectual, the nation seemed to droop with disappointment and dis. may; and the lamented death of that great man taking place immediately after, left it in a state unknown to the records of history. This was no moment for party contention. The sovereign and the people were actuated by the same mind. It was found that nothing but a combination of the greatest talent in the country could be able to stand against such an accumulation of evils, and direct the helm amid the tempest. All former animosity was forgotten on every side, and the long-rejected Mr. Fox was at this momentous period called to the councils of his sovereign, in conjunction with the most splendid ability of the nation: but the heterogeneous principles which they had professed soon shewed that no good was to be expected from their exertions; and after the death of Mr. Fox, which happened on the 13th of September,1806, their measures were so absurd, and their conduct so overbearing, that on their dismissal in March last, a general joy diffused itself through the nation.
Mr. Fox was always forward to confess the brilliant genius and high attainments of his great rival, and whenever he spoke of his talents, no friend could utter bis praises with more enthusiasm. He was equally alive to the sentiments of friendship and of love. In the former, perhaps, his feelings blinded his judgment: they magnified beauties and rendered faults invisible, as in his eulogium on the late Duke of Bedford, in the House of Commons. He as. cribed to that nobleman every virtue, every dignity of man, depying him even a fault; or if he had a fault, that it was the re. sult of virtue. We confess, that we could see nothing of this
'transcendent virtue or greatness of mind, nothing that raised him above the common standard of his contemporaries, except his great wealth.
His constant attachment to Mrs. Armstead is worthy of praise. He led that lady to the altar, we believe, in the year 1794, although he did not avow it for eight years after. “ He has faults,” said Mr. Burke, “ but they are faults, that, though they may, in a small degree, tarnish his lustre, and sometimes impede the march of his abilities, have nothing in them to extinguish the fire of great virtues. In those faults, there is no mixture of deceit, of hypo. crisy, of pride, of ferocity, of complexional despotism, or want of feeling for the distresses of mankind. His are faults which might exist in a descendant of Henry the Fourth of France, as they did exist in that father of his country.”
Had Mr. Fox lived at the time when it became our lot to prepare the above biographical account of him, it would, indeed, have been less favourable than we have here made it; but we wish not to disturb the ashes of the dead : “ De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” is a maxim which we always pride ourselves in adopting; and though in our memoirs of this great character, we have endeavoured, as much as possible, to substitute “ verum" for “ bonum,” it must not be sapposed that we were amongst his political partisans. On the contrary, we only judged of his abilities by comparison ; and, certainly, when compared to those of his immortal opponent, they were (as we have observed in a distant part of our present volume) like Time contrasted with Eternity. Nor do we think that his loss to the nation is by any means so great as has been imagined; and his majesty would have aptly answered those who persuaded him that, by the death of Mr. Fox, our country was ruined, had he quoted, in the words of king Heory, a cvuplet from the old ballad of “ Chevy Chase,”
“ I trust I have within my realm
LIFE OF MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH. THREE accounts of the Life and Writings of Mrs. Smith have appeared; one, some years previous to her dissolution, in the third volume of Public Characters, and two since; the first, very imperfectly executed in the European Magazine for the month of November, and the second, in the first number of a work entitled