Charles James Fox: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 Charles James Fox

In office
27 March 1782 – 5 July 1782
Prime Minister The Marquess of Rockingham
Preceded by The Viscount Stormont (Northern Secretary)
Succeeded by The Lord Grantham
Constituency Midhurst, West Sussex

In office
27 March 1782 – 5 July 1782
Prime Minister The Marquess of Rockingham
Preceded by Lord North
Succeeded by Thomas Townshend

In office
2 April 1783 – 19 December 1783
Prime Minister The Duke of Portland
Preceded by The Lord Grantham
Succeeded by The Earl Temple

In office
7 February 1806 – 13 September 1806
Prime Minister William Grenville
Preceded by The Lord Mulgrave
Succeeded by Viscount Howick

Born January 24, 1749(1749-01-24)
Died September 13, 1806 (aged 57)
Chiswick, England
Political party British Whig Party
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Armistead
Profession Statesman, abolitionist

Charles James Fox PC (24 January 1749 – 13 September 1806), styled The Honourable from 1762, was a prominent British Whig statesman whose parliamentary career spanned thirty-eight years of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and who was particularly noted for being the arch-rival of William Pitt the Younger. The son of an old, indulgent Whig father, Fox rose to prominence in the House of Commons as a forceful and eloquent speaker with a notorious and colourful private life, though his opinions were rather conservative and conventional. However, with the coming of the American Revolution and the influence of the Whig Edmund Burke, Fox's opinions evolved into some of the most radical ever to be aired in the Parliament of his era. He came from a family with radical and revolutionary tendencies and his first cousin and friend Lord Edward Fitzgerald was a prominent member of the Society of United Irishmen who was arrested just prior to the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and died of wounds received as he was arrested.

Fox became a prominent and staunch opponent of George III, whom he regarded as an aspiring tyrant; he supported the revolutionaries across the Atlantic, taking up the habit of dressing in the colours of George Washington's army. Briefly serving as Britain's first Foreign Secretary in the ministry of the Marquess of Rockingham in 1782, he returned to the post in a coalition government with his old enemy Lord North in 1783. However, the King forced Fox and North out of government before the end of the year, replacing them with the twenty-four-year-old Pitt the Younger, and Fox spent the following twenty-two years facing Pitt and the government benches from across the Commons.

Though Fox had little interest in the actual exercise of power[1] and spent almost the entirety of his political career in opposition, he became noted as an anti-slavery campaigner, a supporter of the French Revolution, and a leading parliamentary advocate of religious tolerance and individual liberty. His friendship with his mentor Burke and his parliamentary credibility were both casualties of Fox's support for France during the Revolutionary Wars, but he went on to attack Pitt's wartime legislation and to defend the liberty of religious minorities and political radicals. After Pitt's death in January 1806, Fox briefly became Foreign Secretary in the 'Ministry of All the Talents' of William Grenville, before dying himself on 13 September 1806, aged fifty-seven.


1749-1758: Early life

Fox was born at 9 Conduit Street[2], London, the second surviving son of Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland - a disciple of Robert Walpole and rival of Pitt the Elder, who had amassed a considerable fortune by exploiting his position as Paymaster General of the forces - and Lady Caroline Lennox - a daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond and a direct descendant of Charles II.[3] His elder brother, Stephen, later 2nd Baron Holland, was a minor politician until his early death in 1774, and his younger brother, Henry, had a distinguished military career.[4]

Fox's two elder brothers had been seriously ill in infancy, the second mortally so, and his father acquired an immense emotional attachment to his third son. He found Charles "infinitely engaging & clever & pretty" and, from the time that his son was three years old, apparently preferred his company at meals to that of anyone else.[5] The stories of Charles's over-indulgence by his doting father are legendary. It was said that Charles once expressed a great desire to break his father's watch and was not restrained or punished when he duly smashed it on the floor. On another occasion, when Henry had promised his son that he could watch the demolition of a wall on his estate and found that it had already been destroyed, he ordered the workmen to rebuild the wall and demolish it again, with Charles watching.[6]

1758-1768: Education

Given carte blanche to choose his own education, in 1758 Fox attended a fashionable Wandsworth school run by a Monsieur Pampellonne, followed by Eton College, where Fox began to develop his life-long love of classical literature. In later life he was said always to have carried a copy of Horace in his coat pocket. He was taken out of school by his father in 1761 to attend the coronation of George III, who would later go on to become one of his most bitter enemies, and once more in 1763 to visit the Continent; to Paris and Spa. On this trip, Charles was given a substantial amount of money with which to learn to gamble by his father, who also arranged for him to lose his virginity, aged fourteen, to a Madame de Quallens.[4] Fox returned to Eton later that year, "attired in red-heeled shoes and Paris cut-velvet, adorned with a pigeon-wing hair style tinted with blue powder, and a newly acquired French accent", and was duly flogged by Dr. Barnard, the headmaster.[7] These three pursuits – gambling, womanising and the love of things and fashions foreign – would become, once inculcated in his adolescence, notorious habits of Fox’s later life.

Fox entered Hertford College, Oxford in October 1764, although he would later leave without taking a degree, rather contemptuous of its "nonsenses".[8] He went on several further expeditions to Europe, becoming well-known in the great Parisian salons, meeting influential figures such as Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, the duc d'Orléans and the marquis de Lafayette, and becoming the co-owner of a number of racehorses with the duc de Lauzun.[4]

1768-1774: Early political career

For the 1768 general election, Henry Fox bought his son the West Sussex constituency of Midhurst, though Charles was still nineteen and technically ineligible for Parliament. Fox was to address the House of Commons some 254 times between 1768 and 1774[4] and rapidly gathered a reputation as a superb orator, but he had not yet developed the radical opinions for which he would become famous. Thus he spent much of his early years unwittingly manufacturing ammunition for his later critics and their accusations of hypocrisy. A supporter of the Grafton and North ministries, Fox was prominent in the campaign to punish the radical John Wilkes for challenging the Commons. "He thus opened his career by speaking in behalf of the Commons against the people and their elected representative."[9] Consequently, both Fox and his brother, Stephen, were insulted and pelted with mud in the street by the pro-Wilkes London crowds.[10]

However, between 1770 and 1774, Fox's seemingly promising career in the political establishment was spoiled. In February 1770, Fox was appointed to the board of the Admiralty by Lord North, but on the 15th of the same month he resigned due to his enthusiastic opposition to the government's Royal Marriages Act, the provisions of which – incidentally – cast doubt on the legitimacy of his parents' marriage.[4] On 28 December 1772, North appointed Fox to the board of the Treasury and again he surrendered his post, in February 1774, over the Government's allegedly feeble response to the contemptuous printing and public distribution of copies of parliamentary debates. Behind these incidents lay his family's resentment towards Lord North for refusing to elevate the Holland barony to an earldom.[4] But the fact that such a young man could seemingly treat ministerial office so lightly was noted at court. George III, also observing Fox's infamously licentious private behaviour, took it to be presumption and judged that Fox could not be trusted to take anything seriously.[4]

1774-1782: The American Revolution

After 1774, Fox began to reconsider his political position under the influence of Edmund Burke - who had sought out the promising young Whig and would become his mentor - and the unfolding events in America. He drifted from his rather unideological family-orientated politics into the orbit of the Rockingham Whig party.

During this period, Fox became possibly the most prominent and vituperative parliamentary critic of Lord North and the conduct of the American war. In 1775, he denounced North in the Commons as

the blundering pilot who had brought the nation into its present difficulties ... Lord Chatham, the King of Prussia, nay, Alexander the Great, never gained more in one campaign than the noble lord has lost—he has lost a whole continent.[4]

Fox, who occasionally corresponded with Thomas Jefferson and had met Benjamin Franklin in Paris,[4] predicted that Britain had little practical hope of subduing the colonies, and interpreted the American cause approvingly as a struggle for liberty against the oppressive policies of a despotic and unaccountable executive.[4] It was at this time that Fox and his supporters took up the habit of dressing in buff and blue: the colours of the uniforms in Washington’s army. Fox's friend, the Earl of Carlisle, observed that any setback for the British Government in America was "a great cause of amusement to Charles."[11] Even after the American defeat at Long Island in 1776, Fox stated that

I hope that it will be a point of honour among us all to support the American pretensions in adversity as much as we did in their prosperity, and that we shall never desert those who have acted unsuccessfully upon Whig principles.[12]

On 31 October the same year, Fox responded to the King's address to Parliament with "one of his finest and most animated orations, and with severity to the answered person", so much so that, when he sat down, no member of the Government would attempt to reply.[13]

Portrait of George III by Allan Ramsay (1762)

Also crucial to any understanding of Fox's political career from this point was his mutual antipathy with George III – probably the most enthusiastic prosecutor of the American war. Fox became convinced that the King was determined to challenge the authority of Parliament and the balance of the constitution established in 1688, and to achieve Continental-style tyranny. George in return thought that Fox had "cast off every principle of common honour and honesty … [a man who is] as contemptible as he is odious … [and has an] aversion to all restraints."[2] It is difficult to find two figures in history more greatly contrasted in temperament than Fox and George: the former a notorious gambler and rake; the latter famous for his virtues of frugality and family. On 6 April 1780, John Dunning's motion that "The influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished." passed the Commons by a vote of 233 to 215.[14] Fox thought it "glorious", saying on 24 April that

the question now was … whether that beautiful fabric [i.e. the constitution] … was to be maintained in that freedom ... for which blood had been spilt; or whether we were to submit to that system of despotism, which had so many advocates in this country.[4]

Fox, however, had not been present in the House for the beginning of the Dunning debate, as he had been occupied in the adjoining eleventh-century Westminster Hall, serving as chairman of a mass public meeting before a large banner that read "Annual Parliaments and Equal Representation".[15] This was the period when Fox, hardening against the influence of the Crown, was embraced by the radical movement of the late eighteenth century. When the shocking Gordon riots exploded in London in June 1780, Fox – though deploring the violence of the crowd – declared that he would "much rather be governed by a mob than a standing army."[16] Later, in July, Fox was returned for the populous and prestigious constituency of Westminster, with around 12,000 electors, and acquired the title "Man of the People".[4]

1782-1784: Constitutional crisis

When North finally resigned under the strains of office and the disastrous American war in March 1782 and was gingerly replaced with the new ministry of the Marquess of Rockingham, Fox was appointed Foreign Secretary. But Rockingham, after finally acknowledging the independence of the former Thirteen Colonies, died unexpectedly on 1 July. Fox refused to serve in the successor administration of the Earl of Shelburne, splitting the Whig party; Fox's father had been convinced that Shelburne - a supporter of the elder Pitt - had thwarted his ministerial ambitions at the time of the 1763 peace.[17] Fox now found himself in common opposition to Shelburne with his old and bitter enemy, Lord North. Based on this single conjunction of interests and the fading memory of the happy co-operation of the early 1770s, the two men who had vilified one another throughout the American war together formed a coalition and forced their Government, with an overwhelming majority composed of North's Tories and Fox's opposition Whigs, on to the King.

Charles James Fox (1782) by Joshua Reynolds

The Fox-North Coalition came to power on 2 April 1783, in spite of the King's resistance. It was the first time that George had been allowed no role in determining who should hold government office.[4] On one occasion, Fox, who returned enthusiastically to the post of Foreign Secretary, ended an epistle to the King: "Whenever Your Majesty will be graciously pleased to condescend even to hint your inclinations upon any subject, that it will be the study of Your Majesty's Ministers to show how truly sensible they are of Your Majesty's goodness." The King replied: "No answer."[18] George III seriously thought of abdicating at this time, after the comprehensive defeat of his American policy and the imposition of Fox and North[19], but refrained from doing so, mainly because of the thought of his succession by his son, George Augustus Frederick: the notoriously extravagant womaniser, gambler and associate of Fox, who could swear in three languages.[20] Indeed, in many ways the King considered Fox his son's tutor in debauchery. "George III let it be widely broadcast that he held Fox principally responsible for the Prince’s many failings, not least a tendency to vomit in public."[21]

Portrait of Pitt, attributed to Thomas Gainsborough (1788)

Happily for George, however, the unpopular coalition would not outlast the year. Fox proposed an East India Bill to place the government of the ailing and oppressive British East India Company, at that time in control of a considerable expanse of India, on a sounder footing with a board of governors responsible to Parliament and more resistant to Crown patronage. It passed the Commons by 153 to 80, but, when the King made it clear that any peer who voted in favour of the bill would be considered a personal enemy of the Crown, the Lords divided against Fox by 95 to 76.[22] George now felt justified in dismissing Fox and North from government, and nominating William Pitt in their place; at twenty-four years of age, the youngest Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in history was appointed to office, apparently on the authority of the votes of 19 peers. Fox used his parliamentary majority to oppose Pitt's nomination, and every subsequent measure that he put before the House, until March, 1784, when the King dissolved Parliament and, in the following general election, Pitt was returned with a substantial majority.

In Fox's own constituency of Westminster the contest was particularly fierce. An energetic campaign in his favour was run by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, allegedly a lover of Fox's who was said to have won at least one vote for him by kissing a shoemaker with a rather romantic idea of what constituted a bribe. In the end Fox was re-elected by a very slender margin, but legal challenges (encouraged, to an extent, by Pitt and the King)[23] prevented a final declaration of the result for over a year. In the meantime, Fox sat for the Scottish pocket borough of Tain or Northern Burghs, for which he was qualified by being made an unlikely burgess of Kirkwall in Orkney (which was one of the Burghs in the district). The experience of these years was crucial in Fox's political formation. His suspicions had been confirmed: it seemed to him that George III had personally scuppered both the Rockingham-Shelburne and Fox-North governments, interfered in the legislative process and now dissolved Parliament when its composition inconvenienced him. Pitt – a man of little property and no party – seemed to Fox a blatant tool of the Crown.[24] However, the King and Pitt had great popular support, and many in the press and general population saw Fox as the trouble-maker challenging the composition of the constitution and the King's remaining powers. He was often caricatured as Oliver Cromwell and Guy Fawkes during this period, as well as Satan, "Carlo Khan" (see James Sayers) and Machiavelli.[25]

1784-1788: His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition

One of Pitt’s first major actions as Prime Minister was, in 1785, to put a scheme of parliamentary reform before the Commons, proposing to rationalize somewhat the existing, decidedly unrepresentative, electoral system by eliminating thirty-six rotten boroughs and redistributing seats to represent London and the larger counties. Fox supported Pitt’s reforms, despite apparent political expediency, but they were defeated by 248 to 174.[26] Reform would not be considered seriously by Parliament for another decade.

Pitt facing Fox across St Stephen's Chapel

In 1787, the most dramatic political event of the decade came to pass in the form of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the Governor of Bengal until 1785, on charges of corruption and extortion. Fifteen of the eighteen Managers appointed to the trial were Foxites, one of them being Fox himself.[27] Although the matter was really Burke’s area of expertise, Fox was, at first, enthusiastic. If the trial could demonstrate the misrule of British India by Hastings and the East India Company more widely, then Fox’s India Bill of 1784 – the point on which the Fox-North Coalition had been dismissed by the King – would be vindicated.[28] The trial was also expedient for Fox in that it placed Pitt in an uncomfortable political position. The premier was forced to equivocate over the Hastings trial, because to oppose Hastings would been to endanger the support of the King and the East India Company, while to openly support him would have alienated country gentlemen and principled supporters like Wilberforce.[29] However, as the trial’s intricacies dragged on (it would be 1795 before Hastings was finally acquitted), Fox’s interest waned and the burden of managing the trial devolved increasingly on Burke.

Fox was also reputed to be the anonymous author of An Essay Upon Wind; with Curious Anecdotes of Eminent Peteurs. Humbly Dedicated to the Lord Chancellor in 1787.

1788-1789: The Regency Crisis

In late October, 1788, George III descended into a bout of insanity, probably caused by an attack of the hereditary disease porphyria. He had begun to address oak trees as though they were the King of Prussia, and - more worryingly - had declared that Pitt was "a rascal" and Fox "his Friend".[30] The King was placed under restraint and a rumour went round that Fox had poisoned him.[30] Thus the opportunity revealed itself for the establishment of a regency under Fox’s friend and ally, the Prince of Wales, which would take the reins of government out of the hands of the incapacitated George III and allow the replacement of his 'minion', Pitt, with a Foxite ministry.

Fox, however, was out of contact in Italy as the crisis broke; he had resolved not to read any newspapers while he was abroad, except the racing reports.[31] Three weeks passed before he returned to Britain on 25 November 1788 and then he was taken seriously ill (partly due to the stress of his rapid journey across Europe) and would not recover entirely until December 1789. He again absented himself to Bath from 27 January to 21 February 1789.[32] When Fox did make it into Parliament, he seemed to make a serious political error. In the Commons on 10 December, he declared that it was the right of the Prince of Wales to install himself as regent immediately. It is said that Pitt, upon hearing this, slapped his thigh in an uncharacteristic display of emotion and declared that he would "unwhig" Fox for the rest of his life. Fox's argument did indeed seem to contradict his life-long championing of Parliament's rights over the Crown. Pitt pointed out that the Prince of Wales had no more right to the throne than any other Briton, though he may well have - as the King's firstborn - a better claim to it. It was Parliament’s constitutional right to decide. However, there was more than naked thirst for power in Fox's seemingly hypocritical Tory assertion. Fox believed that the King's illness was permanent, and therefore that George III was, constitutionally speaking, dead. To challenge the Prince of Wales's right to succeed him would be to challenge fundamental contemporary assumptions about property rights and primogeniture. Pitt, on the other hand, considered the King's madness temporary (or, at least, hoped that it would be), and thus saw the throne as temporarily unoccupied rather than vacant.[33]

While Fox drew up lists for his proposed Cabinet under the new Prince Regent, Pitt spun out the legalistic debates over the constitutionality of and precedents for instituting a regency, as well as the actual process of drawing up a Regency Bill and navigating it through Parliament. He negotiated a number of restrictions on the powers of the Prince of Wales as regent (which would later provide the basis of the Regency of 1811), but the bill finally passed the Commons on 12 February. As the Lords too prepared to pass it, they learned that the King’s health was improving and decided to postpone further action. The King soon regained lucidity in time to prevent the establishment of his son’s regency and the elevation of Fox to the premiership, and, on 23 April, a service of thanksgiving was conducted at St Paul’s in honour of George III’s return to health.[34] Fox’s opportunity had passed.

1789-1791: The French Revolution

The Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789

Fox welcomed the French Revolution of 1789, interpreting it as a late Continental imitation of Britain's Glorious Revolution of 1688. In response to the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July, he famously declared, "How much the greatest event it is that ever happened in the world! and how much the best!"[4] In April 1791, Fox told the Commons that he "admired the new constitution of France, considered altogether, as the most stupendous and glorious edifice of liberty, which had been erected on the foundation of human integrity in any time or country."[35] He was thus somewhat bemused by his old Whig friend, Burke's, reaction to the dramatic events across the Channel. In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke warned that the revolution was a violent rebellion against tradition and proper authority, motivated by utopian, abstract ideas disconnected from reality, which would lead to anarchy and eventual dictatorship. Fox read the book and found it "in very bad taste" and "favouring Tory principles"[36], but avoided pressing the matter for a while to preserve his relationship with Burke. The more radical Whigs, like Sheridan, broke with Burke more readily at this point.

Fox instead turned his attention - despite the politically volatile situation - to repealing the Test and Corporation Acts, which restricted the liberties of English Dissenters and Catholics. On 2 March 1790, Fox gave a long and eloquent speech to a packed House of Commons.

A Birmingham toast, as given on the 14th of July: Fox is caricatured by Gillray as toasting the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille with Joseph Priestley and other Dissenters (23 July 1791)
Persecution always says, 'I know the consequences of your opinion better than you know them yourselves.' But the language of toleration was always amicable, liberal, and just: it confessed its doubts, and acknowledged its ignorance … Persecution had always reasoned from cause to effect, from opinion to action, [that such an opinion would invariably lead to but one action], which proved generally erroneous; while toleration led us invariably to form just conclusions, by judging from actions and not from opinions.[37]

Pitt, in turn, came to the defence of the Acts as adopted

by the wisdom of our ancestors to serve as a bulwark to the Church, whose constituency was so intimately connected with that of the state, that the safety of the one was always liable to be affected by any danger which might threaten the other.[37]

Burke, with fear of the radical upheaval in France foremost in his mind, took Pitt's side in the debate, dismissing Nonconformists as "men of factious and dangerous principles", to which Fox replied that Burke's "strange dereliction from his former principles … filled him with grief and shame". Fox's motion was defeated in the Commons by 294 votes to 105.[38] Later, Fox successfully supported the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791, extending the rights of British Catholics. He explained his stance to his Catholic friend Charles Butler, declaring:

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
the best ground, and the only ground to be defended in all points is, that action, not principle is the object of law and legislation; with a person's principles no government has any right to interfere.[39]

On the world stage of 1791, war threatened more with Spain and Russia than revolutionary France. Fox opposed the bellicose stances of Pitt's ministry in the Nootka Sound crisis, and over the Russian occupation of the Turkish port of Ochakiv on the Black Sea. Fox contributed to the peaceful resolution of these entanglements, and gained a new admirer in Catherine the Great, who bought a bust of Fox and placed it between Cicero and Demosthenes in her collection.[4] On April 18, Fox spoke in the Commons - together with William Wilberforce, Pitt and Burke - in favour of a measure to abolish the slave trade, but – despite their combined rhetorical talents – the vote went against them by a majority of 75.[40]

In The Hopes of the Party (1791), Gillray caricatured Fox with an axe about to strike off the head of George III, in imitation of the French Revolution.

On 6 May 1791, a tearful confrontation on the floor of the Commons (officially, and rather irrelevantly, during a debate on the particulars of a bill for the government of Canada) finally shattered the quarter-century friendship of Fox and Burke, as the latter dramatically crossed the floor of the House to sit down next to Pitt, taking the support of a good deal of the more conservative Whigs with him.[41] Later, on his deathbed in 1797, Burke would have his wife turn Fox away rather than allow a final reconciliation.

1791-1797: "Pitt's Terror"

Fox continued to defend the French Revolution, even as its fruits began to collapse into war, repression and the Reign of Terror. Though there were few developments in France after 1792 that Fox could positively favour[42] (the guillotine claimed the life of his old friend, the duc de Biron, among many others) Fox maintained that the old monarchical system still proved a greater threat to liberty than the new, degenerating experiment in France. Fox thought of revolutionary France as the lesser of two evils, and emphasised the role of traditional despots in perverting the course of the revolution: he argued that Louis XVI and the French aristocracy had brought their fates upon themselves by abusing the constitution of 1791 and that the coalition of European autocrats, which was currently dispatching its armies against France's borders, had driven the revolutionary government to desperate and bloody measures by exciting a profound national crisis. Fox was not surprised when Pitt and the King brought Britain into the war as well, and would afterwards blame the pair and their prodigal European subsidies for the long-drawn-out continuation of the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1795, he wrote to his nephew, Lord Holland:

The Tree of LIBERTY, – with, the Devil tempting John Bull (1798): Fox is caricatured by Gillray as Satan, tempting John Bull with the rotten fruit of the opposition's Tree of liberty.
Peace is the wish of the French of Italy Spain Germany and all the world, and Great Britain alone the cause of preventing its accomplishment, and this not for any point of honour or even interest, but merely lest there should be an example in the modern world of a great powerful Republic.[43]

Rather ironically, while Fox was being denounced by many in Britain as a Jacobin traitor, across the Channel he featured on a 1798 list of the Britons to be transported after a successful French invasion of Britain. According to the document, Fox was a "false patriot; having often insulted the French nation in his speeches, and particularly in 1786."[44] According to one of his biographers, Fox's "loyalties were not national but were offered to people like himself at home or abroad".[4] In 1805 Francis Horner wrote that: "I could name to you gentlemen, with good coats on, and good sense in their own affairs, who believe that actually in the pay of France".[45]

But Fox's radical position soon became too extreme for many of his followers, particularly old Whig friends like the Duke of Portland, Earl Fitzwilliam and the Earl of Carlisle. Around July 1794 their fear of France outgrew their resentment towards Pitt for his actions in 1784, and they crossed the floor to the Government benches. Fox could not believe that they "would disgrace" themselves in such a way.[4] After these defections, the Foxites could no longer constitute a credible parliamentary opposition, reduced, as they were, to some fifty MPs.[46]

Fox, however, still insisted on challenging the repressive wartime legislation introduced by Pitt in the 1790s that would become known (rather exaggeratedly) as "Pitt's Terror". In 1792, Fox had seen through the only piece of substantial legislation in his career, the Libel Act 1792, which restored to juries the right to decide what was and was not libellous, in addition to whether a defendant was guilty. E.P. Thompson thought it "Fox's greatest service to the common people, passed at the eleventh hour before the tide turned toward repression."[47] Indeed, the act was passed by Parliament on 21 May, the same day as a royal proclamation against seditious writings was issued, and more libel cases would be brought by the government in the following two years than had been in all the preceding years of the eighteenth century.[2]

Fox spoke in opposition to the King's Speech on 13 December 1793, but was defeated in the subsequent division by 290 to 50.[48] He argued against war measures like the stationing of Hessian troops in Britain, the employment of royalist French émigrés in the British army and, most of all, Pitt's suspension of habeas corpus in 1794. He told the Commons that:

We had no invasion to fear but an invasion of the constitution.[49]

In 1795, the King's carriage was assaulted in the street, providing an excuse for Pitt to introduce the infamous Two Acts: the Seditious Meetings Act 1795, which prohibited unlicensed gatherings of over fifty people, and the Treasonable Practices Act, which greatly widened the legal definition of treason, making any assault on the constitution punishable by seven years' transportation. Fox spoke ten times in the debate on the acts.[50] He argued that, according to the principles of the proposed legislation, Pitt should have been transported a decade before in 1785, when he had being advocating parliamentary reform.[51] Fox warned the Commons that

"if you silence remonstrance and stifle complaint, you then leave no other alternative but force and violence. "[50]

He argued that "the best security for the due maintenance of the constitution was in the strict and incessant vigilance of the people over parliament itself. Meetings of the people, therefore, for the discussion of public objects were not merely legal, but laudable. "[2]

Parliament passed the acts. But Fox enjoyed a swell of extra-parliamentary support during the course of the controversy. A substantial petitioning movement arose in support of him, and on 16 November 1795, he addressed a public meeting of between two- and thirty-thousand people on the subject.[50] However, this came to nothing in the long run. The Foxites were becoming disenchanted with the Commons, overwhelmingly dominated by Pitt, and began to denounce it to one another as unrepresentative.[52]

1797-1806: Political wilderness

In Stealing off (1798), Gillray caricatured Fox's secession from Parliament.

By May 1797, an overwhelming majority – both in and outside of Parliament – had formed in support of Pitt's war against France. Fox's following in Parliament had shrivelled to about 25, compared with around 55 in 1794 and at least 90 during the 1780s. Many of the Foxites purposefully seceded from Parliament in 1797; Fox himself retired for lengthy periods to his wife's house in Surrey.[52] The distance from the stress and noise of Westminster was an enormous psychological and spiritual relief to Fox,[53] but still he defended his earlier principles: "It is a great comfort to me to reflect how steadily I have opposed this war, for the miseries it seems likely to produce are without end."[2]

In May 1798 Fox proposed a toast to "Our Sovereign, the Majesty of the People". The Duke of Norfolk had made the same toast in January at Fox's birthday dinner and had been dismissed as Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding as a result. Pitt thought of sending Fox to the Tower of London for the duration of the parliamentary session but instead removed him from the Privy Council.[54] Fox believed that it was "impossible to support the Revolution [of 1688] and the Brunswick Succession upon any other principle" than the sovereignty of the people.[55]

After the Peace of Amiens (which he welcomed wholeheartedly) Fox joined the thousands of English tourists flocking across the Channel to see the sights of the revolution. Fox and his retinue were kept under surveillance by officials from the British embassy during their trip of 20 July to 17 November.[4] In Paris, he presented his wife, Elizabeth Armistead, for the first time in seven years of marriage, creating yet another stir back at court in London, and had three interviews with Napoleon, who – though he tried to flatter his most prominent British sympathiser – had to spend most of the time arguing about the freedom of the press and the perniciousness of a standing army.[4] Fox thought the coup d'état that brought Napoleon to power "a very bad beginning … the manner of the thing [was] quite odious",[56] but he was convinced that the French leader sincerely desired peace in order to consolidate his rule and rebuild his shattered country. Upon hearing of the spectacular French victories at Ulm and Austerlitz later in 1805, Fox commented

These are wonders indeed but they are not much more than I expected.[57]

1806: Final year

In Visiting the Sick (1806), James Gillray caricatured Fox's last months.

After Pitt’s resignation in February 1801, Fox had undertaken a partial return to politics. Having opposed the Addington ministry (though he approved of its negotiation of the Peace of Amiens) as a Pitt-style tool of the King, Fox gravitated towards the Grenvillite faction, which shared his support for Catholic emancipation and composed the only parliamentary alternative to a coalition with the Pittites. Thus, when Pitt (who had replaced Addington in 1804 to become Prime Minister once more) died on 23 January 1806, Fox was the last remaining great political figure of the era, and could no longer be denied a place in government.[2] When Grenville formed a "Ministry of All the Talents" out of his supporters, the followers of Addington and the Foxites, Fox was once again offered the post of Foreign Secretary, which he accepted. Though the administration failed to achieve either Catholic emancipation or peace with France, Fox’s last great achievement would be the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Though Fox would die before abolition was formalized, he oversaw a Foreign Slave Trade Bill in spring 1806 that prohibited British subjects from contributing to the trading of slaves with the colonies of Britain’s wartime enemies, thus eliminating two-thirds of the slave trade passing through British ports.

On 10 June 1806, Fox offered a resolution for total abolition to Parliament: "this House, conceiving the African slave trade to be contrary to the principles of justice, humanity, and sound policy, will, with all practicable expedition, proceed to take effectual measures for abolishing the said trade…" The House of Commons voted 114 to 15 in favour and the Lords approved the motion on 25 June.[2] Fox said that:

So fully am I impressed with the vast importance and necessity of attaining what will be the object of my motion this night, that if, during the almost forty years that I have had the honour of a seat in parliament, I had been so fortunate as to accomplish that, and that only, I should think I had done enough, and could retire from public life with comfort, and the conscious satisfaction, that I had done my duty.[4]


In Comforts of a Bed of Roses (1806), Gillray depicts Death crawling out from under Fox's covers, entwined with a scroll inscribed "Intemperance, Dropsy, Dissolution".

Fox died – still in office – at Chiswick House, west of London, in 1806, not eight months after the younger Pitt. An autopsy revealed a hardened liver, thirty-five gallstones, and around seven pints of transparent fluid in his abdomen.[4] Fox also left £10,000-worth of debts,[58] though this was only a quarter of the £40,000 that the charitable public had to raise to pay off Pitt's arrears.[4] Although Fox had wanted to be buried near his home in Chertsey, his funeral took place in Westminster Abbey on 10 October 1806, the anniversary of his initial election for Westminster in 1780. Unlike Pitt's, Fox's funeral was a private affair, but still the crowds who turned out to pay their respects were at least as large as those at his rival's service.[4]

Private life

Fox's private life (as far as it was private) was notorious, even in an age noted for the licentiousness of its upper classes. Fox was famed for his rakishness and his drinking; vices which were both indulged frequently and immoderately. Fox was also an infamous gambler, once claiming that winning was the greatest pleasure in the world, and losing the second greatest. Between 1772 and 1774, Fox's father had – shortly before dying – had to pay off £120,000 of Charles' debts; the equivalent of around £11 million at today's prices. Fox was twice bankrupted between 1781 and 1784[4], and at one point his creditors confiscated his furniture.[2] Fox's finances were often "more the subject of conversation than any other topic."[59] By the end of his life, Fox had lost about £200,000 gambling.[60]

In appearance, Fox was dark, corpulent and hairy, to the extent that when he was born his father compared him to a monkey.[4] His round face was dominated by his luxuriant eyebrows, with the result that he was known among the Whigs as 'the Eyebrow.' Though he became increasingly dishevelled and fat in middle age, the young Fox had been a very fashionable figure; in particular, he had been the leader of the 'Maccaroni' set of extravagant young followers of Continental fashions. Fox enjoyed riding and cricket but, in the latter case, the combination of his impulsive nature and considerable weight led to his often being run out between wickets.[4]

Le Coup de Maitre. – This Print copied from the French Original, is dedicated to the London Corresponding Society (1797): a caricature of Fox by Gillray, showing the Whig as a sans-culottes taking aim at the constitutional target of Crown, Lords and Commons.

Fox was also probably the most ridiculed figure of the 18th century – most famously by Gillray, for whom he served as a stock Jacobin villain. The King regarded Fox as beyond morality and the corrupter of his own eldest son, and the swelling late eighteenth-century movements of Christian evangelism and middle-class 'respectability' also frowned on his excesses. However, Fox was apparently not greatly bothered by these criticisms, and indeed kept a collection of his caricatures.[4] His friend, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, said of him that, since "the respect of the world was not easily retrievable, he became so callous to what was said of him, as never to repress a single thought, or even temper a single expression when he was before the public."[61] Indeed, particularly after 1794, Fox could be considered at fault for rarely consulting the opinions of anyone outside of his own circle of friends and supporters.[4]

Fox was also regarded as a notorious womaniser in a period when a mistress was a practical necessity for a London gentleman. In 1784 or 1785, Fox met and fell in love with Elizabeth Armistead, a former courtesan and mistress of the Prince of Wales who had little interest in politics or Parliament.[62] He married her in a private ceremony at Wyton in Huntingdonshire on 28 September 1795, but did not make the fact public until October 1802, and Elizabeth was never really accepted at court. Fox would increasingly spend time away from Parliament at Armistead's rural villa, St. Ann's Hill, near Chertsey in Surrey, where Armistead's influence gradually moderated Fox's wilder behaviour and together they would read, garden, explore the countryside and entertain friends. In his last days, the sceptical Fox allowed scriptural readings at his bedside in order to please his religious wife. She would survive him by some thirty-six years, dying on 8 July 1842, at the age of ninety-one.[4]

Despite his celebrated flaws, history records Fox as an amiable figure. The Tory wit George Selwyn wrote that, "I have passed two evenings with him, and never was anybody so agreeable, and the more so from his having no pretensions to it". Selwyn also said that "Charles, I am persuaded, would have no consideration on earth but for what was useful to his own ends. You have heard me say, that I thought he had no malice or rancour; I think so still and am sure of it. But I think that he has no feeling neither, for anyone but himself; and if I could trace in any one action of his life anything that had not for its object his own gratification, I should with pleasure receive the intelligence because then I had much rather (if it were possible) think well of him than not".[63] Sir Philip Francis said of Fox: "The essential defect in his character and the cause of all his failures, strange as it may seem, was that he had no heart".[64] Edward Gibbon remarked that "Perhaps no human being was ever more perfectly exempt from the taint of malevolence, vanity, or falsehood."[2] Central to understanding Fox's life was his view that "friendship was the only real happiness in the world."[65] For Fox, politics was the extension of his activities at Newmarket and Brooks's to Westminster.[4] "Fox had little or no interest in the exercise of power."[1] The details of policy – particularly of economics – bored him, in contrast with the intensity of Burke’s legal pursuit of Warren Hastings, and of Pitt’s prosecution of the war against France. Moreover, the Foxites were the "the witty and wicked" satellites of their leader, as much friends as political allies.[66] Indeed, Fox's generous nature (helped by his earlier over-indulgence by his father) made him a rather hopeless political party-leader, often seeming quite unwilling to cajole or discipline his unruly supporters, especially in the case of the young, who were disproportionately represented among the Foxites. Perhaps one great testament to Fox's character is that subscriptions to the old Whig club of Brooks's would decline on the rare occasions when he was called away to government office, because one of the prime entertainments would no longer be available.[4]


Bust of Fox in Chertsey, erected in 2005

Although in modern times Fox is a less well remembered historical and political figure, especially when compared with his rival Pitt, he had been a quasi-deified presence in the Whiggism of the early nineteenth century, which kindly tended to gloss over his unwholesome habits and equivocation over parliamentary reform.[4] Strikingly, particularly after 1794, the word 'Whig' gave way to the word 'Foxite' as the self-description of the members of the opposition to Pitt. In many ways, the Pittite-Foxite division of Parliament after the French Revolution established the basis for the ideological Conservative-Liberal divide of the nineteenth century. Fox and Pitt went down in parliamentary history as legendary political and oratorical opponents who would not be equalled until the days of Gladstone and Disraeli more than half a century later. Even Fox’s great rival was willing to acknowledge the old Whig’s talents. When, in 1790, the comte de Mirabeau disparaged Fox in Pitt's presence, Pitt stopped him, saying, "You have never seen the wizard within the magic circle."[67]

Statue of Fox in Bloomsbury Square, London

As Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey asked a Newcastle-upon-Tyne Fox dinner in 1819: "What subject is there, whether of foreign or domestic interest, or that in the smallest degree affects our Constitution which does not immediately associate itself with the memory of Mr Fox?"[4] Fox's name was invoked numerous times in debates by supporters of Catholic Emancipation and the Great Reform Act in the early nineteenth century. John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford kept a bust of Fox in his pantheon of Whig grandees at Woburn Abbey and erected a statue of him in Bloomsbury Square. Sarah Siddons kept a portrait of Fox in her dressing room. In 1811, the Prince of Wales took the oaths of office as regent with a bust of Fox at his side. Whig households would collect locks of Fox's hair, books of his conflated speeches and busts in his likeness. The Fox Club was established in London in 1790 and held the first of its Fox dinners - annual events celebrating Fox's birthday - in 1808; the last recorded dinner taking place at Brooks's in 1907.[4] "Charles James" or simply "Charlie" is to the present day a common nickname applied by practitioners of the sport to the quarry pursued by packs of foxhounds.

Memorial to Fox erected by William Chamberlayne on his estate at Weston, now within Mayfield Park, Southampton.

In addition, the town of Foxborough in Massachusetts was named in honour of the staunch supporter of American independence. Fox is remembered in his home town of Chertsey by a bust on a high plinth (pictured right), erected in 2006 in a new development by the railway station. Fox is also commemorated in a termly dinner held in his honour at his alma mater, Hertford College, Oxford, by students of English, history and the romance languages.

Fox featured as a character in the 1994 movie The Madness of King George, portrayed by Jim Carter; in the 2006 movie Amazing Grace, played by Michael Gambon; and in the 2008 movie The Duchess, played by Simon McBurney. Fox is also portrayed in the 1999 BBC mini series Aristocrats.


Charles James Fox's ancestors in three generations

Charles James Fox

Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland

Father's father
Sir Stephen Fox
Father's father's father
William Fox
Father's father's mother
Elizabeth Pavey
Father's mother
Christiana Hope
Father's mother's father
Rev. Francis Hope
Father's mother's mother
Christian Palfreyman
Lady Caroline Lennox
Mother's father
Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond
Mother's father's father
Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond and Lennox
Mother's father's mother
Anne Brudenell
Mother's mother
Lady Sarah Cadogan
Mother's mother's father
William Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan
Mother's mother's mother
Margaret Cecilia Munter


  1. ^ a b Mitchell 1992, p. 264
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Powell. (1996). Charles James Fox, Valiant Voice for Liberty. The Freeman, Vol. 46, No. 9.  
  3. ^ Reid 1969, pp. 7-8
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Mitchell. (2007). Charles James Fox. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  
  5. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 4
  6. ^ Reid 1969, p. 10
  7. ^ Reid 1969, p. 16
  8. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 8
  9. ^ Reid 1969, p. 26
  10. ^ Rudé 1962, p. 162
  11. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 27
  12. ^ Reid 1969, p. 62
  13. ^ Reid 1969, p. 63
  14. ^ Reid 1969, p. 108
  15. ^ Reid 1969, p. 109
  16. ^ Thompson 1963, p. 78
  17. ^ Reid 1969, p. 137
  18. ^ Reid 1969, p. 169
  19. ^ Pares 1953, p. 120
  20. ^ Reid 1969, p. 171
  21. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 88
  22. ^ Reid 1969, p. 190
  23. ^ Reid 1969, p.206
  24. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 75
  25. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 73
  26. ^ Reid 1969, p. 214
  27. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 76
  28. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 77
  29. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 78
  30. ^ a b Mitchell 1992, p. 80
  31. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 232
  32. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 81
  33. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 82
  34. ^ Reid 1969, p. 245
  35. ^ Reid 1969, p. 266
  36. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 113
  37. ^ a b Reid 1969, p. 261
  38. ^ Reid 1969, p. 262.
  39. ^ Reid 1969, p. 260
  40. ^ Reid 1969, p. 267
  41. ^ Reid 1969, p. 269
  42. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 124
  43. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 162
  44. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 159
  45. ^ Leonard Horner (ed.), Memoirs and Correspondence of Francis Horner, M.P. Volume I (London: John Murray, 1843), p. 323.
  46. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 136
  47. ^ Thompson 1963, p. 135
  48. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 132
  49. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 133
  50. ^ a b c Mitchell 1992, p. 140
  51. ^ Watson 1960, p. 360
  52. ^ a b Mitchell 1992, p. 141
  53. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 146
  54. ^ Clive Emsley, British Society and the French Wars, 1793-1815 (Macmillan, 1979), p. 67.
  55. ^ Mitchell, p. 152.
  56. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 166
  57. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 218
  58. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 106
  59. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 101
  60. ^ Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton's Teeth and Ovid's Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History, p.98. Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-80164-7.
  61. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 14
  62. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 179
  63. ^ I. R. Christie, Myth and Reality in Late-Eighteenth-Century British Politics and Other Papers (Macamillan, 1970), p. 143.
  64. ^ Christie, p. 143.
  65. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 12
  66. ^ Mitchell 1992, p. 265
  67. ^ Reid 1969, p. 268


  • Mitchell, Leslie, Charles James Fox (1992)
  • Mitchell, Leslie, 'Fox, Charles James (1749–1806)' in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004); online edn, Oct 2007 [1], accessed 8 March 2008
  • Pares, Richard, King George III and the Politicians (1953) online edition
  • Powell, Jim, 'Charles James Fox, Valiant Voice for Liberty' in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, Vol. 46 No. 9 (September 1996) [2]
  • Reid, Loren, Charles James Fox: A Man for the People (1969)
  • Rudé, George, Wilkes & Liberty (1962)
  • Thompson, E.P., The Making of the English Working Class (1963)
  • Trevelyan, George Otto. George the Third and Charles Fox: The Concluding Part of the American Revolution. (1912) 2 vol online edition vol 1, online edition v2
  • Trevelyan, George Otto.The Early History of Charles James Fox (1880) online edition
  • Watson, J. Steven, The Reign of George III, 1760-1815 (1960) online edition

Primary sources

  • Charles James Fox. The Speeches of the Right Honourable Charles James Fox in the House of Commons (1853); 862 pages; online edition

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

He that is conscious of guilt cannot bear the innocence of others: So they will try to reduce all others to their own level.

Charles James Fox (24 January 174913 September 1806) was a British Whig politician most noted for his support of the American and French Revolutions.


  • Kings govern by means of popular assemblies only when they cannot do without them.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (October 31, 1776)
  • The worst of revolutions is a restoration.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (December 10, 1785)
  • How much the greatest event it is that ever happened in the world! and how much the best!
    • On the fall of the Bastille
    • Letter (July 30, 1789)
  • Our sovereign, the people.


  • All political power is a trust.
    • Speech in 1788
  • He that is conscious of guilt cannot bear the innocence of others: So they will try to reduce all others to their own level.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CHARLES JAMES FOX (1749-1806), British statesman and orator, was the third son of Henry Fox, 1st Lord Holland, and his wife, Lady Caroline Lennox, eldest daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd duke of Richmond. He was born at 9 Conduit Street, Westminster, on the 24th of January 1749. The father, who treated his children with extreme indulgence, allowed him to choose his school, and he elected to go to one kept at Wandsworth by a French refugee, named Pampelonne. In a very short time he asked to be sent to Eton, where he went in 1757. At Eton he did no more work than was acceptable to him, but he had an inborn love of literature, and he laid the foundation of that knowledge of the classic languages which in after years was the delight of his life. The vehemence of his temper was controlled by an affectionate disposition. When quite a boy he checked his own tendency to fits of passion on learning that his father trusted him to cure his defects.

That he learnt anything, and that he grew up an amiable and magnanimous man, were solely due to his natural worth, for no one ever owed less to education or to family example. The relations of Lord Holland to his sons would be difficult to parallel. He not only treated them, and in particular Charles, as friends and companions in pleasure from the first, but he did his best to encourage them in dissipation: In 1763 he took Charles for a tour on the continent, introduced him to the most immoral society of the time and gave him money with which to gamble. The boy came back to Eton a precocious rake. It was his good fortune that he did go back, for he was subjected to a wholesome course of ridicule by the other boys, and was flogged by Dr Barnard, the headmaster. In 1764 Charles proceeded to Hertford College, Oxford. At Oxford, as at Eton, he read literature from natural liking, and he paid some attention to mathematics. His often quoted saying that he found mathematics entertaining was probably meant as a jest at the expense of Sir G. Macartney, to whom he was writing, and who was known to maintain that it was useless. His own account of his school and college training, given in a letter to the same correspondent (6th August 1767), is: "I employed almost my whole time at Oxford in the mathematical and classical knowledge, but more particularly in the latter, so that I understand Latin and Greek tolerably well. I am totally ignorant in every part of useful knowledge. I am more convinced every day how little advantage there is in being what at school and the university is called a good scholar: one receives a good deal of amusement from it, but that is all. At present I read nothing but Italian, which I am immoderately fond of, particularly of the poetry.. .. As for French, I am far from being so thorough a master of it as I could wish, but I know so much of it that I could perfect myself in it at any time with very little trouble, especially if I pass three or four months in France." The passage is characteristic. It shows at once his love of good literature and his thoroughness. Fox's youth was disorderly, but it was never indolent. He was incapable of half doing anything which he did at all. He did perfect himself in French, and he showed no less determination to master mere sports. At a later period when he had grown fat he accounted for his skill in taking "cut balls" at tennis by saying that he was a very "painstaking man." He was all his life a great and steady walker.

The disorders of his early years were notorious, and were a common subject of gossip. In the spring of 1767 he left Oxford and joined his father on the continent during a tour in France and Italy. In 1768 Lord Holland bought the pocket borough of Midhurst for him, and he entered on his parliamentary career, and on London society, in 1769. Within the next few years Lord Holland reaped to the full the reward for all that was good, and whatever was evil, in the training he had given his son. The affection of Charles Fox for his father was unbounded, but the passion for gambling which had been instilled in him as a boy proved the ruin of the family fortune. He kept racehorses, and bet on them largely. On the racecourse he was successful, and it is another proof of his native thoroughness that he gained a reputation as a handicapper. It is said that he won more than he lost on the course. At the gambling table he was unfortunate, and there can be little question that he was fleeced both in London and in Paris by unscrupulous players of his own social rank, who took advantage of his generosity and whose worthlessness he knew. In the ardour of his passion Fox took his losses and their consequences with an attractive gaiety. He called the room in which he did business with the Jew moneylenders his "Jerusalem chamber." When his elder brother had a son, and his prospects were injured, he said that the boy was a second Messiah, who had appeared for the destruction of the Jews. "He had his jest, and they had his estate." In 1774 Lord Holland had to find £140,000 to pay the gambling debts of his sons. For years Charles lived in pecuniary embarrassment, and during his later years, when he had given up gambling, he was supported by the contributions of wealthy friends, who in 1 793 formed a fund of £70,000 for his benefit.

His public career did not supply him with a check on habits of dissipation in the shape of the responsibilities of office. He began, as was to be expected in his father's son, by supporting the court; and in 1770, when only twenty-one, he was appointed a junior lord of the admiralty with Lord North. During the violent conflict over the Middlesex election (see Wilkes, John) he took the unpopular side, and vehemently asserted the right of the House of Commons to exclude Wilkes. In 1772 during the proceedings against Crosby and Oliver - a part of the "Wilkes and liberty" agitation - he and Lord North were attacked by a mob and rolled in the mud. But Fox's character was incompatible with ministerial service under King George III. The king, himself a man of orderly life, detested him as a gambler and a rake. And Fox was too independent to please a master who expected obedience. In February 1772 he threw up his place to be free to oppose the Royal Marriage Act, on which the king's heart was set. He returned to office as junior lord of the treasury in December. But he was insubordinate; his sympathy: with the American colonies, which were now beginning to resist the claims of the mother country to tax them, made him intolerable to the king and he was dismissed in February 1 774. The death of his father on the 1st of July of that year removed an influence which tended to keep him subordinate to the court, and his friendship for Burke drew him into close alliance with the Rockingham Whigs. From the first his ability had won him admiration in the House of Commons. He had prepared to distinguish himself as an orator by the elaborate cultivation of his voice, which was naturally harsh and shrill. His argumentative force was recognized at once, but the full scope of his powers was first shown on the 2nd of February 1775, when he spoke on the disputes with the colonies. The speech is unfortunately lost, but Gibbon, who heard it, told his friend Holroyd (afterwards Earl of Sheffield) that Fox, "taking the vast compass of the question before us, discovered powers for regular debate which neither his friends hoped nor his enemies dreaded." His great political career dates from that day. It is unique among the careers of British statesmen of the first rank, for it was passed almost wholly in opposition. Except for a few months in 1782 and 1783, and again for a few months before his death in 1806, he was out of office. If he was absolutely sincere in the statement he made to his friend Fitzpatrick, in a letter of the 3rd of February 1778, his life was all he could have wished. "I am," he wrote, "certainly ambitious by nature, but I really have, or think I have, totally subdued that passion. I have still as much vanity as ever, which is a happier passion by far, because great reputation I think I may acquire and keep, great situation I never can acquire, nor if acquired keep, without making sacrifices that I never will make." His words show that he judged himself and read the future accurately. Yet it was certainly a cause of bitter disappointment to him that he had to stand by while the country was in his opinion not only misgoverned, but led to ruin. His reputation as an orator and a political critic, which was great from the first and grew as he lived, most assuredly did not console him for his impotence as a statesman. Of the causes which rendered his brilliant capacity useless for the purpose of obtaining practical success the most important, perhaps the only one of real importance, was his personal character. Lord John Russell (afterwards Earl Russell), his friendly biographer, has to confess that Fox might have joined in the confession of Mirabeau: "The public cause suffers for the immoralities of my youth." His reputation as a rake and gambler was so well established at the very beginning of his career that when he was dismissed from office in 1774 there was a general belief among the vulgar that he had been detected in actual theft. His perfect openness, the notoriety of his bankruptcies and of the seizure of his books and furniture in execution, kept him before the world as a model of dissipation. In 1776, when he was leading the resistance to Lord North's colonial policy, he "neither abandoned gaming nor his rakish life. He was seldom in bed before five in the morning nor out of it before two at noon." At the most important crisis of his life in 1783, he almost made an ostentation of disorder and of indifference not only to appearances, but even to decency. Horace Walpole has drawn a picture of him at that time which Lord Holland, Fox's beloved and admiring nephew, speaking from his early recollections of his uncle, confesses has "some justification." Coming from such an authority the certificate may be held to confirm the substantial accuracy of Walpole. "Fox lodged in St James's Street, and as soon as he rose, which was very late, had a levee of his followers and of the gaming club at Brooks's - all his disciples. His bristly black person, and shagged breast quite open and rarely purified by any ablutions, was wrapped in a foul linen nightgown and his bushy hair dishevelled. In these cynic weeds and with Epicurean good humour did he dictate his politics, and in this school did the heir of the empire attend his lessons and imbibe them." That this cynic manner, and Epicurean speech, were only the outside of. a manly and generous nature was well known to the personal friends of Fox, and is now universally allowed. But by the bulk of his contemporaries, who could not fail to see the weaknesses he ostentatiously displayed, Fox was, not unnaturally, suspected as being immoral and untrustworthy. Therefore when he came into collision with the will of the king he failed to secure the confidence of the nation which was his only support. Nor ought any critical admirer of Fox to deny that George III. was not wholly wrong when he said that the great orator "was totally destitute of discretion and sound judgment." Fox made many mistakes, due in some cases to vehemence of temperament, and in others only to be ascribed to want of sagacity. That he fought unpopular causes is a very insufficient explanation of his failure as a practical statesman. He could have profited by the reaction which followed popular excitement but for his bad reputation and his want of discretion.

During the eight years between his expulsion from office in 1774 and the fall of Lord North's ministry in March 1782 he may indeed be said to have done one very great thing in politics. He planted the seed of the modern Liberal party as opposed to the pure Whigs. In political allegiance he became a member of the Rockingham party and worked in alliance with the marquis and with Burke, whose influence on him was great. In opposing the attempt to coerce the American colonists, and in assailing the waste and corruption of Lord North's administration, as well as the undue influence of the crown, he was at one with the Rockingham Whigs. During the agitation against corruption, and in favour of honest management of the public money, which was very strong between 1779 and 1782, he and they worked heartily together. It had a considerable effect, and prepared the way for the reforms begun by Burke and continued by Pitt. But if Fox learnt much from Burke he learnt with originality. He declined to accept the revolution settlement as final, or to think with Burke that the constitution of the House of Commons could not be bettered. Fox acquired the conviction that, if the House was to be made an efficient instrument for restraining the interference of the king and for securing good government, it must cease to be filled to a very large extent by the nominees of boroughmongers and the treasury. He became a strong advocate for parliamentary reform. In all ways he was the ardent advocate of what have in later times been known as "Liberal causes," the removal of all religious disabilities and tests, the suppression of private interests which hampered the public good, the abolition of the slave trade, and the emancipation of all classes and races of men from the strict control of authority.

A detailed account of his activity from 1774 to 1782 would entail the mention of every crisis of the American War of Independence and of every serious debate in parliament. Throughout the struggle Fox was uniformly opposed to the coercion of the colonies and was the untiring critic of Lord North. While the result must be held to prove that he was right, he prepared future difficulties for himself by the fury of his language. He was the last man in the world to act on the worldly-wise maxim that an enemy should always be treated as if he may one day be a friend, and a friend as if he might become an enemy. On the 29th of November 1779 Fox was wounded in a duel with Mr William Adam, a supporter of Lord North's whom he had savagely denounced. He assailed Lord North with unmeasured invective, directed not only at his policy but at his personal character, though he well knew that the prime minister was an amiable though pliable man, who remained in office against his own wish, in deference to the king who appealed to his loyalty. When the disasters of the American war had at last made a change of ministry necessary, and the king applied to the Whigs, through the intermediary of Lord Shelburne, Fox made a very serious mistake in persuading the marquess of Rockingham not to insist on dealing directly with the sovereign. The result was the formation of a cabinet belonging, in Fox's own words, partly to the king and partly to the country - that is to say, partly of Whigs who wished to restrain the king, and partly of the king's friends, represented by Lord Shelburne, whose real function was to baffle the Whigs. Dissensions began from the first, and were peculiarly acute between Shelburne and Fox, the two secretaries of state. The old division of duties by which the southern secretary had the correspondence with the colonies and the western powers of Europe, and the northern secretary with the others, had been abolished on the formation of the Rockingham cabinet. All foreign affairs were entrusted to Fox. Lord Shelburne meddled in the negotiations for the peace at Paris. He also persuaded his colleagues to grant some rather scandalous pensions, and Fox's acquiescence in this abuse after his recent agitation against Lord North's waste did him injury. When the marquess of Rockingham died on the ist of July 1782, and the king offered the premiership to Shelburne, Fox resigned, and was followed by a part of the Rockingham Whigs.

In refusing to serve under Shelburne he was undoubtedly consistent, but his next step was ruinous to himself and his party. On the 14th of February 1783 he formed a coalition with Lord North, based as they declared on "mutual goodwill and confidence." Plausible excuses were made for the alliance, but to the country at large this union, formed with a man whom he had denounced for years, had the appearance of an unscrupulous conspiracy to obtain office on any terms. In the House of Commons the coalition was strong enough to drive Shelburne from office on the 24th of February. The king made a prolonged resistance to the pressure put on him to accept Fox and North as his ministers (see Pitt, William. On the 2nd of April he was constrained to submit to the formation of a new ministry, in which the duke of Portland was prime minister and Fox and North were secretaries of state. The new administration was ill liked by some of the followers of both. Fox increased its unpopularity both in the House and in the country by consenting against the wish of most of his colleagues to ask for the grant of a sum of £10o,000 a year to the prince of Wales. The act had the appearance of a deliberate offence to the king, who was on bad terms with his son. The magnitude of the sum, and his acquiescence in the grant of pensions by the Shelburne ministry, convinced the country that his zeal for economy was hypocritical. The introduction of the India Bill in November 1783 alarmed many vested interests, and offended the king by the provision which gave the patronage of India to a commission to be named by the ministry and removable only by parliament. The coalition, and Fox in particular, were assailed in a torrent of most telling invective and caricature. Encouraged by the growing unpopularity of his ministers, George III. gave it to be understood that he would not look upon any member of the House of Lords who voted for the India Bill as his friend. The bill was thrown out in the upper House on the 17th of December, and next day the king dismissed his ministers.

Fox now went into opposition again. The remainder of his life may be divided into four portions - his opposition to Pitt during the session of 1784; his parliamentary activity till his secession in 1797; his retirement till 1800; his return to activity and his short tenure of office before his death in 1806. During the first of these periods he deepened his unpopularity by assailing the undoubted prerogatives of the crown, by claiming for the House of Commons the right to override not only the king and the Lords but the opinion of the country, and by resisting a dissolution. This last pretension came very ill from a statesman who in 1780 had advocated yearly elections. He lost ground daily before the steady good judgment and unblemished character of Pitt. When parliament was dissolved at the end of the session of 1784, the country showed its sentiments by unseating 180 of the followers of Fox and North. Immense harm was done to both by the publication of a book called The Beauties of Fox, North and Burke, a compilation of their abuse of one another in recent years.

Fox himself was elected for Westminster with fewer votes than Admiral Lord Hood, but with a majority over the ministerial candidate, Sir Cecil Wray. The election was marked by an amazing outflow of caricatures and squibs, by weeks of rioting in which Lord Hood's sailors fought pitched battles in St James's Street with Fox's hackney coachmen, and by the intrepid canvassing of Whig ladies. The beautiful duchess of Devonshire (Georgiana Spencer) is said to have won at least one vote for Fox by kissing a shoemaker who had a romantic idea of what constituted a desirable bribe. The high bailiff refused to make a return, and the confirmation of Fox's election was delayed by the somewhat mean action of the ministry. He had, however, been chosen for Kirkwall, and could fight his cause in the House. In the end he recovered damages from the high bailiff. In his place in parliament he sometimes supported Pitt and sometimes opposed him with effect. His criticism on the ministers' bill for the government of India was sound in principle, though the evils he foresaw did not arise. Little excuse can be made for his opposition to Pitt's commercial policy towards Ireland. But as Fox on this occasion aided the vested interests of some English manufacturers he secured a certain revival of popularity. His support of Pitt's Reform Bill was qualified by a just dislike of the ministers' proposal to treat the possession of the franchise by a constituency as a property and not as a trust. His unsuccessful opposition to the commercial treaty with France in 1787 was unwise and most injurious to himself. He committed himself to the proposition that France was the natural enemy of Great Britain, a saying often quoted against him in coming years. It has been excused on the ground that when he said France he meant the aggressive house of Bourbon. A statesman whose words have to be interpreted by an esoteric meaning cannot fairly complain if he is often misunderstood. In 1788 he travelled in Italy, but returned in haste on hearing of the illness of the king. Fox supported the claim of the prince of Wales to the regency as a right, a doctrine which provoked Pitt into declaring that he would "unwhig the gentleman for the rest of his life." The friendship between him and the prince of Wales (see George Iv.) was always injurious to Fox. In 1787 he was misled by the prince's ambiguous assurances into denying the marriage with Mrs Fitzherbert. On discovering that he had been deceived he broke off all relations with the prince for a year, but their alliance was renewed. During these years he was always in favour of whatever measures could be described as favourable to emancipation and to humanity. He actively promoted the impeachment of Warren Hastings, which had the support of Pitt. He was always in favour of the abolition of the slave trade (which he actually effected during his short tenure of office in 1806), of the repeal of the Test Acts, and of concessions to the Roman Catholics, both in Great Britain and in Ireland.

The French Revolution affected Fox profoundly. Together with almost all his countrymen he welcomed the meeting of the states-general in 1789 as the downfall of a despotism hostile to Great Britain. But when the development of the Revolution caused a general reaction, he adhered stoutly to his opinion that the Revolution was essentially just and ought not to be condemned for its errors or even for its crimes. As a natural consequence he was the steady opponent of Pitt's foreign policy, which he condemned as a species of crusade against freedom in the interest of despotism. Between 1790 and 1800 his unpopularity reached its height. He was left almost alone in parliament, and was denounced as the enemy of his country. On the 6th of May 1791 occurred the painful scene in the House of Commons, in which Burke renounced his friendship. In 1792 there was some vague talk of a coalition between him and Pitt, which, came to nothing. It should be noted that the scene with Burke took place in the course of the debate on the Quebec Bill, in which Fox displayed real statesmanship by criticizing the division of Upper from Lower Canada, and other provisions of the bill, which in the end proved so injurious as to be unworkable. In this year he carried the Libel Bill. In 1792 his ally, the duke of Portland, and most of his party left him. In 1797 he withdrew from parliament, and only came forward in 1798 to reaffirm the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people at a great Whig dinner. On the 9th of May he was dismissed from the privy council.

The interval of secession was perhaps the happiest in his life. In 1783 he formed a connexion with Elizabeth Bridget Cane, commonly known as Mrs Armstead or Armistead, an amiable and well-mannered woman to whom he was passionately attached. In company with her he established himself at St Anne's Hill near Chertsey in Surrey. In 1795 he married her privately, but did not avow his marriage till 1802. In his letters he spoke of her always as Mrs Armistead, and some of his friends - Mr Coke of Holkham, afterwards Lord Leicester, with whom he stayed every year, being one of them - would not invite her to their houses. It is hard to explain this solitary instance of shabby conduct in a thoroughly generous man towards a person to whom he was unalterably attached and who fully deserved his affection. Fox's time at St Anne's was largely spent in gardening, in the enjoyment of the country, and in correspondence on literary subjects with his nephew, the 3rd Lord Holland, and with Gilbert Wakefield, the editor of Euripides. His letters show that he had a very sincere love for, and an enlightened appreciation of, good literature. Greek and Italian were his first favourites, but he was well read in English literature and in French, and acquired some knowledge of Spanish. His favourite authors were Euripides, Virgil and Racine, whom he defends against the stock criticisms of the admirers of Corneille with equal zeal and insight.

Fox reappeared in parliament to take part in the vote of censure on ministers for declining Napoleon's overtures for a peace. The fall of Pitt's first ministry and the formation of the Addington cabinet, the peace of'Amiens, and the establishment of Napoleon as first consul with all the powers of a military despot, seemed to offer Fox a chance of resuming power in public life. The struggle with Jacobinism was over, and he could have no hesitation in supporting resistance to a successful general who ruled by the sword, and who pursued a policy of perpetual aggression. During 1802 he visited Paris in company with his wife. An account of his journey was published in 1811 by his secretary, Mr Trotter, in an otherwise poor book of reminiscence. It gives an attractive picture of Fox's good-humour, and of his enjoyment of the "species of minor comedy which is constantly exhibited in common life." His main purpose in visiting Paris was to superintend the transcription of the correspondence of Barillon, which he needed for his proposed life of James II. The book was never finished, but the fragment he completed was published in 1808, and was translated into French by Armand Carrel in 1846. Fox was not favourably impressed by Napoleon. He saw a good deal of French society, and was himself much admired for his hearty defence of his rival Pitt against a foolish charge of encouraging plots for Napoleon's assassination. On his return he resumed his regular attendance in the House of Commons. The history of the renewal of the war, of the fall of Addington's ministry, and of the formation of Pitt's second administration is so fully dealt with in the article on Pitt (q.v.) that it need not be repeated here.

The death of Pitt left Fox so manifestly the foremost man in public life that the king could no longer hope to exclude him from office. The formation of a ministry was entrusted by the king to Lord Grenville, but when he named Fox as his proposed secretary of state for foreign affairs George III. accepted him without demur. Indeed his hostility seems to a large extent to have died out. A long period of office might now have appeared to lie before Fox, but his health was undermined. Had he lived it may be considered as certain that the war with Napoleon would have been conducted with a vigour which was much wanting during the next few years. In domestic politics Fox had no time to do more than insist on the abolition of the slave trade. He, like Pitt, was compelled to bow to the king's invincible determination not to allow the emancipation of the Roman Catholics. When a French adventurer calling himself Guillet de la Gevrilliere, whom Fox at first "did the honour to take for a spy," came to him with a scheme for the murder of Napoleon, he sent a warning on the 10th of February to Talleyrand. The incident gave him an opportunity for reopening negotiations for peace. A correspondence ensued, and British envoys were sent to Paris. But Fox was soon convinced that the French ministers were playing a false game. He was resolved not to treat apart from Russia, then the ally of Great Britain, nor to consent to the surrender of Sicily, which Napoleon insisted upon, unless full compensation could be obtained for King Ferdinand. The later stages of the negotiation were not directed by Fox, but by colleagues who took over his work at the foreign office when his health began to fail in the summer of 1806. He showed symptoms of dropsy, and operations only procured him temporary relief. After carrying his motion for the abolition of the slave trade on the 10th of June, he was forced to give up attendance in parliament, and he died in the house of the duke of Devonshire, at Chiswick, on the 13th of September 1806. His wife survived him till the 8th of July 1842. No children were born of the marriage. Fox is buried in Westminster Abbey by the side of Pitt.

The striking personal appearance of Fox has been rendered very familiar by portraits and by innumerable caricatures. The latter were no doubt deliberately exaggerated, and yet a comparison between the head of Fox in Sayer's plate "Carlo Khan's triumphal entry into Leadenhall," and in Abbot's portrait, shows that the caricaturist did not depart from the original. Fox was twice painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, once when young in a group with Lady Sarah Bunbury and Lady Susan Strangeways, and once at full length. A half-length portrait by the German painter, Karl Anton Hickel, is in the National Portrait Gallery, where there is also a terra-cotta bust by Nollekens.


The materials for a life of Fox were first collected by his nephew, Lord Holland, and were then revised and rearranged by Mr Allen and Lord John Russell. These materials appear as Memoirs and Correspondence of C. J. Fox (London, 1853-1857). On them Lord John Russell based his Life and Times of C. J. Fox (London, 1859-1866); Sir G. O. Trevelyan's Early History of C. J. Fox (London. 1880) brings new evidence; Charles James Fox, a Political Study, by J. L. Le B. Hammond (London, 1903), is a series of studies written by an extreme admirer. His Speeches were collected and published in 1815. The newspaper articles (e.g. in The Times) published on the occasion of the centenary of his death contain interesting appreciations. See also Lloyd Sanders, The Holland House Circle (1908). (D. H.)

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