Charles James Fox: a Man for the People

By Loren Dudley Reid | Go to book overview

7
A Speech Without a Reply 1777-1778

'You are a corrupt and scandalous assembly,' said Sir George Savile, 'I thought so last night, and I think so this morning.'

'We think so, too,' said the assembly, by their silence.

Horace Walpole

At Grosvenor Square the Marquis of Rockingham must have pondered deeply the persistence of the North Government. Eleven years previously he had relinquished his position as First Lord of the Treasury, first minister in the King's Cabinet; since then as the King's hand strengthened the influence of opposition lessened. Merchants of the great cities of England could send in petitions attesting to their loss of trade and Government could ignore them; Burke could make a learned and persuasive speech for conciliation, supported by Cavendish, Sawbridge, Fox, and Beaumont, and the Government could ignore them as well; North and Germain could attack the right of habeas corpus; the King could confess to a deficit of ₤600,000, get it repaid plus an extra ₤100,000 a year; despite these problems, the Government continued in strength.

In front of the marquis was a letter from the Duke of Manchester, wondering whether the party was going to do anything about the situation; if not, the Duke would like to spend a few months in Paris. This missive was not the first that Rockingham had received during the past months but now they were beginning to pile up: from Richmond, Burke, Savile, and others. All wanted to know what the marquis was going to do about the situation and the marquis was only slightly less perplexed than his colleagues.1

The least that he could do was to call a meeting, so in due course he and his colleagues gathered at Grosvenor Square. Someone proposed an inquiry into the state of the nation, thus to compel the Government to show its hand--what it had done and what it planned to do. Here at last was a plan; how to execute it called for discussion. Some argued

____________________
1
Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham, ii, 315-24; Works and Correspondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke ( London, 1852), i, 351; Correspondence of Edmund Burke, iii, 399.

-71-

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