Charles James Fox: a Man for the People

By Loren Dudley Reid | Go to book overview

12 Road to Coalition 1782-1783

[ Fox and North] cannot be supposed to have either my favour or confidence; . . . I shall most certainly refuse any honours they may ask for.

George the Third

In July 1789. Fox was in his thirty-fourth year. 'I am a young man,' he had told the Commons the opening day of the last session, 'but I cannot be called a young member of the House.' During his thirteen years in Parliament, he had sat two years at the Admiralty board, thirteen months at the Treasury, and three months in the Foreign Office--a total of forty months. The rest of the time he had been in opposition.

Once again he resumed his customary seat on the third row of opposition benches. Looking at the Government talent across the carpet, he could observe a few changes. Thomas Townshend now sat as Secretary of State for home affairs, the post just vacated by Shelburne, now elevated to First Lord of the Treasury. The principal change, however, was the presence of Pitt as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Pitt had refused to accept a minor post in the Rockingham administration. When Rockingham died, Pitt had expressed his concern to Fox that the Government would break up. Fox said, 'it would; and the whole system be revived'; adding; 'They look to you; without you they cannot succeed; with you I know not whether they will or no.''If', replied Pitt, 'they reckon upon me, they may find themselves mistaken.' Afterwards Fox, recounting the dialogue, added; 'I believe they do reckon on Pitt, and I believe they will not be mistaken.'1 Fox was right. Shelburne had been able to enlist Pitt.

Most of the power of the new administration was in the Lords. Shelburne, along with Camden, Thurlow, and Grafton, continued there, and Fox could reflect ruefully that his colleagues Keppel, now a viscount, Richmond, and Dunning, now Lord Ashburton, had joined them. Also in the upper house was Grantham, Fox's successor as Foreign Secretary. But all was not lost. Near Fox sat Cavendish and Burke, who with him had forsaken posts in the Government to join opposition.

____________________
1
Fox Car., i, 446-7.

-157-

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