Charles James Fox: a Man for the People

By Loren Dudley Reid | Go to book overview

15
The Westminster Election 1784-1785

I glory in being one of those who were called ' Fox's Martyrs'.

Thomas Coke of Norfolk

The events of the opening day of Parliament, January 12, 1784, were a preview of what lay ahead. Pitt wanted to plunge immediately into the India business and introduce a Bill of his own to correct the defects of Fox's effort. Fox, however, sought to go into a committee of the whole House on the state of the nation. The danger of a dissolution of Parliament, he declared, hung over their heads; this step, he argued, would be inimical to the true interests of the country.

The debate was long and heated. Pitt, Fox, and North were sharply criticized: Pitt, because he had come into office by the back stairway as the minister of the Crown rather than of the House; Fox, because of the odium of the coalition and the India Bill; North, for these and for the further reason that he was still tagged as the man responsible for the loss of America. At two-thirty in the morning, by 232 to 193, the House voted to go into committee on the state of the nation. The margin of thirty-nine votes against him was hardly more hopeful from Pitt's point of view than the fifty-two that Robinson predicted. But many were absent. Neither side revealed its full strength.

Late in the morning though it was, Fox next offered a resolution that no pay officer could pay out any sum of money after Parliament was dissolved, if the dissolution occurred before funds were appropriated. Such action made it essential that Parliament be allowed to continue in session until money for the necessary functions of government was provided. This and other resolutions were passed without a division.

The Earl of Surrey, once a friend of Shelburne's but now, in the words of Robinson, a violent Fox man,1 moved resolutions deploring the use of the King's name to influence parliamentary deliberations, and further deploring that a minister had been installed without the confidence of the House. At seven in the morning Fox and his followers beat down a motion to adjourn by 196 to 142, and then passed Surrey's resolutions.

____________________
1
History of Parliament, ii, 645.

-193-

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