Charles James Fox: a Man for the People

By Loren Dudley Reid | Go to book overview

21
War with France 1793-1794

The love of liberty is not necessarily connected with a thirst for blood.

Charles James Fox

Pitt's hoped-for fifteen years of peace turned out to be only the single year of 1792. Rising in the Commons on February 1, 1793, and noting that the execution of the King and other violent actions in Paris called to mind the horrible scenes of the massacre of St Bartholomew, Pitt declared that the armed forces must be increased. Fox, gathering that 'war was not absolutely determined on', retorted that no case had been made for such aggressive preparation. He shared the general horror of the execution of Louis XVI; neither propriety nor wisdom, however, warranted one nation's passing judgment upon the internal actions of another. 'The people are the sovereigns in all countries . . . they might amend, alter, and abolish the form of government under which they live at pleasure.'1

Though the ultimate result was a declaration of war, first by the French Government and then by the English, on February 18 Fox offered five resolutions in opposition to the administration's move. He wanted the House to declare that war should not be begun to suppress or punish the French form of government. Nor did complaints now being lodged against the French Government provide a sufficient basis for war; they should be negotiated. A full House stayed for the division although only 44 voted with Fox and 270 against him. Years later the story was told that Pitt and Dundas appeared in the House obviously the worse for the liquor they had consumed; their dialogue was set to verse:

I cannot see the Speaker, Hal, can you? What! Cannot see the Speaker, I see two.2

Contemplating Fox's slender group of forty-four, Storer wrote to Auckland: 'Mr Fox is almost deserted. He may come into Administration now without being embarrassed to make room for his followers.

____________________
1
Two speeches of the Right Honourable C. J. Fox, etc. ( London, 1793); Parliamentary History, xxx, 301-14.
2
Rose, The Life of William Pitt, i, 279.

-298-

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