Charles James Fox: a Man for the People

By Loren Dudley Reid | Go to book overview

29
Fox and Pitt in Opposition 1803-1805

With respect to Mr Fox . . . dismissed from the Treasury . . . speeches and conduct at the Whig Club . . . struck out of the Privy Council, he wondered Mr Pitt should think of presenting such a name.

George the Third

In 1803 Addington's Government was beset by troubles, from west and east as well as from within its own centre.

The western trouble came from Ireland, where in July rebellion had broken out again. Robert Enimet, talented young man of Dublin, had conspired with associates at home and with Irish exiles on the Continent to renew the struggle against British authority. Parliament suspended habeas corpus in Ireland and empowered the Lord Lieutenant to try before a court martial any lawbreakers who were apprehended. Enimet was captured, and despite an eloquent defence was executed along with seventeen others.

The eastern trouble came from France. Napoleon, finances bolstered by having recently sold the Louisiana country to Mr Jefferson for sixty million francs, determined to mount a cross-channel invasion against the English coast. In the spring and summer of 1803 he busied himself with the plans of the manoeuvre. Boulogne was to be the nerve centre; along the coast shipyards built flat-bottomed boats, designed as troop carriers, with a capacity of 60, 80, or 100 men each. Some craft had mortars in bow and stern; others were designed to carry horses and field pieces.1 Years later at St Helena he described how he would have proclaimed a republic, abolished the House of Lords, freed the country from a corrupt aristocracy, and established a democracy. Property would be seized from those who opposed him and distributed to those who supported him, and thus he would have appeared as the deliverer of the people.

The English were quick to see the difficulties involved in invading their island. Invasion craft could not simply be brought unaccompanied across the Channel but needed powerful naval protection, and Cornwallis at Brest and other admirals elsewhere had been able to blockade

____________________
1
J. M. Thompson, Napoleon Bonaparte ( New York, 1952). Felix Markham, Napoleon ( London, 1963).

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