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MR. FOX'S ADDRESSES
ELECTORS OF WESTMINSTER.
If the speeches of Mr. Fox to his constituents, and at other public meetings on various occasions, had been preserved, we should not want any other models of popular eloquence. But he was either too indolent, as men of very great genius commonly are, or too superior to the ordinary gratifications of oratorical pride, to take the trouble of making out a sketch of any of his speeches from memory, or even of correcting the reports of them given by others. I believe there are only three or four even of his parliamentary speeches, taken down at the moment of delivery by some of his friends, and which, at their earnest solicitation, he condescended to retouch in a few instances, where the meaning was not expressed with his usual perspicuity. But he was roused from his habitual indifference to such considerations by a very general misrepresentation or misconception of his principles and views in bringing forward three motions which he made in the House of Commons, on the 13th, the 14th, and the 16th of September 1792. In order to efface the wrong and very unfavorable impressions which those motions had made upon the minds of his constituents, he published, a few days after, a Letter to them, containing a summary of his arguments in support of each of those motions; and though every thing coming from the pen of Mr. Fox must command attention, yet the young student will read this Letter with double earnestness, as affording an extraordinary and very instructive specimen of a translation by the author from parliamentary into popular language. Those who wish to examine the letter in a political light, will not be satisfied without reading a valuable edition of it, with an application of its principles to subsequent events, by Mr. ADAIR, our present ambassador at the Court of Vienna.
MR. FOX'S LETTER,
To vote in small minorities is a misfortune to which I have been so much accustomed, that I cannot be expected to feel it very acutely.
“ To be the object of calumny and misrepresentation gives me uneasiness, it is true, but an uneasiness not wholly unmixed with pride and satisfaction, since the experience of all ages and countries teaches us that calumny and misrepresentation are frequently the most unequivocal testimonies of the zeal, and possibly of the effect, with which he, against whom they are directed, has served the public.
“ But I am informed, that I now labour under a misfortune of a far different nature from these, and which can excite no other sensations than those of concern and humiliation. I am told that you in general disapprove my late conduct, and that, even among those whose partiality to me was most conspicuous, there are many who, when I am attacked upon the present occasion, profess themselves neither able nor willing to defend me.
“ That your unfavorable opinion of me, (if in fact you entertain any such) is owing to misrepresentation,
I can have no doubt. To do away the effects of this misrepresentation is the object of this Letter; and I know of no mode by which I can accomplish this object at once so fairly and (as I hope) so effectually, as by stating to you
the different motions which I have made in the House of Commons in the first days of this session, together with the motives and arguments which induced me to make them.-On the first day I moved the House to substitute, in place of the Address, the following Amendment:
• To express to his Majesty 'our most zealous attach! ment to the excellent constitution of this free coun.
try, our sense of the invaluable blessings which are derived from it, and our unshaken determination to main
tain and preserve it.—To assure his Majesty, that, unit. ing with all his Majesty's faithful subjects in those ' sentiments of loyalty to the Throne, and attachment to the Constitution, we feel in common with them the • deepest anxiety and concern, when we see those mea
sures adopted by the Executive Government, which the ' law authorizes only in cases of insurrection within this realm.
That his Majesty's faithful Commons, assembled in a manner new and alarming to the country, think it
their first duty, and will make it their first business, to • inform themselves of the causes of this measure, being ' equally zealous to enforce a due obedience to the laws
on the one hand, and a faithful execution of them on o the other.'
“ My motive for this measure was, that I thought it highly important, both in a constitutional and a prudential view, that the House should be thoroughly informed of the ground of calling out the militia, and of its own meeting, before it proceeded upon other business. VOL. I.
« The law enables the King, in certain cases, by the advice of his Privy Council, having previously declared the cause, to call forth the militia—and positively enjoins, that whenever such a measure is taken, Parliament shall be summoned immediately.
“ This law, which provided that we should meet, seemed to me to point out to us our duty when met, and to require of us, if not by its letter, yet by a fair interpretation of its spirit, to make it our first business, to examine into the causes that had been stated in the Proclamation as the motives for exercising an extraordinary power lodged in the Crown for extraordinary occasions; to ascertain whether they were true in fact, and whether, if true, they were of such a nature as to warrant the proceeding that had been grounded on them.
“ Such a mode of conduct, if right upon general principles, appeared to me peculiarly called for by the circumstances under which we were assembled ; and by the ambiguity with which the causes of resorting for the first time to this prerogative, were stated and defended.
“ The insurrections (it is said) at Yarmouth, Shields, and other places, gave Ministers a legal right to act; and the general state of the country, independently of these insurrections, made it expedient for them to avail themselves of this right. In other words, insurrection was the pretext, the general state of the country the cause of the
Yet insurrection was the motive stated in the Proclamation : and the Act of Parliament enjoins the disclosure, not of the pretext, but of the cause; so that it appeared to be doubtful whether even the letter of the law had been obeyed; but if it had, to this mode of professing one motive and acting upon another, however agreeable to the habits of some men, I thought it my duty to disa
suade the House of Commons from giving any sanction or countenance whatever.
“ In a prudential view, surely information ought to precede judgment; and we were bound to know what really was the state of the country, before we delivered our opinion of it in the Address. Whenever the House is called upon to declare an opinion of this nature, the weight which 'ought to belong to such a declaration, makes it highly important that it should be founded on the most authentic information, and that it should be clear and distinct. Did the House mean to approve the measure taken by Administration, upon the ground of the public pretence of insurrections ? If so, they were bound to have before them the facts relative to those insurrections, to the production of which no objection could be stated. Did they mean by their Address to declare that the general situation of the country was in itself a justification of what had been done ? Upon this supposition, it appeared to me equally necessary for them so to inform themselves, as to enable them to state with precision to the public the circumstances in this situation to which they particularly adverted. If they saw reason to fear impending tumults and insurrections, of which the danger was imminent and pressing, the measures of his Majesty's Ministers might be well enough adapted to such an exigency; but surely the evidence of such a danger was capable of being submitted either to the House or to a Secret Committee; and of its existence without such evidence, no man could think it becoming for such a body as the House of Commons to declare their belief.
“ If, therefore, the Address was to be founded upon either of the suppositions above stated, a previous inquiry was absolutely necessary. But there were some whose