Charles James Fox MP

Charles James Fox one of the greatest political figures of the eighteenth century was born the second son of Henry first Lord Holland, born in 1749 at the family seat at Foxley near Malmesbury in Wiltshire. After attending Eton and Hertford College, Oxford he was elected to parliament in 1768, aged nineteen, to represent the family’s pocket borough of Midhurst.

Fox was appointed Junior Lord of the Admiralty in 1770. In December 1772 Fox became Lord of the Treasury but was dismissed in February 1774 after criticising the influential artist and journalist, Henry Woodfall. He returned to the House of Commons as MP for Malmesbury in 1774. Later, 1784, he was elected MP for Westminster.

In an era when the political and industrial landscape was rapidly changing, Fox advocated parliamentary reform to get rid of rotten and pocket boroughs which could be bought by would-be MPs, in favour of creating new constituencies in the expanding industrial towns.

Out of office, Charles Fox opposed North’s policy towards America. He denounced the taxation of the Americans without their consent. When war broke out Fox called for a negotiated peace.

Charles James Fox MP © Malmesbury Memories

Charles James Fox MP © Malmesbury Memories

Fox anticipated the creation of a liberal, constitutional monarchy following the French Revolution of 1789 and was horrified when King Louis XVI was executed. Fox criticised the government for going to war against France in 1793 and called for a negotiated end to the dispute. His stance in this matter led to him being perceived as unpatriotic by many people.

While Fox disapproved of the ideas presented in Tom Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’, he valued traditional freedoms and consistently opposed their restriction. This is demonstrated in his support of parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation as well as his opposition to the suspension of habeas corpus and to the continuation of the slave trade.

In 1806 Fox was appointed Foreign Secretary in Lord Grenville’s administration. Despite intense negotiations, he was unable to end hostilities with the French. In the summer of the same year he was taken ill shortly after speaking in the House of Commons in favour of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill. His health never recovered. Fox died on 13th September 1806.

Charles James Fox MP a © Malmesbury Memories

Charles James Fox MP a © Malmesbury Memories

Charles James Fox MP b © Malmesbury Memories

Charles James Fox MP b © Malmesbury Memories

1 February, 2015
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