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FOX Charles James - Autograph Letter Signed 1786 regarding Warren Hastings

  • £595.00

Charles James FOX (1749-1806)

Autograph Letter Signed (“C.J. Fox”) to “My dear Lord”, enquiring about a possible meeting to discuss “Sheridan’s motions” and the “Hastings business”.

2 pages 4to with integral blank leaf [detached], St. Ann’s Hill, “Friday” [docketed 21 April 1786].                                  

I recollect that I was engaged on some Saturday (and so were you) to dine with Skinner, but I have not the card here & do not know whether it is tomorrow or tomorrow se’ennight. If it is tomorrow I wish you would be so good as to make some handsome excuse for me.

I do not mean to go to town till Tuesday unless you think it necessary, if you do, I will come Monday. Is it not worth considering whether there should not be a motion relative to Sloper’s & Dalling’s pensions? and would it not be desirable to have a small meeting (at which however Lord North’s presence would be necessary) on Tuesday night to see Sheridan’s motions, and to have some conversation upon the mode of proceeding Wednesday in Hastings’s business? In regard to Sheridan’s motions it is absolutely necessary that they should be in Lord North’s hands some time at least before they are made.  I have no fear about them except that he may endeavour to prove too much (by which I mean more than is necessary to shew the fallacy of Pitt’s promises) and by so doing give an advantage which the enemy never can have if we attempt no more than what is perfectly clear.”

Many of the matters under discussion in this letter obviously relate to India. General Sloper had served in Bengal and Sir John Dalling in Madras. Sloper served as Commander in Chief in India in 1785 and would still have been in his post at the time of this letter; he was replaced by Cornwallis in September 1786.

More intriguing is the reference to the “Hastings business”. In 1787, Richard Brinsley Sheridan put forward a demand in Parliament for the impeachment of Warren Hastings for alleged crimes whilst Governor of India. Fox and Sheridan were at the forefront of the demand for his impeachment; the matter was discussed at great length in Parliament over a period of seven years before Hastings was finally acquitted in 1795.

In 1783, Fox and Lord North, once fierce opponents, formed the rather unlikely Fox-North coalition, with the Duke of Portland as Prime Minister. The coalition proved short-lived, but George III’s anger at Lord North for entering into a coalition with the man he perhaps hated most in Britain, Fox, was long-lived, and Lord North never returned to government.

Fox and Sheridan, both members of the “Devonshire set”, and close friends of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, disliked and opposed the new Prime Minister, William Pitt, who came to power in 1783 in the wake of the collapse of their coalition. Early in his premiership, Pitt had attended to the shortcomings of the East India Company’s rule in India, and the “fallacy of Pitt’s promises” refers no doubt to some of the terms of that Act.

The blank leaf, which gives the date of the letter, has become detached, and there are very minor tears at the folds, but the letter is otherwise in very good condition.

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