Archive for March 2, 2015

Statue of Charles James Fox in Bloomsbury Square

Statue of Charles James Fox in Bloomsbury Square

Charles James Fox was one of the great figures of British 18th century politics. Born in London in 1749, the second son of a Lord, he was educated at Eton and Oxford and entered Parliament at the age of nineteen as the MP for Midhurst in Sussex. He quickly became renowned as an excellent orator. His early career saw him appointed to a number of posts including the Admiralty and Treasury boards before finally being appointed Foreign secretary in April 1783 as part of Lord North’s coalition government.But by the end of the year this was replaced by a government headed by William Pitt and Fox became his principal opponent.

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He was a strong supporter of the rights of parliament with regards to the throne and thought that the King had too much influence over the policies of the government. He defended the French revolution regarding it as the lesser of 2 evils, a stance which eventually cost him the support of many of his friends in Parliament. He opposed the restrictive measures brought in by Pitt’s government on the back of the French revolutionary wars.

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by Archibald Alison via Wikimedia Commons

In 1802 he went to Paris and met 3 times with Napoleon Bonaparte, believing that the French leader really wanted peace in Europe. When war broke out in 1803 he declared that it was the fault of the British Government as they had left Napoleon with no alternative. In January 1806 he was again appointed Foreign secretary, hoping to broker peace with the French, but was soon forced to believe that he was wrong in his belief that they wanted peace.

Charles_James_Fox_statue,_Bloomsbury_Square
Mike Quinn [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In the spring of 1806 he oversaw a bill prohibiting the participation of British citizens in the slave trade to colonies of Britain’s enemies. It is reckoned that this cut the British slave trade by two-thirds. In June of the same year he introduced a motion calling for the total abolition of the slave trade which was passed.

Fox died in September 1806 at his home in London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Fox's tomb in Westminster Abbey

Fox’s tomb in Westminster Abbey


By Ugo Valfer (www.napoleon-empire.com/tombs/fox.php) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Charles James Fox is remembered for his fight for the liberties of the people and for the role he played in the abolition of slavery. A brilliant orator and and fierce opponent of William Pitt, these two were the great political duellers of their era.