A Formidable Foe
George III viewed Fox as perhaps his most dangerous adversary, saying he had “cast off every principle of common honour and honesty . . . as contemptible as he is odious . . . aversion to all restraints.” Literary lion Samuel Johnson wondered “whether the nation should be ruled by the sceptre of George III or the tongue of Fox.”
Dressed in a blue frock-coat and a yellow waistcoat—colors later adopted by the Whig party as well as the Whig journal Edinburgh Review—Fox championed liberal reform during the 1780s. For example, he advocated complete religious toleration. This meant expanding the Toleration Act (1689), which required that to legally serve as a clergyman a religious Dissenter must acknowledge the divinity of Christ—a measure specifically aimed at Unitarians. Fox also favored abolishing religious tests to exclude Dissenters from political office.
Although Fox seemed to embrace the Church of England, he opposed using coercion to support it. As he declared in 1787: “It was an irreverent and impious opinion to maintain, that the church must depend for support as an engine or ally of the state, and not on the evidence of its doctrines, to be found by searching the scriptures, and the moral effects which it produced on the minds of those whom it was the duty to instruct.”
Fox supported the campaign of fellow Member William Wilberforce to abolish the slave trade. Fox opposed proposals that it be continued under government regulation. According to one summary of the debate in Parliament, May 1789: “he knew of no such thing as a regulation of robbery or a restriction of murder. There was no medium; the legislature must either abolish the trade or avow their own criminality.” But for the moment, proposals to abolish the slave trade went nowhere.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
FEE: "Charles James Fox, Valiant Voice for Liberty"
Check it out here. A taste: