From Edmund Jenings
Brussels July 24th 1782
I am honoured by the receipt of your Excellencys Letters of the 17th and 20th Instant.
Considering the former Conduct of Mr Fox in the Early part of Life one cannot but be astonished at what He is now doing. His Ideas are vast and his Fortitude wonderful in these Times; but to tell your Excellency truly I can never trust a Man entirely, whose principles and course of Life were once so loose and irregular.1 However He must be supported by the people of England for No one is more capable of confounding the insidious Arts of Shelbune whom I am convinced cannot Stand before Him especially if the Bedford party should give Him Cuntenese and they have hitherto done it. The Ideas, which Mr Fox has, were not, I imagine, originally his own, they come from the Duke of Richmond, who saw before I left England the only sure ground of proceeding. I fancy the Dukes Staying in place is a concerted Measure.
Give me leave to inform your Excellency of an Anecdote, which came to my Knowledge by a preceding post from England. The Gentleman who sends it me says He thinks He can vouch its for a fact.
“Immediately after the Death of Lord R. the King said to Shelburne I will be plain with you, the point next my Heart, and which I am determind be the Consequence what it may, never to relinquish but with my Crown and Life, is to prevent a total Uniquivocal recognition of the Independence of A. Promise to support me on this ground and I will leave you Unmolested on every other ground, and with full power as the prime Minister of this Kingdom.”2 The bargain was struck between these two bad Men.
When the Manuscript Bill, which I sent your Excellency was passed into an Act, the second Clause of the Preamble was struck out.3
There cannot be a doubt but the Powers of Europe might have put an End to the War long since by most peaceable Means, but how can one expect that those, who are calld the armed Nutrallity or any other should take the step, which your Excellency Advises, when Spain has not yet Acknowledged the Independancy, there is something in Her Conduct surprizing, perhaps she may now be inclind to this step, but indeed she appears to have but little Merit.
I Hope the English Agents will be all sent away from France it is astonishing to me that any of them has been suffered to Stay, but perhaps they flattered the conceit of one man, who I Agree with your Excellency is the very fellow of Shelburne and with more rancour than any Man. Indeed your Excellency Must Watch his Conduct for the good of your Country, He is capable of doing much Mischief.4
Mr L is by this Time at Nantes, where He wrote me He proposed going in Search of a passage to America. His Address is at Madame Babut & La bouchiere. He mentiond to me the Anonymous Letter, and assurd me that He did not credit a Word of it, and that He had the Utmost respect and regard for your Excellency. I shall write and obey most punctually your Excellencys orders.
I wish I may find soon an opportunity to send your Excellency a Pamphlet which B has lately sent me entitled Reflections upon the present State of England and the Independance of America—it is an Excellent one.5
Your Excellency sees there has been a Meeting of Mr Foxs Constituents in Westminster the Speech He made on that occasion will be printed.6 I Hope the Yorkshire Gentlemen will soon come to some noble resolutions, what an occasion have they when they meet to do the last Honor to the Noble Marquiss. They will have a better opportunity to do it and for a better purpose, than the burial of Caeser offered.
Upon the whole Appearance of Affairs altho I have my Uneasiness, yet I think from Necessity England must Submit and tho Shelburne may flatter the King that He is in his Sytem yet neither one or the other are capable of Standing out long. I am sure that all the Money necessary for the Service of the Current Year is not raised, and that it is impossible to do any thing Effectual, if Europe Continues as it is, the next, and therefore I expect to see your Excellency pass through This Town to Paris.
I am with greatest Respect Sir your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servt.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “July 24. 1782.”
1. Fox was noted in his youth for his dissipated lifestyle and heavy gambling that resulted in the loss of most of his personal fortune and the incurring of substantial debt. But even in 1782 his lifestyle had not fundamentally changed, contrary to what might be implied from Jenings’ comment, which was likely owing to a desire to see something good in a British politician whose policies toward the United States were viewed as more favorable than those of the Shelburne ministry (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, repr. edn., New York and London, 1959–1960; 22 vols. description ends ).
2. The source of this anecdote is unknown, but it is not surprising that such an account would be current among those opposed to Shelburne’s ministry, since such a bargain between George III and Shelburne was at least implied by most of the opposition speakers in the House of Commons on 9 July.
5. A copy of Thomas Day’s Reflexions upon the Present State of England, and the Independence of America, London, 1782, is in JA’s library at MB (Catalogue of JA’s Library description begins Catalogue of the John Adams Library in the Public Library of the City of Boston, Boston, 1917. description ends ). Day was a British poet, essayist, and novelist (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, repr. edn., New York and London, 1959–1960; 22 vols. description ends ). For a quotation from the pamphlet, see Jenings’ letter of , below.
6. Accounts of Fox’s 17 July speech before his Westminster constituents appeared the next day in the London newspapers, for which see Parker’s General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer. It was almost immediately published as a pamphlet entitled The Speech of the Right Honourable Charles James Fox, at a General Meeting of the Electors of Westminster, Assembled in Westminster-Hall, July 17, 1782, London, 1782. In his speech, Fox covered much the same ground as in the Commons debates on 9 July, particularly his distrust of Shelburne and his pledge to recognize American independence.