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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Charles James Fox

  • [A celebrated English orator and statesman; born in London, Jan. 24, 1749; educated at Oxford; entered Parliament, 1768, as a supporter of Lord North; appointed junior lord of the admiralty, and in 1773 a lord of the treasury; dismissed for insubordination, he joined the opposition, and became the leader of the whigs; secretary of state, 1782; foreign secretary, 1806; died Sept. 13 of that year, while negotiating for peace with France.]
  • I am for equality. I think that men are entitled to equal rights, but to equal rights to unequal things.

  • Napoleon’s opinion was more in accordance with the assertion of the American Declaration of Independence, when he said, “Nature made all men equal.” Turgot said, “The republic is formed upon the equality of all the citizens;” and Frederick the Great imbibed even more radical ideas from the French philosophers: “Kings are nothing but men, and all men are equal.” Dr. Johnson, however, declared that, so far from being true that all men are naturally equal (in an intellectual and moral sense), “no two people can be half an hour together but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.”—BOSWELL: Life, 1776. In a speech at Glasgow University, Nov. 19, 1873, Mr. Disraeli said, “It appeared to me that I should not greatly err were I to describe the spirit of the age as the spirit of equality.”
  • The worst of revolutions is a restoration.

  • Referring to the reaction of restorations, such as that in England after the restoration of Charles II., and the “White Terror” in France after the return of the Bourbons. Fox also said, in the House of Commons, Dec. 10, 1795, “The people of England, in my opinion, committed a worse offence by the unconstitutional restoration of Charles II. than even by the death of Charles I.”
  • Kings govern by means of popular assemblies only when they cannot do without them.

  • In the House of Commons, Oct. 31, 1776.
  • He said on another occasion, “We ought not to legislate for a nation in whose feelings and affections, wants and interests, opinions and prejudices, we have no sympathy.”
  • Of the assistance given by France to the American colonies, and the consequent hostilities between England and that country, Fox declared in the House of Commons, “America must be conquered in France: France can never be conquered in America.”
  • Not a precedent, but a usurpation.

  • He once drew the following distinction: “Whenever any usage appeared subversive of the constitution, if it had lasted for one or two hundred years, it was not a precedent, but a usurpation.”
  • His usual remark, when told that a speech read well, was, “Then it was a bad speech.”—MOORE: Life of Sheridan, II. 12, note.
  • “I learn more from conversation,” Fox once declared, “than from all the books I ever read.” “A great thing is a great book,” says Disraeli, “but a greater thing than all is the talk of a great man.”—Coningsby.
  • “The Greek historians,” Fox said, “generally told nothing but the truth, while the Latin historians told nothing but lies.”
  • When it was asked if a Frenchman were not wiser in preferring the present, Fox thought he might be merrier: “Did you ever hear of a savage who did not buy a mirror in preference to a telescope?”
  • Topham Beauclerk called one morning after Fox had lost an immense sum of money at play, thinking to find him in a state of deep despondency. He was, however, reading Herodotus in the original. “What would you have me do,” he asked, “when I have lost my last shilling?” When a French gentleman expressed his surprise that a nation so moral as England should submit to be governed by a man so wanting in private virtue as Fox, Pitt replied, “C’est que vous n’avez pas été sous la baguette du magicien” (You have never been under the wand of the magician). Many of his sayings show Pitt’s generous estimate of Fox: as this, of their comparative powers of expression, “Fox is never at a loss for the word, and I am never at a loss for a word;” and of one of his speeches, “Don’t disparage it: nobody could have made it but himself;” and at another time, “Whenever I have made a better speech than usual, I observe that Fox in his reply surpasses himself.”
  • When Fox, after the king’s mental illness, contended that the heir-apparent was entitled as of right to be regent,—an idea opposed to the traditional maxims of the Whig party,—Pitt exclaimed, “For this doctrine I will un-whig him for the rest of his days.”—MOORE’S Life of Sheridan.
  • Dr. Porson said of the two orators, “Pitt carefully considered his sentences before he uttered them; but Fox threw himself into the middle of his, and left it to God Almighty to get him out again;” and William Windham said that “Pitt could speak a king’s speech off-hand,” referring to the speeches with which the sovereign opens Parliament, and which are carefully composed by the cabinet.
  • Every man would desire once in his life, at least, to make a pilgrimage to Switzerland, the country of liberty and peace.

  • Samuel Rogers said that “the most beautiful and magnificent view on the face of the earth is the prospect of Mont Blanc from the Jura Mountains.” Richard Cobden was asked if it were worth while to take a long journey for the purpose of seeing Niagara. His answer was, “There are two sublimities in nature,—one of rest, the other of motion. The sublimity of rest is a distant view of the Alps; the sublimity of motion is Niagara.”
  • I die happy.

  • His last words.
  • Dr. Johnson said of Fox, “He is a liberal man: he would always be aut Cæsar, aut nullus. Whenever I have seen him he was nullus.” Cæsar Borgia had a device under the head of Cæsar, “Aut Cæsar, aut nihil.”
  • “Borgia was Cæsar, both in deed and name;
  • ‘Cæsar or nought,’ he said: he both became.”
  • Dr. Johnson used another Latin quotation with a more favorable intention, when he said, “Fox is a most extraordinary man, who has divided the kingdom with Cæsar (divisum imperium cum Jove Cæsar habet); so that it was a doubt whether the nation should be governed by the sceptre of George III. or the tongue of Fox.”
  • “In the most imperfect relic of Fox’s speeches,” said Erskine, “the bones of a giant are to be discovered.”
  • No man could be so wise as Thurlow looked.

  • Lord Campbell, in his Life of Lord Thurlow (“Lives of the Lord Chancellors,” v. 661), says of him, that “although pretending to despise the opinions of others, he was acting a part, and his aspect was more solemn and imposing than almost any other person’s in public life,—so much so, that Mr. Fox used to say it proved him dishonest, since no man could be so wise as Thurlow looked.” In another place (p. 551) Fox is made to say, “Thurlow looked wiser than any man ever was.” On the occasion of a public procession, the Prince Regent, who had taken offence at something Thurlow had said or done, rudely stepped in before the Lord Chancellor, who observed, “Sir, you have done quite right. I represent your royal father: royalty walks last. Proceed, sir.” Mr. Mellish being spoken of as a great friend of the populace, Thurlow said, “They like him as a brother blackguard,” and then added, “I am of their opinion. I dislike your pious heroes; I prefer Achilles to Hector, Turnus to Æneas.” Lord Thurlow was once asked by a dissenter why he, a notorious free-thinker, supported the Established Church. “Because it is established,” was the reply; “establish your religion, and I’ll support that.”
  • Johnson liked a “good hater.” “Do you not hate that fellow?” Fox was once asked of a member of Parliament who irritated the Whigs by the virulence of his speaking, and bored them by its prolixity. “Ah, well,” replied Fox, “I am a bad hater.”