Charles Fox and Ireland, 1775-1798

Phillips, Malcolm (1973) Charles Fox and Ireland, 1775-1798. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The closing decades of the eighteenth century saw a reinvigoration of both English and Irish political life with the government of Ireland, and the relationship between the two countries, having to be thought out afresh, albeit begrudgingly, by successive British governments. As a result, British rule in Ireland, after the comparative quiescence of the first half of the eighteenth century, again became a matter for controversy in England. In this development, Charles James Fox played an important part, and became more influential in Ireland than any other English politician. -- Charles Fox participated in Irish affairs not only whilst he was in opposition but also during his brief tenure in government office. By so doing, he incorporated the problems of Ireland into his own political thinking, and ensured that the administration of that country remained a matter of political controversy in England throughout the period of Irish legislative autonomy. He made various conscious attempts to become the English leader of Irish opposition movements, and was determined to discuss Irish events and policies both inside and outside parliament. His views on the commercial relationship between England and Ireland, although narrow, were consistent; but his views on the constitutional relationship between the two countries underwent a pronounced transformation in the heat of the early years of the Anglo-French war. -- A variety of reasons lay behind Fox's involvement in affairs across the Irish Sea: familial relationships, political expediency, a commitment to religious toleration and a belief that English statesmen could learn from the experiences of Britain's administration of Ireland all played their part. However, crucial to any understanding of Fox's participation in Irish affairs was his career in English politics. His Whiggery was based on a fear of unchecked government: he believed in the necessity of restraining the executive power in both England and Ireland. The corollary was a commitment to the indispensability of party and the importance of the role of the legislature in the constitution. It was in an attempt to restrain the executive, and correspondingly to strengthen the legislative power that Charles Fox became involved in Irish politics. -- England's government of Ireland, and the part played by Ireland in English politics, went through a marked transition in the late eighteenth century. Before the American war, successive English governments were agreed on the administration of Ireland; Irish affairs, then, played little part in English politics and parliamentary life. In the nineteenth century, on the other hand, this situation was reversed, and if any one man was responsible for this development, it was Charles Fox. He is, in fact, an important link in the changing nature of England's Irish Question in the closing decades of the eighteenth century. In opposition Fox rejected the government's Irish policies and eventually emerged as the leader of an English political party with a distinct Irish platform. The quiescence of the early eighteenth century was broken, never to return.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/1178
Item ID: 1178
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [325]-335.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1973
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Ireland
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Fox, Charles James, 1749-1808; Ireland--Politics and government--1760-1820

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