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The Foxite party and foreign politics, 1806 - 1816

Taylor, William B. (1974) The Foxite party and foreign politics, 1806 - 1816. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is a study of the foreign politics of Charles James Fox and his political successors during the final decade of the Napoleonic wars. As such it is an account not only of the closing months of Fox's political life and the thought which moulded the foreign policy of his last government but also an evaluation of his legacy in foreign politics and its effect on the 'Whig' coalition which he willed to posterity. The thesis stops short of treating the mechanics of foreign policy. It is primarily a study of the effect which foreign developments had on the political fortunes of the Foxite-dominated Whig party. I have not tried to sample the views of the ill-defined Whig party as a whole. Instead I have concentrated my efforts on the personalities who determined policy: on the peers who constituted the Foxite hierarchy; on frontbenchers in the Commons; on Fox's oldest supporters both in and out of Parliament; on political allies who disagreed fundamentally with traditional Foxite dogma; and to a lesser extent on those outside the party hierarchy who questioned and sometimes influenced the process of decision-making with their pens. Within this framework, the thesis argues generally that Fox's fragile union with Grenville and Fitzwilliam was merely a tactical manoeuvre designed to reestablish systematic opposition to the Crown, gain office, promote Anglo-French accord, and therefore facilitate de facto Whig unity by neutralizing the issue which had caused the disintegration of the party during the debate on the French Revolution. It argues further that Fox's controversial behaviour in office was geared to the attainment of this object; that his death and failure left his lieutenants burdened with the problems which arose from a tactical coalition with former antagonists; and that the resulting delicate equipoise of agreement which at once maintained and undermined the Grey-Grenville coalition until its collapse during the hundred Days was a product of a fundamental contradiction in Foxite 'principles' which had arisen during the 1790's and which Fox had failed to remedy in 1806. This contradiction pitted the most identifiable feature of Fox's politics between 1803 and 1806— coalition on a principle of 'men before measures' for the purpose of reestablishing systematic opposition— against the unpopular Foxite concept of politics which had broken the Whig party during the 1790's. These arguments, of course, are founded on a contention that Fox's general concept of the French Revolution and the European war continued to exert a powerful influence on Whig councils until the collapse of France's revolutionary government in 1815. The thesis therefore attempts to explain this concept, to display how it influenced the foreign policy of the Ministry of All the Talents, and to establish its continuity by examining the reactions of key statesmen to the ups and downs of the European war, particularly the Spanish Revolution and the subsequent Peninsular War, the collapse of the French Empire, and the events of the Hundred Days.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1974 William B. Taylor
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain

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