Joseph Fox the elder

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Joseph Fox
Joseph Fox
Portrait of Joseph at the Dept. of History of Art in the University of Manchester
On the back of the canvas is printed: Joseph Fox, Surgeon, Falmouth.
Drawn Aug. 1767, age 37. 22 × 12 inches
Born 1729 (1729)
Par, Cornwall
Died 1785 (1786) (aged 56)
Falmouth, Cornwall
Occupation English medical doctor and Quaker

Joseph Fox (Par, Cornwall 1729 – Falmouth, Cornwall, 25 Feb 1785) was an English surgeon in Falmouth.[1] He was the first Falmouth Fox, and founder of a medical dynasty. From him doctors have descended in the male line for (so far) seven generations.


His father, George Fox of Par, had two small vessels trading with Bilbao in Northern Spain; his brother George Croker Fox founded the firm of G. C. Fox and Co., shipping agents at Falmouth. Joseph was apprenticed to a local doctor at Fowey. When this training was over, he set up as a surgeon and apothecary at Lostwithiel, and he moved to Falmouth. He married a daughter of Richard Hingston, surgeon or apothecary at Penryn. The girl he married, in 1754, was a daughter of Richard Hingston (1695–1748), who had been a surgeonapothecary in Penryn. In 1776 Joseph took a small house in Poran Hill for harbouring sick seaman and other poor patients.[2][3]

In or before 1775 Fox took a quarter share in two cutters of the type used by the Revenue; and when war with France broke out in 1778 the other proprietors decided to equip them as privateers for capturing French merchantmen. Fox opposed this plan, since taking prize money was contrary to his Quaker beliefs. He therefore proposed that his partners should buy him out at a low price; but they refused.


Joseph Fox (Par, Cornwall, 1729, – Falmouth, Cornwall, 25 Feb 1785) son of George Fox and Anna Debell, married Penryn, 17 Apr 1754 – Elisabeth Hingston (Penryn, Cornwall, 28 Oct 1733 – Falmouth, 15 Dec 1792) daughter of Richard Hingston and Elizabeth Steele[5]


1- Anna (29 Mar 1755, Falmouth-?) married 1st 1792 William Rawes and 2nd 1808 Thomas Thompson, dsp

2- Elizabeth (24 Dec 1757, Falmouth-9 May 1810) married 1784 John Allen, issue

3- Joseph 13 Jul 1758, Falmouth-25 Feb 1832, Plymouth, buried Charles Church Yard, Plymouth) married 1780, Plymouth Elisabeth Peters (his 2nd cousin). Joseph had illegitimate issue, asked to be disowned by the society of Friends and became a catholic on what was supposed to be his deathbed and lived a year afterwards.

4- Sarah (19 Jan 1760, Falmouth-9 Sep 1760, Falmouth)

5- Tabitha (19 Jan 1760, Falmouth-9 Sep 1760, Falmouth)

6- Edward Long (26 Apr 1761, Falmouth-2 May 1835, Brislington, Somerset married 1st 15 Oct 1784 Catherine Brown; married 2nd 21 Nov 1805 Isabella Ker, issue

7- Rachel (2 Dec 1762, Falmouth-22 Jun 1766, Falmouth)

8- Richard (7 Sep 1764, Falmouth-15 Feb 1841) married 1786 Hannah Forster (1st cousin of Josiah Forster), issue

9- Nathaniel (9 Dec 1768, Falmouth-11 Jun 1786, Falmouth), dsp

10- Francis (8 Apr 1771, Falmouth-8 May 1795, Falmouth) married 1795 Hester Mills, dsp

11- Philip (15 Jun 1772, Falmouth-1772, Falmouth)

Last Will[edit]

I Joseph Fox of the town of Falmouth in the County of Cornwall Surgeon being through the mercy of God of sound disposing mind and memory and calling to mind the uncertainty of life do for the avoiding of all controversies after my decease make and order this my last will and testament in manner and form following viz I give unto my Daughter Anna Fox the like sum as I gave to my Daughter Elizabeth Allen for her marriage portion I also give unto my said Daughter Anna Fox my Estate of Belair (this is just a guess – I think I have seen the name elsewhere and will advise when I have located it) after the decease of her Mother my present Wife leaving her at liberty to sell the same if she minds so to do but giving her Brothers the preference I give unto my Son Joseph Fox fifty guineas I give unto my Son Edward Long Fox one hundred and fifty guineas I give unto my Daughter Elizabeth Allen ten guineas I give unto my Son Richard Fox two hundred guineas the above money (indecipherable) to be paid within one year after my decease without any deduction whatever I also give unto my Son Richard Fox immediately on my decease all my (indecipherable) Instruments Books and every utensil belonging to my business of an Apothecary and Surgeon I give unto my Sons Nathaniel Fox and Francis Fox three hundred guineas each to be paid them when their Mother and their Guardians or the major part of them shall think proper and I do hereby make constitute and appoint my Wife Elizabeth Fox my Daughter Anna Fox my Sons Joseph and Richard Fox my Sister Tabitha Fox my Cousin George Fox my Nephew George Croker Fox as Trustees for the performance of this my Will and Guardians for my two younger Children I give unto my dear Wife all the rest residue and remainder of my effects whatsoever and wheresoever who I appoint my (indecipherable) and sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament revoking all former Wills by me heretofore made in Witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and Seal this twelfth day of the Second Month one thousand seven hundred and eighty five.

Signed sealed published and declared by the said Joseph Fox as and for his last will and Testament in the day and year above written in presence of us Tabitha Fox, Samuel Street

This Will was proved at London the twenty fourth Day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty five before the right worshipful Peter Calvert Doctor of Laws Master Keeper or Commissary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury lawfully constituted by Elizabeth Fox widow the relict of the deceased and sole Executrix named in the said Will to whom administration of all and singular the Goods Chattels and Credits of the said deceased was granted she having already made a solemn and sincere Declaration or Affirmation according to Act of Parliament by Commission duly to administer.

Dr. Edward Long Fox's account of the French business 1785[edit]

Various accounts having appeared in Sunday publications at different times of a transaction in France, relative to the restitution of French prize property in the year 1785 by Joseph Fox, Surgeon, then living in Falmouth, Cornwall, Which tho' they were not published by any of his family excited as a novel proceeding considerable interest at the time it has been felt as a duty by some of his surviving children to leave behind them a short and authentic narrative of this transaction by way of record to the memory of their pious parent, and as an incitement to others to cultivate a similar disposition, and to follow an example that will tend to promote the love and practice of peace and good will upon earth. Joseph Fox was, the third son of George Fox of Par, a small creek belonging to the port of Fowey in the county of Cornwall. Here in a solitary house he begun trade and became a respectable provincial Merchant for those days, having two small vessels of his own in which he maintained a constant trade Between Bilbao in Spain, and the place of his residence, besides an extended internal wholesale Trade among the various dealers in the County This family, tho' not allied to George Fox the original founder of the sect, had early embraced the doctrines which he promulgated, had joined the Society of Friends as they termed themselves and had in common with many of the zealous assertors of their principles suffered by fine and imprisonment for conscience sake. The two eldest sons of George Fox were established in opposite districts of the County as Merchants. Edward, the eldest son, settled at Wadebridge a small town on the Padstow river, where his descendants still remain George Croker Fox, the second Son, removed to Falmouth where he succeeded in founding a very extensive mercantile establishment, which he bequeathed to his sons, whose children extended and yet maintain it. His youngest, son Francis, married and resided in Plymouth, and was occupied in the same line but being taken off early by death was not permitted to make any great advances in benefitting his Family. His sons however by the aid of their maternal Grandfather W. Cookworthy, an eminent Druggist and Chemist, succeeded in establishing a high reputation for fidelity and probity in the drug trade and at their death left a comfortable independence to their posterity. Joseph, the subject of the present memoir, after a regular Apprenticeship to a Surgeon and Apothecary at Fowey, and after attending the Lectures and Hospitals in London married Elizabeth Hingston, and fixed his residence at Falmouth, where he exercised this useful profession with skill and with advantage to himself and to his employers. In country situations the practise of this art furnishes but slender opportunity for much emolument, and as our Father had a numerous family he was always forward to embrace any lawful means of advancing his circumstances. In commercial seaport towns and in mining counties frequent opportunities present themselves for Capitalists to embark in lucrative speculations without appearing to take an interest. In this way according, to his pecuniary ability he took small shares in Mines, he held one or two with his Brother in Merchant Vessels, and he was part owner in a Lisbon packet for several years. It was during the peace which preceded the American War, but in what year we do not correctly know, that he took a quarter part, in two Luggers or Cutters, which were employed in protecting the Revenue against Smugglers on the Cornish Coast, and which it would seem, had acted successfully to his advantage. These Vessels being specially constructed for sailing were peculiarly adapted for successful enterprizes against weakly or unmanned Merchantmen on the breaking out of war. Accordingly, in that which commenced between England and France, in the year 1778 the other proprietors (not being Members of the Society of the people called Quakers) determined upon equipping them as Letters of Marque for the express purpose of capturing Merchantmen. On this proposal, our Father, actuated by the principles of the Society of which he was a Member, remonstrated against their withdrawing the Vessels from a lucrative and lawful occupation, to employ them in one which was hazardous, expensive and dangerous but above all, so contrary to his religious opinions, that if eventually fortunate in capturing the Ennemy 's ships to him it would prove of no personal advantage. He even proposed to his partners to purchase his share: but this was rejected, and the plea of the minority being bound by the will of the majority, compelled him to submit to all the risk, without the pleasing anticipations which others less scrupulous do not fail to allow themselves. After ample success had attended this undertaking, these proprietors availing themselves of his objections to the enterprize, attempted to reject his pretentions and insisted on his relinguishing his share to them. This however he successfully resisted asserting to these partners that having now become possessed of property belonging to another, unexpectedly and against his wish, he should consider himself in the capacity of Trustee for the original proprietors, 'till the period should arrive when he might be enabled to effect its restitutions. Several vessels were captured, but on two only were any returns effected to bear the expense that would attend the equal restitution among the numerous and uncertain Claimants. It is somewhat remarkable that tho these transactions occupied such a series of years anterior and subsequent to the War that tho five of his children had attained adult age and the remaining two not very remote from that period; and lastly, that tho our Mother was esteemed a discreet, and excellent Wife and had always to the best of our belief in other matters his entire confidence; yet, that not one of his family had ever entertained the slightest idea of his having been so concerned. The first intimation upon the subject that was given to any of his Family, was in a letter to his second son Edward Long Fox, at that time a student at Edinburgh where he had nearly completed his academical education as Physician. It is dated Falmouth, the 13th. of the 8th. month 1784; he writes thus, "I would not advise thee to settle immediately; my reason is, because I wish thee to go to Paris and Holland to transact some business for me, which would afford thee much pleasure, and more to others, who will cheerfully allow the expense of thy journey: it cannot be transacted in England in so exact a manner as I could wish. The case was this: I was concerned in a 1/4 part of a vessel, for which, or the commencement of the war, the majority of. the Owners procured letters of Marque: I expressed my abhorrence of the employ, offered repeatedly to sell my part, wrote them, be the success what it would, it would be no advantage to me, but a great loss, as she was getting money in a legal employ. But, all my remonstrances were to no purpose: The majority of the Owners had a right to do as they pleased, and contrary to my approbation and consent sent her to sea. They succeeded beyond their expectation; I was offered a very handsome Annuity for life, if I would give up my right to the profits, which I refused, being determined to return the nett produce to the original proprietors, and reserve nothing for myself. The owners threatened me that it was wholly their transaction, and done without my approbation, that therefore, I had no right to the produce of it, and that the law should determine it. However, as I foresaw from the beginning how I should be served I examined my copies of letters, and found I had written cautiously, and that I had not given them any thing under my hand to forfeit my claims and looking on myself in the light of a Trustee for the original proprietors, I positively insisted on my share, and accepted of just as much as they pleased to give me, which I immediately lodged in the Funds with design to return it with the Interest to the proper owners as soon as peace was concluded. As there may be some difficulty and intricacy in finding out the real losers, as the proprietors may have been insured, I would chuse that one of my own family, should be on the spot, and see it justly proportioned and paid to the proper people but, it must remain for the present an entire secret between us. The sum in my hands may amount to 12 or 1300 pounds a little more or a little less." Our dear father never gave any explanation of the grounds for the extreme secrecy he wished to preserve and we are only able to account for it in the following way. First: tho he was not a forward member of the Society Meetings for business and discipline, yet he was as exemplary in his attendance on these occasions, as well on Meetings for worship, as his professional vocation would allow. Tho he was neither a Bigot, nor an Enthusiast in matters of religion, on the contrary he considered all good men, tho they may not have heard the Name of Christ, as much Christians as many who professed tho faith; yet he was sincerely attached to the principles of the society of Friends and regarded it his duty to train up his Children and Servants in the frequent reading of the Holy Scriptures: and the former in regular attendance on Meetings, in plainness of speech, behaviour, and apparel. He was not negligent of the moral obligations to his fellow creatures, and to have been concerned in depriving them of their lawful property was what his heart abhorred. Secondly: that, as there exists in the discipline of the Society of Friends a query whether Friends are engaged in privateers, or Letters of Marque, or the purchase of prize goods: to which an answer must be given in the Monthly Meeting, he must have been sensible that this query could never have been answered with clearness while some of its Members participated in such unlawful gain, and that he would have had the continual remembrance of the address of Samuel to King Saul, when he disobeyed the command of' the Lord to destroy all the beasts and cattle, of what means this bleating of the sheep and (the) this lowing of the oxen ? Thirdly: he knew that, if this matter had been published it must in the course of discipline have been brought under the cognizance of the Society who would have compelled him under forfeiture of membership to discharge a duty which he was desirous of performing voluntarily. About the middle of the 10th month, our brother with his Wife left England and shortly reached Paris, where he remained for want of the bills of lading and necessary documents, without instruction how to proceed till the middle of the 1st month, 1785 when our Father sent to him the following direction, relative to his proceeding. "As I cannot as yet tho repeatedly desired, procure any other account than the produce of the Greyhound and her Prizes in Gross and as the time is far spent, I think it will he best for thee to procure the names of the people who were sufferers by the capture of L'aimable Françoise, Captain Clemenceau, taken by the Greyhound, Letter of Marque, belonging to St. Ives in the County of Cornwall, England and carried into Falmouth: and L'assurance taken by the Brilliant, Letter of Marque, belonging to the same port, in company with the Dolphin, and carried into Fowey. For which purpose immediately advertise in the Paris papers which circulate throughout the nation, requesting that the Proprietors, Insurers, or such as were real losers by the capture of said vessels would send their names and places of abode, with the loss they sustained (to be hereafter verified on oath if required) to Dr. Edward Long Fox, at the Hotel de York &c., who will inform them of something to their advantage. It would be best to acquaint the Brokers to whom Couth recommended thee, with the whole affair, and consult them how to act. In answer to the Claimants, inform them that thy Father Joseph Fox, Surgeon of Falmouth possessed a small share in said Greyhound and Brilliant, for which Vessels the other Owners procured Letters of Marque contrary to his approbation and religious principles, he being one of the people called Quakers, who think no human laws can authorize men to kill each other, or take their property by force; but it was not in his power to prevent it, the Majority of the owners having a right by the English laws to employ the vessels as they please. Happily no person was hurt, the captured Vessels being unarmed and ignorant of the War. The other owners paid me just what they pleased and say it is my share, but I cannot as yet get any account of what each ship netted. When it is made public, I conclude there will be many enquiries about it: thou mayst then with propriety explain the affair and let them know that this was thy business in France. The French newspapers which come to London will make it known sooner than I would choose, but that cannot be avoided indeed it is likely that some of the property was insured at London or Amsterdam. Thou shouldst write to Captain Clemenceau at Bordeaux who was commander of L'aimable Françoise, desiring to know what he actually lost by being taken, lest he should not happen to see the advertisement. Every person ought to know that proof, as well as affirmation or affidavit be required. Desire him also to give the proprietors names, and say who were, and who were not insured, as a cheque on other Claimants at Bordeaux. If the agents live principally at Bordeaux perhaps it will be necessary for thee to go there : perhaps some live in the West Indies, but it is likely they have agents at Bordeaux. Be very particular in thy letter to me what conversation has passed between thee and others on this subject: what thou hast done and what answers received; keep an account of every expense attending it as post age &c. He had before agreed that an allowance of 10/6 (s/d) per day should be made to his son, and all reasonable expenses paid. Some imperfection in these instruments required explanations which delayed the advertisement, and led to an interchange of letters, from one of which being the last he ever wrote on the subject the following is an extract.

"Be very circumspect and cautious in thy answers to the claimants; give no occasion for future reflections, I will do with the money, as it appears to me right, not as it appears to others. Keep Vouchers and Memorandums of every transaction to vindicate my reputation if censured; but be cautious, many will be on the watch to misrepresent things: be stedfast to thy principles: regard not being thought particular: the reputation of the Society will depend on thy present conduct. I know all persons, let them say what they will, do in heart esteem those who act most right, and most in character.

Immediately on the receipt of this letter his Son proceeded to procure the insertion of the advertisement in the Gazette de France, the only public newspaper then suffered to be printed at Paris for distant circulation, and as this was the property, and under the control of the Government some delay ensued in procuring leave, which could only be obtained by application to the Minister, who required a verification to be obtested before a Notary that the real object of the advertisement was such as it professed to be: so that it was not before the 25th of the 2nd month, that the following appeared in the Gazette de France.

"Les personne interessées comme proprietaires ou assureurs dans les Vaissaux L'aimable Françoise, Capitaine Clemenceau de Bordeaux, L' assurance du Havre de Grace, capitaine Jean François Quintin pris au commencement de la derniere guerre, le premier dans son(s) trajet de la Guadaloupe à Bordeaux vers la fin de l'année 1778 par le Greyhound Lettre de Marque, Capitaine Richard John, de St. Ives amené à Falmouth dans le Conté de Cournouailles en Angleterre; le second dans son(s) passage de la Martinique au Havre par les Lettres de Marque le Brilliant, Capitaine Henri Jane, et le Dolphin, Capitaine François Ford, tous deux du Port de St. Ives et amené à Fowey dans le même Conti: tous ceux enfin qui se trouves interessés sous les mêmes rapport dans les dits vaisseaux ou tous autre pris par les dites Lettres de Marque: peuves s'addresser au Docteur Edouard Long Fox, Hotêl de York, Rue de Jacob à Paris, lui faire connoitre leurs noms, leurs demeures leur(s) droits, et il leur donnera quelque satisfaction à ce suject.

It has been observed that before the Minister could consent to this insertion, he demanded a specific explanation of the motives and objects of the application; these were accordingly given: and from them the Editor of the Gazette, either of his own emotion, or by order of the Government, gave an explanatory introduction to the advertisement in the following words.

"Les principes de la paix et d'union, qui characterisent la Societé de Quakers leur defendant de prendre part aux guerres, et leur interdisant, tous les profits, dont elle peuvent être la source. L'un deux, intéressé dans divers Batimens que ses Associés au commencement de dernieres hostilités, jugerent à propos d'armer en course, malgré ses répresentation et son opposition, desirant restituer aux veritables propriétaires la part qu'il a eu au produit des prise faites par ces Batimens, à envoyé pour cet effet son fils en France, et fait publier l'avis suivant.

Thus far the object, of our Brothers mission was before the public, a moment it would seem from this letter of much anxiety to our revered Parent, and the completion of which, it would doubtless have delighted him to see, but it pleased the Almighty at this moment to afflict him with a severe attack of pleurisy, that de-prived him of this gratification, and us of his endeared Society by his death, a few days before this publication in the Gazette. About a month before his decease, he confidentially communicated to our eldest brother Dr. Joseph Fox, the object of his son Edward's mission to Paris: but he never imparted either to his Wife, or the other branches of his family, the slightest hint upon the subject until the evening before his departure from this life; then in the presence, and to the astonishment of his Wife and Children, he dictated and executed the following Codicil to his will-

"I have this day some considerable effects, belonging to proprietors in France, which 1 have desired my son Edward Long Fox would pay, and it is my desire that, my executrix shall have nothing to do with the management of it, unless when it unavoidable shall happen to fall into her lane of business.

It will be superfluous to relate the observations that came to our brothers notice in France, when this business came before the public: it is sufficient to remark that in consequence of the advertisement in the Paris papers, immediate applications were made to him, as well from the original proprietors as from the insurers These he was enabled to verify by reference to the bills of lading belonging to the two ships before mentioned, and in no instance was an application made, that did not admit of this authentication. It was not sooner than the latter end of July that this business was brought to its conclusion, and on that occasion the persons interested in the ship Assurance, of Havre de Grace, spontaneously solicited permission from the Count de Vergennes, then the French prime Minister, to insert the following acknowledgement in the Gazette de France for the 9th. of the 8th. month 1785.

"L'avis de Docteur Anglois Edouard Long Fox. aux personnes intéressés comme propriétaires, ou assureurs dans quelque Batimens, pris dans la derniere geurre, publié dans la Gazette du 25th. Fevrier dernier, n'a pas été sans effet. Les Sieurs Elie, Lefebre frères de Rouen, et Mart(?) père du Havre, viennent d'ecrire que le Docteur Edouard Long Fox à satisfait à leur égard, à ce qu'il avoit fait annoncer. C'est conformement à leur voeu que l'on donne ici la publicité qu'il merite, a ce trait de generosité et d' equité, qui honore 1a societé des Quakers, et prouve leur attachment aux principes de paix et d'union qui les charactérisent.


  1. ^ Susan E. Gay. Old Falmouth. p. 220. ISBN 978-1-4710-4716-9. 
  2. ^ "Caroline Fox" by Wilson Harris (London 1944)
  3. ^ Notes left by Richard Hingston Fox M.D.
  4. ^ Genealogy of the Fox family
  5. ^ Revised genealogical account of the various families descended from Francis Fox of St. Germans, Cornwall, to which is appended a pedigree of the Crokers of Lineham, and many other families connected with them. Privately printed London, 1872