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1769. WILKES EXPET,LED. 237
minute detail would be, as I conceive, both tedious and unprofitable. On the 3d of February Lord Barrington brought forward the decisive motion, first recapitulating the offences of Wilkes and the judgments against him, and then proposing that he “be expelled this House.” It was natural that Honourable Members deserving of the epithet should view the election of Wilkes as an insult, and his sitting amongst them as a contamination. It was natural also that such feelings should be shared, as shared they were by a man so upright and high minded as the King.” But indignation, however just, is no safe counsellor in State affairs. Some cool observers, among whom was Horace Walpole, thought that considering Wilkes's utter want of Parliamentary ability, the House of Commons was the very place where he could do the least mischief.” A similar point was urged with great force by George Grenville. If, he cried, we expel Mr. Wilkes, and if afterwards any untoward accident or sudden distress should befal us, what then will the common people say?— “Aye, if Master Wilkes had been in the House he would “have prevented it; they knew that, and therefore would not “suffer him to come amongst them!” But this was not the argument on which Grenville mainly relied. In his most able speech on this occasion, the best perhaps that he ever made, he pointed out the Constitutional objections to an expulsion on such grounds, and warned the House against the perilous contest in which it was engaging. Many of the friends of Government were shaken in their purpose; Dunning, though Solicitor General, remained absent; and General Conway left the House without voting. Nevertheless such numbers still remained that the proposed expul* So early as April 25. 1768, I find the King write as follows to Lord North: “Though entirely relying on your attachment to my person as well “as on your hatred of any lawless proceeding, yet I think it highly ex“Dedient to apprise you that the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes appears to be “highly expedient, and must be effected. The case of Mr. Ward in the “reign of my great grandfather seems to point out the proper mode of pro“ceeding.” (MS. Extracts.) John Ward of Hackney being convicted of sion was carried by a majority of 82, and a new Writ for Middlesex was consequently issued. And thus ends, said Burke, the last act of this tragi-comedy; a tragi-comedy acted “by His Majesty's Servants,” at the express desire of several persons of quality, for the benefit of Mr. Wilkes, and at the expense of the Constitution! It soon appeared, however, that this act was by no means the last. The freeholders of Middlesex took fire at the indignity attempted to be set upon their representative. At a meeting held in the assembly room of Mile End it was formally resolved to put him again in nomination. Such was the enthusiasm that at Brentford no other candidate durst appear upon the hustings, and Wilkes was unanimously re-elected, all the proceedings being carried on with the most strict and studied order so as to afford no ground or plea for a petition. The prevailing party in the House of Commons had now no other choice, — so at least it seemed to themselves, – than to pursue the path which they had entered. A motion was made to the effect that John Wilkes, Esquire, having been once expelled, was incapable of being returned to the same parliament. For such a course the precedent mainly cited and relied on was that of Robert Walpole in 1712. “But at this rate,” said Mr. Dowdeswell, “no man's seat will “be secure. There is one worst man in the House—turn him “out! Is there not now a worst man left? — turn him out “too! In short when will you stop?”— Against the motion there were likewise speeches from all the other chief men in the Opposition ranks: Burke and Barré, Sir George Savile and Alderman Beckford, Serjeant Glynn and Grenville. Nevertheless a majority even much larger than on the last occasion, — a majority increased from 82 to 146, -affirmed the incapacity of Wilkes, and declared the last election for Middlesex to be null and void. At the news of this decision the popular flame only blazed the higher. Another meeting was held at Mile End, and proved to the full as zealous as the first. At the London
forgery had been expelled the House in May 1727. ** H. Walpole to Sir H. Mann, March 21. 1768.
1769. wiLKES's PopULARITY. 239
Tavern many gentlemen of note assembled, and set on foot a subscription not only to defray the election expenses of Wilkes, but also to free him from his private debts and liabilities. A sum amounting to upwards of 3,000l. was subscribed in the room, and many more donations speedily accrued. At the next meeting of these gentlemen they assumed the name of “Supporters of the Bill of Rights;” and the Society thus formed grew for a time to some importance, taking part in political discussions not less than in pecuniary affairs. * At the King's Arms Tavern a meeting of some gentlemen was attempted on the opposite side. This was promoted chiefly by Mr. Dingley, a mercantile speculator, who desired to become the Ministerial candidate for Middlesex. A loyal Address to the King was prepared and agreed to, and other measures were designed; but a party of the Wilkites breaking in, a scuffle ensued, and the gentlemen dispersed. On their way some time afterwards to present their Address at St.James's they were again assailed with insult and violence. A hearse had been made ready to precede them adorned with paintings of the death of Allen; and their coaches were pelted with mud and stones, several among them being compelled to turn baek. It was attempted to continue such outrages even within the palace gates, but the Lord Steward, Earl Talbot, a bold resolute man, stepped forward, and though deserted by his own servants, secured two of the most forward of the rioters with his own hands. A new incident at this period added not a little to the popular flame. At the election of Serjeant Glynn for Middlesex in the previous December Mr. Clarke, one of his supporters, had been struck by two chairmen of the opposite party, and soon afterwards died. Against these chairmen, whose names were Balfe and Macquirk, a verdict of Wilful Murder was returned by an exasperated Jury. A doubt, however, had arisen as to the true cause of the death of Mr. Clarke. His Majesty through the Secretary of State referred this point to the examination of the College of Surgeons, who gave it as their unanimous opinion that Mr. Clarke had not died from the consequences of the blow he had received. Upon this as a matter of course a free pardon was granted to Macquirk and to Balfe. — Clear and plain as this transaction seems, it provoked at the time much popular resentment, and afforded materials to Junius for one of his most venomous attacks. * Another step, far from welcome at this critical period, was taken — not in right season surely—by Lord North. He proposed to the House of Commons to grant half a million for the discharge of the debts upon the Civil List of 800,000l. a year. The money was voted, but invidious comments, both in the House and out of it, were not forborne. — In all personal tastes and habits George the Third, as I have elsewhere shown, was beyond most men plain, unpretending, and domestic. But the expenses in the various departments of State in the Royal Household, and the profits and perquisites expected from them, were enormous, growing as yet without the check of any due system of control. Thus, for instance, the state-coach built in 1762 had been charged to His Majesty at no less a sum than 7,562.l.* Such were the magnitude and extent of these abuses as to need for their correction some years later all the ability of Burke and all the authority of Parliament. Amidst such a combination of untoward circumstances came on the new election at Brentford. Mr. Dingley — “the “miserable Dingley,” as Junius calls him, - had announced himself as a candidate, but being roughly handled by the populace did not venture to urge his claim, nor to appear upon the hustings. Again therefore was Wilkes unanimously returned as the Member of Middlesex. Again did the House of Commons declare his incapacity, vote his election to be null and void, and issue a new Writ for the county. On this occasion, however, the Ministers took care to provide a
* An account of the origin and first proceedings of this Society is given in Almon's Memoirs and Correspondence of Wilkes, vol. iv. p. 7–14,
* Letter to the Duke of Grafton, March 18. 1769. ** See the items in the Annual Register, 1768, part ii. p. 138.
1769. MIDDLEX ELECTIONS. 241
candidate of their own. Colonel Henry Lawes Luttrell, son of Lord Irnham, and member for Bossiney, was persuaded by his friends in office to relinquish his safe seat and to stand for Middlesex. As the appointed time for this election (the 13th of April) drew near great fears were entertained of tumults and riots on that day; but none at all occurred, so careful were the people to cast no slur or discredit on their cause, or so placable from the sure confidence of victory. The nomination took place in perfect order; Stephen Fox, eldest son of Lord Holland, proposing Mr. Luttrell. The polling followed in due course, when it appeared that in a few hours Wilkes obtained upwards of eleven hundred votes, and Luttrell less than three hundred. — A large party of the freeholders on horseback, with colours flying and music playing, and blue ribands streaming from their hats, rode to the King's Bench prison to congratulate Wilkes upon his triumph; and at night illuminations ensued through all the city. Thus was Wilkes for the fourth time proclaimed Knight of this great Shire. The result had been foreseen by the Ministers as inevitable, but as they hoped would be provided against through their care. Mr. Onslow, son of the late Speaker, and member for Surrey, brought forward a motion, supported by the whole strength of Government, that not Wilkes but Luttrell should have been returned at this election; — thus, in fact, bestowing the seat upon the latter. Long and fierce was the discussion which arose, and the motion was carried by a majority reduced to 54. Shortly af. terwards, on the last day but one of the Session, the subject was renewed on a petition of the freeholders of Middlesex against this vote, when after another keen debate the original decision was affirmed. A step so violent and so unpopular was defended by Lord North and his friends with some force on the ground of expediency. Must not the House of Commons maintain its own determination, so recently and so solemnly taken, of closing its doors on Mr. Wilkes; and if so, would not utter confuMahon, History. W. 16