The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter XIV: To the Printer of the Public Advertiser: 22 June 1769.

[46] The name of Old Noll is destined to be the ruin of the house of Stuart. There is an ominous fatality in it, which even the spurious descendants of the family cannot escape. Oliver Cromwell had the merit of conducting Charles the First to the block. Your correspondent, Old Noll, appears to have the same design upon the Duke of Grafton. His arguments consist better with the title he has assumed, than with the principles he professes: for though he pretends to be an advocate for the Duke, he takes care to give us the best reason why his patron should regularly follow the fate of his presumptive ancestor. Through the whole course of the Duke of Grafton's life, I see a strange endeavour to unite contradictions which cannot be reconciled. He marries, to be divorced; he keeps a mistress, to remind him of conjugal endearments; and he chooses such friends as it is a virtue in him to desert. If it were possible for the genius of that accomplished president, who pronounced sentence upon Charles the First, to be revived in some modern sycophant*, [47] his Grace, I doubt not, would by sympathy discover him among the dregs of mankind, and take him for a guide in those paths which naturally conduct a minister to the scaffold.

The assertion, that two-thirds of the nation approve of the acceptance of Mr. Luttrell (for even Old Noll is too modest to call it an election) can neither be maintained nor confuted by argument. It is a point of fact, on which every English gentleman will determine for himself. As to lawyers, their profession is supported by the indiscriminate defence of right and wrong; and I confess I have not that opinion of their knowledge or integrity, to think it necessary that they should decide for me upon a plain constitutional question. With respect to the appointment of Mr. Luttrell, the Chancellor has never yet given any authentic opinion. Sir Fletcher Norton is, indeed, an honest, a very honest man; and the Attorney-General is ex officio the guardian of liberty; to take care, I presume, that it shall never break out into a criminal excess. Doctor Blackstone is solicitor to the Queen. The Doctor recollected that he had a place to preserve, though he forgot that he had a reputation to lose. We have now the good fortune to understand the Doctor's principles as well as writings. For the defence of truth, of law, and reason, the Doctor's book may be safely consulted; but whoever wishes to cheat a neighbour of his estate, or to rob a country of its rights, need make no scruple of consulting the Doctor himself.

The example of the English nobility may, for aught I know, sufficiently justify the Duke of Grafton, when he indulges his genius in all the fashionable excesses of the age; yet, considering his rank and station, I think it would do him more honour to be able to deny the fact, than to defend it by such authority. But if vice itself could be excused, there is yet a certain display of it, a certain outrage to decency, and violation of public decorum, which, for the benefit of society, should never be forgiven. It is not that he kept a mistress at home, but that he constantly attended her abroad. It is not the private indulgence but the public insult, of which I complain. The

* It is hardly necessary to remind the reader of the name of Bradshaw

[48] name of Miss Parsons would hardly have been known, if the First Lord of the Treasury had not led her, in triumph, through the Opera House, even in the presence of the Queen. When we see a man act in this manner, we may admit the shameless depravity of his heart; but what are we to think of his understanding ?

His Grace, it seems, is now to be a regular, domestic man; and, as an omen of the future delicacy and correctness of his conduct, he marries a first cousin of the man who had fixed that mark and title of infamy upon him, which, at the same moment, makes a husband unhappy and ridiculous. The ties of consanguinity may possibly preserve him from the same fate a second time; and as to the distress of meeting, I take it for granted, the venerable uncle of these common cousins has settled the etiquette in such a manner, that if a mistake should happen, it may reach no farther than from Madame ma femme, to Madame ma cousine.

The Duke of Grafton has always some excellent reason for deserting his friends. The age and incapacity of Lord Chatham, the debility of Lord Rockingham, or the infamy of Mr. Wilkes. There was a time, indeed, when he did not appear to be quite so well acquainted, or so violently offended, with the infirmities of his friends. But now I confess they are not ill exchanged for the youthful, vigorous virtue of the Duke of Bedford; the firmness of General Conway; the blunt, or, if I may call it, the awkward integrity of Mr. Rigby; and the spotless morality of Lord Sandwich.

If a late pension to a* broken gambler be an act worthy of commendation, the Duke of Grafton's connexions will furnish him with many opportunities of doing praiseworthy action ; and as he himself bears no part of the expence, the generosity of distributing the public money for the support of virtuous families in distress, will be an unquestionable proof of his Grace's humanity.

As to public affairs, Old Noll is a little tender of descending to particulars. He does not deny that Corsica has been sacrificed to France; and he confesses that, with regard to America, his patron's measures have been subject to some variation: but then he promises wonders of

* Sir John Moore

[49] stability and firmness for the future. These are mysteries, of which we must not pretend to judge by experience; and, truly, I fear, we shall perish in the desert, before we arrive at the land of promise. In the regular course of things, the period of the Duke of Grafton's ministerial manhood should now be approaching. The imbecility of his infant state was committed to Lord Chatham. Charles Townshend took some care of his education at that ambiguous age, which lies between the follies of political childhood, and the vices of puberty. The empire of the passions soon succeeded. His earliest principles and connexions were of course forgotten or despised. The company he has lately kept has been of no service to his morals; and, in the conduct of public affairs, we see the character of his time of life strongly distinguished. An obstinate, ungovernable self-sufficiency plainly points out to us that state of imperfect maturity at which the graceful levity of youth is lost, and the solidity of experience not yet acquired. It is possible the young man may, in time, grow wiser, and reform; but if I understand his disposition, it is not of such corrigible stuff that we should hope for any amendment in him, before he has accomplished the destruction of this country. Like other rakes, he may, perhaps, live to see his error, but not until he has ruined his estate.

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