The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter XXVII: To the Printer of the Public Advertiser: 13 October 1769.

[98] SIR,

IF Sir William Draper's bed be a bed of torture, he has made it for himself. I shall never interrupt his repose. Having changed the subject, there are parts of his last letter not undeserving of a reply. Leaving his private character and conduct out of the question, I shall consider him merely in the capacity of an author, whose labours certainly do no discredit to a newspaper.

We say, in common discourse, that a man may be his own enemy; and the frequency of the fact makes the [99] expression intelligible. But that a man should be the bitterest enemy of his friends, implies a contradiction of a peculiar nature. There is something in it, which cannot be conceived, without a confusion of ideas, nor expressed, without a solecism in language. Sir William Draper is still that fatal friend Lord Granby found him. Yet, I am ready to do justice to his generosity; if, indeed, it be not something more than generous, to be the voluntary advocate of men, who think themselves injured by his assistance, and to consider nothing in the cause he adopts, but the difficulty of defending it. I thought, however, he had been better read in the history of the human heart than to compare or confound the tortures of the body with those of the mind. He ought to have known, though, perhaps, it might not be his interest to confess, that no outward tyranny can reach the mind. If conscience plays the tyrant, it would be greatly for the benefit of the world that she were more arbitrary, and far less placable, than some men find her.

But it seems I have outraged the feelings of a father's heart. Am I, indeed, so injudicious? Does Sir William Draper think I would have hazarded my credit with a generous nation, by so gross a violation of the laws of humanity? Does he think I am so little acquainted with the first and noblest characteristic of Englishmen? Or, how will he reconcile such folly with an understanding so full of artifice as mine? Had he been a father, he would have been but little offended with the severity of the reproach, for his mind would have been filled with the justice of it. He would have seen, that I did not insult the feelings of a father, but the father who felt nothing. He would have trusted to the evidence of his own paternal heart, and boldly denied the possibility of the fact, instead of defending it. Against whom, then, will his honest indignation be directed, when I assure him, that this whole town beheld the Duke of Bedford's conduct, upon the death of his son, with horror and astonishment. Sir William Draper does himself but little honour in opposing the general sense of his country. The people are seldom wrong in their opinions; in their sentiments they are never mistaken. There may be a vanity, perhaps, in a singular way of thinking; but, when a man professes a want of those feelings, which do honour to the [100] multitude, he hazards something infinitely more important than the character of his understanding. After all, as Sir William may possibly be in earnest in his anxiety for the Duke of Bedford, I should be glad to relieve him from it. He may rest assured, this worthy nobleman laughs, with equal indifference, at my reproaches, and Sir William's distress about him. But here let it stop. Even the Duke of Bedford, insensible as he is, will consult the tranquillity of his life, in not provoking the moderation of my temper. If, from the profoundest contempt, I should ever rise into anger, he should soon find, that all I have already said of him, was lenity and compassion.

Out of a long catalogue, Sir William Draper has confined himself to the refutation of two charges only. The rest he had not time to discuss; and, indeed, it would have been a laborious undertaking. To draw up a defence of such a series of enormities, would have required a life, at least, as long as that which has been uniformly employed in the practice of them, The public opinion of the Duke of Bedford's extreme economy is, it seems, entirely without foundation. Though not very prodigal abroad, in his own family, at least, he is regular and magnificent. He pays his debts, abhors a beggar, and makes a handsome provision for his son. His charity has improved upon the proverb, and ended where it began. Admitting the whole force of this single instance of his domestic generosity, (wonderful, indeed, considering the narrowness of his fortune, and the little merit of his only son) the public may still, perhaps, be dissatisfied, and demand some other less equivocal proofs of his munificence. Sir William Draper should have entered boldly into the detail of indigence relieved, of arts encouraged, of science patronized, men of learning protected, and works of genius rewarded. In short, had there been a single instance, besides Mr. Rigby*, of blushing merit, brought forward by the Duke for the service of the public, it should not have been omitted.

I wish it were possible to establish my inference with the same certainty on which I believe the principle is [101]

* This gentleman is supposed to have the same idea of blushing, that a man, blind from his birth, has of scarlet of sky-blue.

founded. My conclusion, however, was not drawn from the principle alone. I am not so unjust as to reason from one crime to another: though I think that, of all the vices, avarice is most apt to taint and corrupt the heart. I combined the known temper of the man, with the extravagant concessions made by the ambassador; and though I doubt not sufficient care was taken to leave no document of any treasonable negociation, I still maintain that the conduct* of this minister carries with it an internal and convincing evidence against him. Sir William Draper seems not to know the value or force of such a proof. He will not permit us to judge of the motives of men, by the manifest tendency of their actions, nor by the notorious character of their minds. He calls for papers and witnesses with a triumphant security, ai if nothing could be true, but what could be proved in a court of justice. Yet a religious man might have remembered upon what foundation some truths, most interesting to mankind, have been received and established. If it were not for the internal evidence which the purest of religions carries with it, what would have become of his once well-quoted decalogue, and of the meekness of his Christianity?

The generous warmth of his resentment makes him confound the order of events. He forgets that the insults and distresses which the Duke of Bedford has suffered, and which Sir William has lamented, with many delicate touches of the true pathetic, were only recorded in my letter to his Grace, not occasioned by it. It was a simple, candid narrative of facts; though, for aught I know, it may carry with it something prophetic. His Grace, undoubtedly, has received seveveral ominous hints; and, I think, in certain circumstances, a wise man would do well to prepare himself for the event.

But I have a charge of a heavier nature against Sir William Draper. He tells us, that the Duke of Bedford is amenable to justice; that Parliament is a high and solemn tribunal; and that, if guilty, he may be punished by due course of law : all this he says with as much

*If Sir W. D. will take the trouble of looking into Torey's Memoirs, he will see with what little ceremony a bribe may be offered to a Duke, and with what little ceremony it was only not accepted.

[102] gravity as if he believed one word of the matter. I hope, indeed, the day of impeachments will arrive before this nobleman escapes out of life; but to refer us to that mode of proceeding now, with such a Ministry, and such a House of Commons as the present, what is it, but an indecent mockery of the common sense of the nation? I think he might have contented himself with defending the greatest enemy, without insulting the distresses of his country.

His concluding declaration of his opinion, with respect to the present condition of affairs, is too loose and undetermined to be of any service to the public. How strange is it that this gentleman should dedicate so much time and argument to the defence of worthless or indifferent characters, while he gives but seven solitary lines to the only subject which can deserve his attention, or do credit to his abilities!


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