The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter XXXIV: To His Grace the Duke of Grafton: 12 December 1769.

[117] MY LORD

I FIND, with some surprise, that you are not supported as you deserve. Your most determined advocates have scruples about them, which you are unacquainted with; and though there be nothing too hazardous for Duke of Graftonyour Grace to engage in, there are some things too infamous for the vilest prostitute of a newspaper to defend*. In what other manner shall we account for the profound submissive silence, which you and your friends have observed upon a charge, which called immediately for the clearest refutation, and would have justified the severest measures of resentment? I did not attempt to blast your character by an indirect, ambiguous insinuation; but candidly stated to you a plain fact, which struck directly at the integrity of a privy counsellor, of a first commissioner of the treasury, and of a leading minister, who is supposed to enjoy the first share in his Majesty's confidence.† In every one of these capacities, I employed the most moderate terms to charge you with treachery to your Sovereign, and breach of trust in your office. I accused you of having sold a patent place in the collection of the customs at Exeter to one Mr. Hine, who, unable, or unwilling, to deposit the whole purchase-money himself, raised part of it by contribution, and has now a certain Doctor Brooke quartered upon the salary for one hundred pounds a year. No sale by the candle was ever conducted with greater formality. I affirm, that the price at which the place was knocked down (and which, I have good reason to think, was not less than three thousand five hundred pounds) was, with your connivance and consent, paid to Colonel Burgoyne, to reward him, I presume, for

* From the publication of the preceding to this date, not one word was said in defence of the Duke of Grafton. But vice and impudence soon recovered themselves, and the sale of the royal favour was openly avowed and defended. We acknowledge the piety of St. James's, but what is become of its morality?
†And by the same means preserves it to this hour.

[118] the decency of his deportment at Preston; or to reimburse him, perhaps, for the fine of one thousand pounds, which, for that very deportment, the court of King's Bench thought proper to set upon him. It is not often that the Chief Justice and the Prime Minister are so strangely at variance in their opinions of men and things.

I thank God, there is not in human nature a degree of impudence daring enough to deny the charge I have fixed upon you. Your courteous secretary,* your confidential architect,† are silent as the grave. Even Mr. Rigby's countenance fails him. He violates his second nature, and blushes whenever he speaks of you. Perhaps the noble colonel himself will relieve you. No man is more tender of his reputation. He is not only nice, but perfectly sore, in every thing that touches his honour. If any man, for example, were to accuse him of taking his stand at a gaming-table, and watching, with the soberest attention, for a fair opportunity of engaging a drunken young nobleman at piquet, he would, undoubtedly, consider it as an infamous aspersion upon his character, and resent it like a man of honour. Acquitting him, therefore, of drawing a regular and splendid subsistence from any unworthy practices, either in his own house, or else where, let me ask your Grace, for what military merits you have been pleased to reward him with military government? He had a regiment of dragoons, which, one would imagine, was at least an equivalent for any services he ever performed. Besides, he is but a young officer, considering his preferment; and, except in his activity at Preston, not very conspicuous in his profession. But it seems the sale of a civil employment was not sufficient; and military governments, which were intended for the support of worn-out veterans, must be thrown into the scale, to defray the extensive bribery of a contested election. Are these the steps you take to secure to your Sovereign the attachment of his army? With what countenance dare you appear in the royal presence, branded, as you are, with the infamy of a notorious breach of trust? With what countenance can you take your seat at the

* Tommy Bradshaw.
†Mr. Taylor. He and George Ross (the Scotch agent and worthy confidant of Lord Mansfield) managed the business.

[119] treasury-board, or in the council, when you feel that every circulating whisper is at your expence alone, and stabs you to the heart? Have you a single friend in Parliament so shameless, so thoroughly abandoned, as to undertake your defence? You know, my Lord, that there is not a man in either house, whose character, however flagitious, would not be ruined by mixing his reputation with yours: and does not your heart inform you that you are degraded below the condition of a man, when you are obliged to bear these insults with submission, and even to thank me for my moderation?

We are told, by the highest judicial authority, that Mr, Vaughan's* offer to purchase the reversion of a patent

* A little before the publication of this, and the preceding letter, the Duke of Grafton had commenced a prosecution against Mr. Samuel Vaughan, for endeavouring to corrupt his integrity, by an offer of five thousand pounds for a patent place in Jamaica. A rule to shew cause why an information should not be exhibited against Vaughan for certain misdemeanours, being granted by the Court of King's Bench, the matter was solemnly argued on the 27th of November, 1769, and, by the unanimous opinion of the four judges, the rule was made absolute. The pleadings and speeches were accurately taken in short hand, and published. The whole of Lord Mansfield's speech, and particularly the following extracts from it, deserves the reader's attention. " A practice of the kind, complained of here, is certainly dishonourable and scandalous. If a man, standing under the relation of an officer under the King, or of a person in whom the King puts confidence, or of a Minister, takes money for the use of that confidence the King puts in him, he basely betrays the King; he basely betrays his trust. If the King sold the office, it would be acting contrary to the trust the constitution hath reposed in him. The constitution does not intend the Crown should sell those offices to raise a revenue out of them. Is it possible to hesitate, whether this would not be criminal in the Duke of Grafton? Contrary to his duty as a Privy Counsellor, contrary to his duty as a Minister, contrary to his duty as a subject? His advice should be free, according to his judgment. It is the duty of his office; he hath sworn to it." Notwithstanding all this, the Duke of Grafton certainly sold a patent place to Mr. Hine, for three thousands five hundred pounds. If the House of Commons had done their duty, and impeached the Duke for this breach of trust, how woefully must poor honest Mansfield have been puzzled! His embarrassment would have afforded the most ridiculous scene that was ever exhibited. To save the Judge from this perplexity, and the Duke from impeachment, the prosecution against Vaughan was immediately dropped.

[120] place in Jamaica (which he was otherwise sufficiently entitled to) amounts to a high misdemeanour. Be it so: and if he deserves it, let him be punished. But the learned Judge might have had a fairer opportunity of displaying the powers of his eloquence. Having delivered himself, with so much energy, upon the criminal nature, and dangerous consequences of any attempt to corrupt a man in your Grace's station, what would he have said to the Minister himself, to that very Privy Counsellor, to that first Commissioner of the Treasury, who does not wait for, but impatiently solicits, the touch of corruption; who employs the meanest of his creatures in these honourable services; and, forgetting the genius and fidelity of his secretary, descends to apply to his house-builder for assistance?

This affair, my Lord, will do infinite credit to government, if, to clear your character, you should think proper to bring it into the House of Lords, or into the court of King's Bench. But, my Lord, you dare not do either.


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