The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter LIII: From the Reverend Mr. Horne to Junius; 31 July 1771.

[210] SIR,

You have disappointed me. When I told you that surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for proofs, I evidently hinted at the reply which I expected: but you have dropped your usual elegance, and seem willing to try what will be the effect of surmise and general abuse in very coarse language. Your answer to my last letter (which, I hope, was cool, and temperate, and modest) has convinced me, that my idea of a man is much superior to yours of a gentleman. Of your former letters, I have always said, Materiem superabat opus: I do not think so of the present: the principles are more detestable than the expressions are mean and illiberal. I am contented that all those who adopt the one should for ever load me with the other.

I appeal to the common sense of the public, to which I have ever directed myself: I believe they have it; though I am sometimes half inclined to suspect that Mr. Wilkes has formed a truer judgment of mankind than I have. However, of this I am sure, that there is nothing else upon which to place a steady reliance. Trick, and low cunning, and addressing their prejudices and passions, may be the fittest means to carry a particular point; but if they have not common sense, there is no prospect of gaining for them any real permanent good. The same passions which have been artfully used by an honest man for their advantage, may be more artfully employed by a dishonest man for their destruction. I desire them to apply their common sense to this letter of Junius, not for my sake, but their own; it concerns them most nearly ; for the principles it contains lead to disgrace and ruin, and are inconsistent with every notion of civil society.

The charges which Junius has brought against me, are made ridiculous by his own inconsistency and self-contradiction. He charges me positively with "a new zeal in support of administration;" and with "endeavours in [211] support of the ministerial nomination of sheriffs." And he assigns two inconsistent motives for my conduct: either that I have "sold myself to the ministry;" or am instigated "by the solitary vindictive malice of a monk:" either that I am influenced by a sordid desire of gain, or am hurried on by "personal hatred, and blinded by resentment." In his letter to the Duke of GraftonDuke of Grafton, he supposes me actuated by both: in his letter to me, he at first doubts which of the two, whether interest or revenge, is my motive. However, at last he determines for the former, and again positively asserts, "that the ministry have made me promises:" yet he produces no instance of corruption, nor pretends to have any intelligence of a ministerial connexion. He mentions no cause of personal hatred to Mr. Wilkes, nor any reason for my resentment or revenge: nor has Mr. Wilkes himself ever hinted any, though repeatedly pressed. When Junius is called upon to justify his accusation, he answers, "He cannot descend to an altercation with me in the newspapers." Junius, who exists only in the newspapers, who acknowledges he has "attacked my character" there, and thinks "I have some right to an explanation;" yet this Junius cannot descend to an altercation with me in the newspapers! And because he cannot descnd to an altercation with me in the newspapers, he sends a letter of abuse, by the printer, which he finishes with telling me, "I am at liberty to publish it." This, to be sure, is a most excellent method to avoid an altercation in the newspapers!

The proofs of his positive charges are as extraordinary. "He does not pretend to any intelligence concerning me, or to know more of my conduct than I myself have thought proper to communicate to the public." He does not suspect me of such gross folly as to have solicited votes, or to have written anonymously in the newspapers; because it is impossible to do either without being detected, and brought to shame. Junius says this! who yet imagines that he has himself written two years under that signature (and more under others) without being detected! his warmest admirers will not hereafter add, without being brought to shame. But, though he never did suspect me of such gross folly, as to run the hazard of being detected, and brought to shame, by anonymous writing, he insists that I have been guilty of a much [212] grosser folly, of incurring the certainty of shame and detection, by writings signed with my name! But this is a small flight for the towering Junius: "He is far from thinking meanly of my abilities", though "he is convinced that I want judgment extremely;" and can "really respect Mr. Sawbridge's character," though he declares him* to be so poor a creature, as not to "see through the basest design, conducted in the poorest manner!". And this most base design is conducted in the poorest manner by a man, whom he does not suspect of gross folly, and of whose abilities he is far from thinking meanly!

Should we ask Junius to reconcile these contradictions, and explain this nonsense, the answer is ready: "he cannot descend to an altercation in the newspapers." He feels no reluctance to attack the character of any man: the throne is not too high, nor the cottage too low: his mighty malice can grasp both extremes. He hints not his accusations as opinion, conjecture, or inference, but delivers them as positive assertions. Do the accused complain of injustice? He acknowledges they have some sort of right to an explanation; but if they ask for proofs and facts, he begs to be excused; and though he is no where else to be encountered, "he cannot descend to an altercation in the newspapers."

And this, perhaps, Junius may think "the liberal resentment of a gentleman;" this sculking assassination he may call courage. In all things, as in this, I hope we differ.

* I beg leave to introduce Mr. Horne to the character ot the Double Dealer. I thought they had been better acquainted. "Another very wrong objection has been made by some, who have not taken leisure to distinguish the characters. The hero of the play (meaning Melefont) ss a gull, and made a fool, and cheated. Is every man a gull and a fool that is deceived? At that rate, I am afraid, the two classes of men will be reduced to one, and the knaves themselves be at a loss to justify their title. But if an open, honest-hearted man, who has an entire confidence in one whom he takes to be his friend, and who (to confirm him in his opinion) in all appearance, and upon several trials, has been so, if this man be deceived by the treachery of the other, must he of necessity commence fool immediately, only because the other has proved a villain?" Yes, says parson Horne. No, says Congreve: and he, I think, is allowed to have known something of human nature.

[213] I thought that fortitude had been a mean
'Twixt fear and rashness; not a lust obscene,
Or appetite of offending; but a skill
And nice discernment between good and ill.
Her ends are honesty and public good:
And without these she is not understood.

Of two things, however, he has condescended to give proof. He very properly produces a young lady to prove that I am not a man; and a good old woman, my grandmother, to prove Mr. Oliver a fool. Poor old soul! she read her Bible far otherwise than Junius! She often found there, that the sins of the fathers had been visited on the children; and therefore was cautious that herself, and her immediate descendants, should leave no reproach on her posterity : and they left none.. How little could she foresee this reverse of Junius, who visits my political sins upon my grandmother! I do not charge this to the score of malice in him; it proceeded entirely from his propensity to blunder; that whilst he was reproaching me for introducing, in the most harmless manner, the name of one female, he might himself, at the same instant, introduce two.

I am represented, alternately, as it suits Junius's purpose, under the opposite characters of a gloomy monk, and a man of politeness and good-humour. I am called "a solitary monk," in order to confirm the notion given of me in Mr. Wilkes's anonymous paragraphs, that I never laugh. And the terms of politeness and good-humour, on which I am said to have lived heretofore with the young lady, are intended to confirm other paragraphs of Mr. Wilkes, in which he is supposed to have offended me by refusing his daughter. Ridiculous! Yet I cannot deny but that Junius has proved me unmanly and ungenerous, as clearly as he has shown me corrupt and vindictive: and I will tell him more; I have paid the present ministry as many visits and compliments as ever I paid to the young lady; and shall all my life treat them with the same politeness and good-humour.

But Junius "begs me to believe, that he measures the integrity of men by their conduct, not by their professions." Sure this Junius must imagine his readers as void of understanding as he is of modesty! Where shall we find the standard of his integrity? By what are we to [214] measure the conduct of this lurking assassin? And he says this to me, whose conduct, wherever I could personally appear, has been as direct, and open, and public, as my words. I have not, like him, concealed myself in my chamber, to shoot my arrows out of the window; nor contented myself to view the battle from afar; but publicly mixed in the engagement, and shared the danger. To whom have I, like him, refused my name, upon complaint of injury? What printer have I desired to conceal me? In the infinite variety of business in which I have been concerned, where it is not so easy to be faultless, which of my actions can he arraign? To what danger has any man been exposed, which I have not faced? Information, action, imprisonment, or death? What labour have I refused? What expense have I declined? What pleasure have I not renounced? But Junius, to whom no conduct belongs, "measures the integrity of men by their conduct, not Ixy their professions:" himself, all the while, being nothing but professions, and those too anonymous. The political ignorance, or wilful falsehood, of this dcclaimer, is extreme. His own former letters justify both my conduct and those whom his last letter abuses: for the public measures which Junius has been all along defending, were ours whom he attacks; and the uniform opposer of those measures has been Mr. Wilkes, whose bad actions and intentions he endeavours to screen.

Let Junius now, if he pleases, change his abuse, and quitting his loose hold of interest and revenge, accuse me of vanity, and call this defence boasting. I own I have pride to see statues decreed, and the highest honours conferred, for measures and actions which all men have approved; whilst those who counselled and caused them are execrated and insulted. The darkness in which Junius thinks himself shrouded, has not concealed him; nor the artifice of only attacking under that signature those he would pull down, whilst he recommends by other ways those he would have promoted, disguised from me whose partizan he is. When Lord Chatham can forgive the awkward situation in which, for the sake of the public, he was designedly placed by the thanks to him from the city; and when Wilkes's name ceases to be necessary to Lord Rockingham, to keep up a clamour against the persons of Duke of Graftonthe ministry, without obliging the different [215] factions, now in opposition, to bind themselves beforehand to some certain points, and to stipulate some precise advantages to the public; then, and not till then, may those whom he now abuses expect the approbation of Junius. The approbation of the public, for our faithful attention to their interest, by endeavours for those stipulations, which have made us as obnoxious to the factions in opposition as to those in administration, is not, perhaps, to be expected till some years hence; when the public will look back, and see how shamefully they have been deluded, and by what arts they were made to lose the golden opportunity of preventing what they will surely experience,—a change of ministers, without a material change of measures, and without any security for a tottering constitution. But what cares Junius for the security of the constitution? He has now unfolded to us his diabolical principles. As a public man he must ever condemn any measure which may tend accidentally to gratify the sovereign; and Mr. Wilkes is to be supported and assisted in all his attempts (no matter how ridiculous and mischievous his projects) as long as he continues to be a thorn in the king's side! The cause of the country, it seems, in the opinion of Junius, is merely to vex the king; and any rascal is to be supported in any roguery, provided he can only thereby plant a thorn in the king's side. This is the very extremity of faction, and the last degree of political wickedness. Because Lord Chatham has been ill treated by the king, and treacherously betrayed by the Duke of GraftonDuke of Grafton, the latter is to be "the pillow on which Junius will rest his resentment ;" and the public are to oppose the measures of government from mere motives of personal enmity to the sovereign! These are the avowed principles of the man who, in the same letter, says, "If ever he should be convinced that I had no motive but to destroy Wilkes, he shall then be ready to do justice to my character, and to declare to the world, that he despises me somewhat less than he does at present!" Had I ever acted from personal affection or enmity to Mr. Wilkes, I should justly be despised : but what does he deserve, whose avowed motive is personal enmity to the sovereign? The contempt which I should otherwise feel for the absurdity and glaring inconsistency of Junius, is here swallowed up in my abhorrence of his principles. The right divine [216] and sacredness of kings is to me a senseless jargon. It was thought a daring expression of Oliver Cromwell, in the time of Charles the First, that, if he found himself placed opposite to the king in battle, he would discharge his piece into his bosom as soon as into any other man's. I go farther: had I lived in those days, I would not have waited for chance to give me an opportunity of doing my duty; I would have sought him through the ranks, and, without the least personal enmity, have discharged my piece into his bosom rather than into any other man's. The king, whose actions justify rebellion to his government, deserves death from the hand of every subject. And should such a time arrive, I shall be as free to act as to say; but, till then, my attachment to the person and family of the sovereign shall ever be found more zealous and sincere than that of his flatterers. 1 would offend the sovereign with as much reluctance as the parent: but if the happiness and security ot the whole family made it necessary, so far, and no farther, I would offend him without remorse.

But let us consider a little whither these principles of Junius would lead us. Should Mr. Wilkes once more commission Mr. Thomas Walpole to procure for him a pension of one thousand pounds, upon the Irish establishment, for thirty years, he must be supported in the demand by the public, because it would mortify the king!

Should he wish to see Lord Rockingham and his friends once more in administration, unclogged by any stipulations for the people, that he might again enjoy a pension of one thousand and forty pounds a year, viz. from the first Lord of the treasury, £500 from the Lords of the treasury, £60 each : from the Lords of trade, £40 each, &c. the public must give up their attention to points of national benefit, and assist Mr. Wilkes in his attempt, because it would mortify the king!

Should he demand the government of Canada, or of Jamaica, or the embassy to Constantinople, and, in case of refusal, threaten to write them down, as he had before served another administration, in a year and a half, he must be supported in his pretensions, and upheld in his insolence, because it would mortify the king!

Junius may choose to suppose that these things cannot happen! But, that they have happened, [217] notwithstanding Mr. Wilkes's denial, I do aver. I maintain that Mr. Wilkes did commission Mr. Thomas Walpole to solicit for him a pension of one thousand pounds, on the Irish establishment, for thirty years; with which, and a pardon, he declared he would be satisfied: and that, notwithstanding his letter to Mr. Onslow, he did accept a clandestine, precarious, and eleemosynary pension from the Rockingham administration, which they paid in proportion to, and out of their salaries; and so entirely was it ministerial, that, as any of them went out of the ministry, their names were scratched out of the list, and they contributed no longer. I say, he did solicit the governments, and the embassy, and threatened their refusal nearly in these words: "It cost me a year and a half to write down the last'administration; should I employ as much time upon you, very few of you would be in at the death." When these threats did not prevail, he came over to England to embarrass them by his presence: and when he found that Lord Rockingham was something firmer and more manly than he expected, and refused to be bullied into what he could not perform, Mr. Wilkes declared that he could not leave England without money; and the Duke of Portland and Lord Rockingham purchased his absence with one hundred pounds a-piece, with which he returned to Paris. And for the truth of what I here advance, I appeal to the Duke of Portland, to Lord Rockingham, to John Lord Cavendish, to Mr. Walpole, &c. I appeal to the hand-writing of Mr. Wilkes, which is still extant.

Should Mr. Wilkes afterwards (failing in this wholesale trade) choose to dole out his popularity by the pound, and expose the city offices to sale to his brother, his attorney, &c. Junius will tell us, it is only an ambition that he has to make them chamberlain, town clerk, &c. and he must not be opposed in thus robbing the ancient citizens of their birthright, because any defeat of Mr. Wilkes would gratify the king!

Should he, after consuming the whole of his own fortune and that of his wife, and incurring a debt of twenty thousand pounds, merely by his own private extravagance, without a single service or exertion all this time for the public, whilst his estate remained; should he, at length, being undone, commence patriot; have the good fortune[218] to be illegally persecuted, and, in consideration of that illegality, be espoused by a few gentlemen of the purest public principles: should his debts, though none of them were contracted for the public, and all his other encumbrances, be discharged; should he be offered £600 or £1000 a year to make him independent for the future; and should he, after all, instead of gratitude for these services, insolently forbid his benefactors to bestow their own money upon any other object but himself, and revile them for setting any bounds to their supplies; Junius (who, any more than Lord Chatham, never contributed one farthing to these enormous expenses) will tell them, that if they think of converting the supplies of Mr. Wilkes's private extravagance to the support of public measures, they are as great fools as my grandmother; and that Mr. Wilkes ought to hold the strings of their purses, as long as he continues to be a thorn in the king's side!

Upon these principles I never have acted, and I never will act. In my opinion, it is less dishonourable to be the creature of a court, than the tool of a faction. I will not be either. I understand the two great leaders of opposition to be Lord Rockingham and LLord Chatham; under one of whose banners all the opposing members of both houses, who desire to get places, enlist. I can place no confidence in either of them, or in any others, unless they will now engage, whilst they are out, to grant certain essential advantages for the security of the public when they shall be in administration. These points they refuse to stipulate, because they are fearful lest they should prevent any future overtures from the court. To force them to these stipulations has been the uniform endeavour of Mr. Sawbridge, Mr. Townshend, Mr. Oliver, &c. and therefore they are abused by Junius. I know no reason, but my zeal and industry in the same cause, that should entitle me to the honour of being ranked hy his abuse with persons of their fortune and station. It is a duty I owe to the memory of the late Mr. Beckford, to say, that he had no other aim than this, when he provided that sumptuous entertainment at the Mansion House, for the members of both houses in opposition. At that time, he drew up the heads of an engagement, which he gave to me, with a request that I would couch it in terms so cautious and precise, as to leave no room for future [219] quibble and evasion; but to oblige them either to fulfil the intent of the obligation, or to sign their own infamy, and leave it on record; and this engagement he was determined to propose to them at the Mansion House, that either by their refusal they might forfeit the confidence of the public, or, by the engagement, lay a foundation for confidence.

When they were informed of the intention, Lord Rockingham and his friends flatly refused any engagement ; and Mr. Beckford as flatly swore, they should then "eat none of his broth;" and he was determined to put off the entertainment; but Mr. Beckford was prevailed upon by —— to indulge them in the ridiculous parade of a popular procession through the city, and to give them the foolish pleasure of an imaginary consequence, for the real benefit only of the cooks and purveyors.

It was the same motive which dictated the thanks of the city to Lord Chatham; which were expressed to be given for his declaration in favour of short parliaments, in order thereby to fix Lord Chatham, at least, to that one constitutional remedy, without which all others can afford no security. The embarrassment, no doubt, was cruel. He had his choice, either to offend the Rockingham party, who declared formally against short parliaments, and with the assistance of whose numbers in both houses he must expect again to be minister, or to give up the confidence of the public, from whom, finally, all real consequence must proceed. Lord Chatham chose the latter; and I will venture to say, that, by his answer to those thanks, he has given up the people without gaining the friendship or cordial assistance of the Rockingham faction, whose little politics are confined to the making of matches, and extending their family connexions; and who think they gain more by procuring one additional vote to their party in the house ot commons, than by adding their languid property, and feeble character, to the abilities of a Chatham, or the confidence of a public.

Whatever may be the event of the present wretched state of politics in this country, the principles of Junius will suit no form of government. They are not to be tolerated under any constitution. Personal enmity is a motive fit only for the devil. Whoever, or whatever is sovereign, demands the respect and support of the people.[220] The union is formed for their happiness, which cannot be had without mutual respect; and he counsels maliciously who would persuade either to a wanton breach of it. When it is banished by either party, and when every method has been tried in vain to restore it, there is no remedy but a divorce; but even then he must have a hard and a wicked heart indeed, who punishes the greatest criminal merely for the sake of the punishment; and who does not let fall a tear for every drop of blood that is shed in a public struggle, however just the quarrel.


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