The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter LVIII: Addressed to the Livery of London; 30 September 1771.


IF you alone were concerned in the event of the present election of a chief magistrate of the metropolis, it would be the highest presumption in a stranger to attempt to influence your choice, or even to offer you his opinion. But the situation of public affairs has annexed an [236] extraordinary importance to your resolutions. You cannot in the choice of your magistrate, determine for yourselves only. You are going to determine upon a point, in which every member of the community is interested. I will not scruple to say that the very being of that law, of that right, of that constitution, for which we have been so long contending, is now at stake. They who would ensnare your judgment tell you, it is a common ordinary case, and to be decided by ordinary precedent and practice. They artfully conclude, from moderate peaceable times, to times which are not moderate, and which ought not to be peaceable. While they solicit your favour, they insist upon a rule of rotation, which excludes all idea of election.

Let me be honoured with a few minutes of your attention. The question, to those who mean fairly to the liberty of the people (which we all profess to have in view,) lies within a very narrow compass. Do you mean to desert that just and honourable system of measures which you have hitherto pursued, in hopes of obtaining from parliament, or from the crown, a full redress of past grievances, and a security for the future? Do you think the cause desperate, and will you declare that you think so to the whole people of England? If this be your meaning and opinion, you will act consistently with it in choosing Mr. Nash. I profess to be unacquainted with his private character; but he has acted as a magistrate, as a public man. As such I speak of him. I see his name in a protest against one of your remonstrances to the crown. He has done every thing in his power to destroy the freedom of popular elections in the city, by publishing the poll upon a former occasion; and I know, in general, that he has distinguished himself, by slighting and thwarting all those public measures which you have engaged in with the greatest warmth, and hitherto thought most worthy of your approbation. From his past conduct, what conclusion will you draw but that he will act the same part as lord mayor, which he has invariably acted as alderman and sheriff? He cannot alter his conduct without confessing that he never acted upon principle of any kind. I should be sorry to injure the character of a man, who, perhaps, may be honest in his intentions, by supposing it possible that he can ever concur with you in any political measure or opinion.

[237] If, on the other hand, you mean to persevere in those resolutions for the public good, which, though not always successful, are always honourable, your choice will naturally incline to those men who (whatever they be in other respects) are most likely to co-operate with you in the great purpose which you are determined not to relinquish. The question is not of what metal your instruments are made, but whether they are adapted to the work you have in hand. The honours of the city, in these times, are improperly, because exclusively, called a reward. You mean not merely to pay, but to employ. Are Mr. Crosby and Mr. Sawbridge likely to execute the extraordinary, as well as the ordinary, duties of lord mayor? Will they grant you common-halls when it shall be necessary? Will you go up with remonstrances to the King? Have they firmness enough to meet the fury of a venal house of commons? Have they fortitude enough not to shrink at imprisonment? Have they spirit enough to hazard their lives and fortunes in a contest, if it should be necessary, with a prostituted legislature? If these questions can fairly be answered in the affirmative, your choice is made. Forgive this passionate language. I am unable to correct it. The subject comes home to us all. It is the language of my heart.


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