The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter LXII: To "an Advocate in the Cause of the People": 18 October 1771.

[251] SIR

You do not treat Junius fairly. You would not have condemned him so hastily, if you had ever read judge Foster's argument upon the legality of pressing seamen. A man who has not read that argument, is not qualified to speak accurately upon the subject. In answer to strong facts and fair reasoning, you produce nothing but a vague comparison between two things which have little or no resemblance to each other. General warrants, it is true, had been often issued but they had never been regularly questioned or resisted, until the case of Mr. Wilkes. He brought them to trial; and the moment they were tried, they were declared illegal. This is not the case of press warrants. They have been complained of, questioned, and resisted in a thousand instances; but still the legislature have never interposed, nor has there ever been a formal decision against them in any of the superior courts. [252] On the contrary, they have been frequently recognised and admitted by parliament; and there are judicial opinions given in their favour by judges of the first character. Under the various circumstances stated by Junius, he has a right to conclude for himself, that there is no remedy. If you have a good one to propose, you may depend upon the assistance and applause of Junius. The magistrate who guards the liberty of the individual deserves to be commended. But let him remember, that it is also his duty to provide for, or at least not to hazard, the safety of the community. If, in the case of a foreign war, and the expectation of an invasion, you would rather keep your fleet in harbour, than man it by pressing seamen who refuse the bounty, I have done.

You talk of disbanding the army with wonderful ease and indifference. If a wiser man held such language, I should be apt to suspect his sincerity.

As for keeping up a much greater number of seamen in time of peace, it is not to be done: you will oppress the merchant, you will distress trade, and destroy the nursery of your seamen. He must be a miserable statesman who voluntarily, by the same act increases the public expense, and lessens the means of supporting it.


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