The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter VII: To Sir William Draper, Knight of the Bath: March 3, 1769.

[24] SIR

An academical education has given you an unlimited command over the most beautiful figures of speech. Masks, hatchets, racks, and vipers, dance through your letters in all the mazes of metaphorical confusion. These are the gloomy companions of a disturbed imagination; the melancholy madness of poetry, without the inspiration. I will not contend with you in point of composition; you are a scholar, Sir William; and, if I am truly informed, you write Latin with almost as much purity as English. Suffer me then, for I am a plain unlettered man, to continue that style of interrogation which suits my capacity, and to which, considering the readiness of your answers, you ought to have no objection. Even Mr. Bingley* promises to answer, if put to the torture.

* This man, being committed by the court of king's bench for a contempt, voluntarily made oath, that he would never answer interrogatories, unless he should be put to the torture.

Do you then really think, that, if I were to ask a most virtuous man, whether he ever committed theft, or murder, it would disturb his peace of mind ? Such a question might, perhaps, discompose the gravity of his muscles, [25] but I believe it would little affect the tranquillity of his conscience. Examine your own breast, Sir William, and you will discover, that reproaches and enquiries have no power to afflict either the man of unblemished integrity, or the abandoned profligate. It is the middle compound character which alone is vulnerable; the man who, without firmness enough to avoid a dishonourable action, has feeling enough to be ashamed of it.

I thank you for the hint of the decalogue, and shall take an opportunity of applying it to some of your most virtuous friends, in both houses of parliament.

You seem to have dropped the affair of your regiment; so let it rest. When you are appointed to another, 1 dare say you will not sell it either for a gross sum, or for an annuity upon lives.

I am truly glad (for really, Sir William, I am not your enemy, nor did I begin this contest with you) that you have been able to clear yourself of a crime, though at the expense of the highest indiscretion. You say that your half pay was given you by way of pension. I will not dwell upon the singularity of uniting in your own person two sorts of provision, which in their own nature, and in all military and parliamentary views, are incompatible; but I call upon you to justify that declaration, wherein you charge your Sovereign with having done an act in your favour notoriously against law. The half pay, both in Ireland and England, is appropriated by parliament; and if it be given to persons who, like you, are legally incapable of holding it, it is a breach of law. It would have been more decent in you to have called this dishonourable transaction by its true name; a job, to accommodate two persons, by particular interest and management at the castle. What sense must government have had of your services, when the rewards they have given yon are only a disgrace to you.

And now, Sir William, I shall take my leave of you forever. Motives very different from any apprehension of your resentment, make it impossible you should ever know me. In truth you have some reason to hold yourself indebted to me. From the lessons I have given you, you may collect a profitable instruction for your future life. They will either teach you so to regulate your future conduct, as to be able to set the most malicious enquiries at defiance; or if that be a lost hope, they will teach you prudence enough, not to attract the public attention to a character which will only pass without censure, when it passes without observation.*


*It has been said, I believe truly, that it was signified to Sir William Draper, as the request of Lord Granby, that he should desist from writing, in his Lordship's defence. Sir William Draper certainly drew Junius forward to say more of Lord Granby's character than he originally intended. He was reduced to the dilemma, of either being totally silenced, or of supporting his first letter, Whether Sir William had a right to reduce him to this dilemma, or to call upon him for his name, after a voluntary attack on his side, are questions submitted to the candour of the public. The death of Lord Granby was lamented by Junius. He undoubtedly owed some compensations to the public, and seemed determined to acquit himself of them. In private life, he was unquestionably that good man, who, for the interest of his country, ought to have been a great one. Bonum virum facile dixeris; magnum libenter. I speak of him now without partiality; I never spoke of him with resentment. His mistakes, in public conduct, did not arise either from want of sentiment, or want of judgment, but, in general, from the difficulty of saying no to the bad people who surrounded him.

As for the rest, the friends of Lord Granby should remember, that he himself thought proper to condemn, retract, and disavow, by a most solemn declaration, in the house of commons, that very system of political conduct which Junius had held forth to the disapprobation of the public.

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