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"will immediately give the house the most "exact detail, which will necessarily compre"hend a full justification of my conduct rela"tive to the late illegal proclamation, equally 66 injurious to the honour of the crown and the "rights of the subject, and likewise the whole "business of the printers.
"I have acted entirely from a sense of duty "to this great city, whose franchises I am sworn “to maintain, and to my country, whose noble "constitution I reverence, and whose liberties, "at the price of my blood, to the last moment " of my life, I will defend and support. "I am, sir,
"Your humble servant,
This spirited conduct, on the part of Mr. Wilkes, enabled him to foil and elude all the power, talents, and wisdom of that house, of which he claimed to be a member. On receiving the above letter, which was immediately read from the chair, a new order was made out for his attendance on the ensuing Monday: on the expiration of that period, without any symptom of compliance on his part, the summons was renewed for "the 8th day of April next;" and, as it was well known, that he would
not appear in any other capacity than that of knight of the shire for the county of Middlesex, the house, to prevent its authority from being thus outraged any longer, deemed it prudent, on the 30th of March, to "adjourn to Tuesday sevennight, the 9th day of April next," partly to conceal his disobedience from the pub-lic, and prevent such a humiliating example of contumacy from appearing on their own journals.
At this period, several members of the opposition questioned the jurisdiction of one branchof the legislature. But, both on this occasion and in the proceedings relative to the Middlesex election, Mr. Fox, who had just entered into public life, and then held a place as commissioner of the treasury, stoutly contended for the privileges of the commons; and, alluding to the numerous petitions on the table, rashly asserted, "that he knew nothing of the people, but through the medium of their representatives there assembled." This position, which his riper judgment afterwards disavowed, rankled for years in the breast of Mr. Horne, and continued to operate with effect through a large portion of his life. Mr. Wilkes, too, was actuated by a similar resentment, and neither of them could ever be prevailed upon to unite
cordially with this celebrated statesman, even after he had abjured all the political prejudices of his early life.
Meanwhile the house, incensed at the violation of its dignity, by two of its own acknowledged members, at the instigation of the ministry, determined to proceed to extremities. Accordingly, after the minutes had been expunged from the city register, the lord mayor Crosby, and Mr. alderman Oliver, who had attended in their places, were committed to the Tower, where they were kept prisoners during the remainder of that session of parliament, and at the end of that period liberated, amidst the applauses and honours conferred on them by their fellow citizens, the corporation having voted their thanks at the same time, and presented them with gold boxes, as memorials of their esteem. A large portion of the nation, also, testified their approbation and so strongly did the current of popularity then run, that they were hailed as men who had at once vindicated the privileges of the city and the freedom of the press.
By mere violence, and without the shadow of right, they have EXPUNGED the record of a judicial proceeding. Nothing remained but to attribute to their own vote a power of stopping the whole distribution of criminal and civil justice. Lord Chatham very properly called this the ACT of a мOB, JUNIUS, vol. ii, p. 160..
not of a senate."
As for Mr. Wilkes, it has been already seen, how the house had been reduced to the necessity of a subterfuge, in order to allow him to escape with impunity *. He thus obtained fresh accessions of applause, and, towards the conclusion of 1775, on resigning the office of lord mayor, he not only mentioned his own conduct on this occasion with exultation, but boasted, that he had, in the course of that very year, threatened to commit a messenger of the house of lords to Newgate, for similar illegal proceedings.
Nor ought it to be forgotten, that Messrs. Wheble, Thompson, and Miller, were never then or afterwards seized, prosecuted, or punished, for their conduct upon this occasion; while the sheriffs of London, in 1772, stated, in an address
Upon their own principles they should have committed Mr. Wilkes, who had been guilty of a greater offence than even the lord mayor or alderman Oliver, But, after repeatedly ordering him to attend, they at last adjourned beyond the day appointed for his attendance; and, by this mean, pitiful evasion, gave up the point. Such is the force of conscious guilt." JUNIUS.
†The house, in consequence of a complaint on the part of lord Lyttleton, against Mr. Kendall, a citizen of London, for disrespectful words, ordered the latter, unheard, to be taken into custody.
The gentleman usher of the black rod (sir F. Molyneux) repaired to the city, but finding the lord mayor Wilkes was prepared to commit him for a breach of the peace, he thought proper to retreat.
to the livery," that the house of commons had tacitly acquiesced in the claim made by many of our worthy fellow citizens for the public at large, that the constituents have a right to be informed of the proceedings of their servants in parliament. Several honest printers," they are pleased to add," in defiance of their illegal orders, gave the public all the particulars of their proceedings during the last session, proceedings which the house prudently endeavoured to hide in a darkness suited to their deeds.
"The same persons who asserted our rights during the last, have, through the present session, continued the exercise of it in its fullest extent, Notwithstanding the report of the committee was in express terms, that the house should order, that J. Miller be taken into custody of the serjeant at arms, the said Miller is still at large, and still continues the severest attacks upon them by faithfully publishing their proceedings; still braves their indignation, and sleeps secure in the city."
Nor was this all; for, notwithstanding the house had expressly ordered, "that no prosecution, suit, or proceeding, be commenced or carried on, for or on account of the said pretended assault or false imprisonment;" yet the recognizances were delivered to the quarter