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in the political world, and proved an unsurmountable, although not, perhaps, an unexpected obstacle to his future preferment.
The well-known politician, with whom he had became acquainted at Paris, in 1768, most unexpectedly offered himself, about this period, as a candidate for the county of Middlesex. Although the minister of New Brentford was not ignorant of the vices of that celebrated character, yet he well knew how to distinguish between him and his cause: against the former, he was constantly on his guard; while, in respect to the latter, he had always been favourable to it, and that too, in no ordinary degree. Of his talents and intrepidity, he was well assured, and by this time, he was not so ignorant of the world, as either to hope or expect, that no one except a man of an immaculate character, should enter the forum, as an advocate for popular rights.- -But it may be here necessary to pourtray this singular person, as he was not only intimately connected with the history of that day, but also with the future fortunes of the subject of these memoirs; who evinced himself by turns, his kindest friend, as well as bitterest foe.
John Wilkes, the son of an eminent distiller, was a native of London, a circumstance of
which he seems to have frequently boasted. His mother appears to have been a dissenter, while his father was so much attached to revolutionprinciples, that, in order to escape from the possible contagion of a political stain, the son was not allowed to complete his education at either of the English universities. He was, therefore, sent to Leyden, to finish his studies in the country which had given birth to William III; and while in that city, formed an acquaintance with Mr. Baxter, who first made him known to the world by the dedication of a work of some celebrity.
Having been supplied with a liberal allowance, he was enabled, during his travels, to form an acquaintance with the duke of Grafton, and several of the English nobility, together with many commoners of distinction. Soon after his return from abroad, he paid his addresses to an heiress; and, on his marriage with that lady, settled at Aylesbury. On the introduction of a national militia, he distinguished himself as a warm advocate for a measure, intended partly to counterbalance the supposed dangers of a standing army, and partly
* Matho, sive Cosmothoria puerilis, Dialogus; in quo prima Elementa de mundi ordine, et ornatú propununtur. + Miss Meade.
to render the introduction of foreign troops unnecessary; but which, strange as it may appear, was neither relished by the government nor the people.
At its first institution, he accepted of a company in the battalion raised in the county of Buckingham; and, on the retreat of his friend, sir Francis Dashwood, afterwards lord Le Despencer, earl Temple, with whom he lived in great intimacy, in his capacity of lord-lieutenant, conferred on him the. cominand of the regiment.
Colonel Wilkes commenced his political career in 1754, as a candidate for the city of Berwick, and published an address, on that occasion, fraught with ample professions of purity and patriotism. Proving unsuccessful there, he afterwards represented the place of his residence in two successive parliaments, having acquired the good will of the inhabitants, as well as of the neighbouring gentry, by the fascinations of a polite address, and the hospitalities of a plenteous and elegant table. Attached to the elder Mr. Pitt, whom he had constantly supported, from a conviction of the great talents and capacity of that celebrated statesman, he contemplated his removal from the helm with equal regret and indignation; and strove, by all possible
means, to render his successor odious to the people. This was effected without any great difficulty. The marked esteem of the king and the princess dowager, the jealousy generally attendant on power, even the very country of the new premier, contributed to render him suspected; and he became eminently unpopular, when contrasted with his illustrious rival.
Mr. Wilkes, at the age of thirty-four, first displayed his talents, as a party-writer, by a pamphlet severely animadverting on the public documents relative to a rupture with Spain; an event which had been foreseen, and was intended to have been anticipated by the ex-minister. -In 1762, in conjunction with Lloyd and Churchill, he published the first number of the “North Britain,” a paper unexampled, in point of circulation, since the time when sir Robert Walpole was attacked in the " Craftsman." In this periodical work, at once satirical, popular, and vituperative, the delicacies of private life, the feelings of the second lady in the kingdom, and the majesty of the throne itself, were not deemed sacred. One duel with lord Talbot, the steward of the king's household, in which the colonel conducted himself with great gallantry; another with Mr. Martin, treasurer to the princess dowager of Wales, in consequence of which
he was dangerously wounded; added to several attempts at assassination, at once endangered the life, and endeared the person of Mr. Wilkes, to the public.
In addition to this, happily for him! the laws themselves were violated in his person; as he was arrested, by a general warrant, for a libel, on the 29th of April, 1763; in consequence of which all his papers were seized, and 'he himself made a close prisoner. This proceeding, by connecting his cause with a grand constitutional question, added to the number of his adherents; while his dismission, by a royal order, from the command of his regiment; a prosecution by the king's attorney-general; the dereliction of one of its choicest privileges on the part of the house of commons, in order that he might find no protection from his quality of a representative; all these tended to excite the indignation of the people.
After obtaining a verdict, with large damages and costs of suit, against the two secretaries of state*, who had authorised his arrest, the member for Aylesbury found it necessary to retire to the continent, and was, soon after, expelled from one house; while another addressed
*The earls of Egremont and Halifax,