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The Election to the New Parliament—The Wilkes Riots—Franklin's Temptations—Named President of the American Philosophical Society—Early Marriages—Sensitiveness of Old Age—The Culture of Political Science— Peter Collinson—Paper Money—Smoky Chimneys—Food a Measure of Value—Advice to the Colonists—The Shop-Keeping State—Non-Importation Pledge—The Craven Street Gazette.
to Joseph Galloway, dated London, 13 March, 1768.
The old Parliament is gone, and its enemies now find themselves at liberty to abuse it. I enclose you a pamphlet, published the very hour of its prorogation. All the members are
now in their counties and boroughs among their drunken electors; much confusion and disorder in many places, and such profusion of money as never was known before on any similar occasion. The first instance of bribery to be chosen a member, taken notice of on the journals, is no longer ago than Queen Elizabeth's time, when the being sent to Parliament was looked upon as a troublesome service, and therefore not
It is said that such a one, “being a simple
man, and conceiving it might be of some advantage to him,
had given four pounds to the mayor and corporation, that they might choose him to serve them in Parliament.” The price is monstrously risen since that time, for it is now no less than four thousand pounds/ It is thought, that near two millions will be spent this election; but those, who understand figures and act by computation, say the crown has two millions a year in places and pensions to dispose of, and it is well worth while to engage in such a seven years' lottery, though all that have tickets should not get prizes.
to william Since my last, a long one, of March 13th, o: nothing has been talked or thought of here 16 April, 1768, but elections. There have been amazing contests all over the kingdom, twenty or thirty thousand pound's of a side spent in several places, and inconceivable mischief done by debauching the people and making them idle, besides the immediate actual mischief done by drunken mad mobs to houses, windows, &c. The scenes have been horrible. London was illuminated two nights running, at the command of the mob, for the success of Wilkes, in the Middlesex election. The second night exceeded any thing of the kind ever seen here on the greatest occasions of rejoicing, as even the small cross-streets, lanes, courts, and other out-of-the-way places were all in a blaze with lights, and the principal streets all night long, as the mobs went round again after two o'clock, and obliged people who had extinguished their candles to light them again. Those who refused had all their windows destroyed. The damage done, and expense of candles, have been computed at fifty thousand pounds. It must have been great, though probably not so much. The ferment is not yet over, for he has promised to sur
AET. 62.] WIL RES AND MO. 45. 9
render himself to the court next Wednesday, and another tumult is then expected; and what the upshot will be no one can yet foresee. It is really an extraordinary event, to see an outlaw and an exile, of bad personal character, not worth a farthing, come over from France, set himself up as candidate for the capital of the kingdom, miss his election only by being too late in his application, and immediately carrying it for the principal county; the mob (spirited up by numbers of different ballads sung or roared in every street) requiring gentlemen and ladies of all ranks, as they passed in their carriages, to shout for Wilkes and liberty, marking the same words on all their coaches with chalk, and No. 45* on every door; which extends a vast way along the roads into the country. I went last week to Winchester, and observed, that for fifteen miles out of town there was scarce a door or window shutter next the road unmarked ; and this continued, here and there, quite to Winchester, which is sixty-four miles.
To John Ross, I received your favor of March 13th, and dated Lon-
don, 14 May, am extremely concerned at the disorders on 1768. our frontiers, and at the debility or wicked
connivance of our government and magistrates, which must make property and even life more and more insecure among us, if some effectual remedy is not speedily applied. I have laid all the accounts before the ministry here. I wish I could procure more attention to them. I have urged over and over the necessity of the change we desire; but this
* Wilkes was prosecuted for publishing a libel against the government in
a paper, called the North Briton. Parliament ordered "No. 45" of that
paper, in which the libel was contained, to be burnt by the hands of the com
mon hangman. Hence the partiality of the populace for that number.—Ed. A*
country itself being at present in a situation very little better, weakens our argument that a royal government would be better managed, and safer to live under, than that of a proprietary. Even this capital, the residence of the King, is now a daily scene of lawless riot and confusion. Mobs patrolling the streets at noonday, some knocking all down that will not roar for Wilkes and liberty; courts of justice afraid to give judgment against him ; coal-heavers and porters pulling down the houses of coal merchants, that refuse to give them more wages; sawyers destroying sawmills; sailors unrigging all the outward bound ships, and suffering none to sail till merchants agree to raise their pay; watermen destroying private boats and threatening bridges; soldiers firing among the mobs and killing men, women, and children, which seems only to have produced a universal sullenness, that looks like a great black cloud coming on, ready to burst in a general tempest. What the event will be, God only knows. But some punishment seems preparing for a people, who are ungratefully abusing the best constitution, and the best King, any nation was ever blessed with, intent on nothing but luxury, licentiousness, power, places, pensions, and plunder; while the ministry, divided in their counsels, with little regard for each other, worried by perpetual oppositions, in continual apprehension of changes, intent on securing popularity in case they should lose favor, have for some years past had little time or inclination to attend to our small affairs, whose remoteness makes them appear still smaller. The bishops here are very desirous of securing the Church of England in America, and promoting its interest and enlargement by sending one of their order thither; but, though they have long solicited this point with government
AET. 62.] THE WIZATES RIOTS. I I
here, they have not as yet been able to obtain it; so apprehensive are ministers of engaging in any novel measure.
To Joseph I received your favor of March 31st. It is *:::::: now, with the messages, in the hands of the 14 May, 1768. minister, so that I cannot be more particular at present in answering it than to say, I should have a melancholy prospect in going home to such public confusion, if I did not leave greater confusion behind me. The newspapers, and my letter of this day to Mr. Ross, will inform you of the miserable situation this country is in. While I am writing, a great mob of coal porters fills the street, carrying a wretch of their business upon poles to be ducked, and otherwise punished at their pleasure, for working at the old wages. All respect to law and government seems to be lost among the common people, who are moreover continually inflamed by seditious scribblers, to trample on authority and every thing that used to keep them in order. The Parliament is now sitting, but will not continue long together, nor undertake any material business. The court of King's Bench postponed giving sentence against Wilkes on his outlawry till the next term, intimidated, as some say, by his popularity, and willing to get rid of the affair for a time, till it should be seen what the Parliament would conclude as to his membership. The Commons, at least some of them, resent that conduct, which has thrown a burthen on them it might have eased them of, by pillorying or punishing him in some infamous manner, that would have given better ground for expelling him the House. His friends complain of it as a delay of justice, say the court knew the outlawry to be defective, and that they