Letters of Junius/Letter IX
TO HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF GRAFTON.
10. April, 1769.
I Have so good an opinion of your Grace's discernment, that when the author of the vindication of your conduct assures us, that he writes from his own mere motion, without the least authority from your Grace, I should be ready enough to believe him, but for one fatal mark, which seems to be fixed upon every measure, in which either your personal or your political character is concerned.—Your first attempt to support Sir William Proctor ended in the election of Mr Wilkes; the second insured success to Mr Glynn. The extraordinary step you took, to make Sir James Lowther Lord Paramount of Cumberland, has ruined his interest in that county for ever. The House List of Directors was cursed with the concurrence of government; and even the miserable Dingley could not escape the misfortune of your Grace's protection. With this uniform experience before us, we are authorised to suspect, that when a pretended vindication of your principles and conduct in reality contains the bitterest reflections upon both, it could not have been written without your immediate direction and assistance. The author indeed calls God to witness for him, with all the sincerity, and in the very terms of an Irish evidence, to the best of his knowledge and belief. My Lord, you should not encourage these appeals to heaven. The pious Prince, from whom you supposed to descend, made such frequent use of them in his public declarations, that at last the people also found it necessary to appeal to heaven in their turn. Your administration has driven us into circumstances of equal distress;—beware at least how you remind us of the remedy.
You have already much to answer for. You have provoked this unhappy gentleman to play the fool once more in public life, in spite of his years and infirmities, and to show us, that, as you yourself are a singular instance of youth without spirit, the man who defends you is a no less remarkable example of age without the benefits of experience. To follow such a writer minutely, would, like his own periods, be a labour without end. The subject too has been already discussed, and is sufficiently understood. I cannot help observing, however, that, when the pardon of Mac Quirk was the principal charge against you, it would have been but a decent compliment to your grace's understanding, to have defended you upon your own principles. What credit does a man deserve, who tells us plainly, that the facts set forth in the King's proclamation were not the true motives on which the pardon was granted; and that he wishes that those chirurgical reports, which first gave occasion to certain doubts in the royal breast, had not been laid before his Majesty. You see, my Lord, that even your friends cannot defend your actions without changing your principles; nor justify a deliberate measure of government, without contradicting the main assertion on which it was founded.
The conviction of Mac Quirk had reduced you to a dilemma, in which it was hardly possible for you to reconcile your political interest with your duty. You were obliged either to abandon an active useful partisan, or to protect a felon from public justice. With your usual spirit, you preferred your interest to every other consideration; and with your usual judgment, you founded your determination upon the only motives, which should not have been given to the public.
I have frequently censured Mr Wilkes's conduct, yet your advocate reproaches me with having devoted myself to the service of sedition. Your Grace can best inform us for which of Mr Wilkes's good qualities you first honoured him with your friendship, or how long it was before you discovered those bad ones in him, at which, it seems, your delicacy was offended. Remember, my Lord, that you continued your connection with Mr Wilkes long after he had been convicted of those crimes, which you have since taken pains to represent in the blackest colours of blasphemy and treason. How unlucky is it, that the first instance you have given us of a scrupulous regard to decorum is united with the breach of a moral obligation! For my own part, my Lord, I am proud to affirm, that, if I had been weak enough to form such a friendship, I would never have been base enough to betray it. But, let Mr Wilkes's character be what it may, this at least is certain, that, circumstanced as he is with regard to the public, even his vices plead for him. The people of England have too much discernment to suffer your Grace to take advantage of the failings of a private character, to establish a precedent by which the public liberty is affected, and which you may hereafter, with equal ease and satisfaction, employ to the ruin of the best men in the kingdom.—Content yourself, my Lord, with the many advantages which the unsullied purity of your own character has given you over your unhappy deserted friend. Avail yourself of all the unforgiving piety of the court you live in, and bless God that you "are not as other men are; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." In a heart void of feeling, the laws of honour and good faith may be violated with impunity, and there you may safely indulge your genius. But the laws of England shall not be violated, even by your holy zeal to oppress a sinner; and, though you have succeeded in making him a tool, you shall not make him the victim of your ambition.
- This unfortunate person had been persuaded by the Duke of Grafton to set up for Middlesex, his Grace being determined to seat him in the House of Commons, if he had but a single vote. It happened unluckily that he could not prevail upon any one freeholder to put him in nomination.