The Age of George III

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The Letters of Junius

Letter XXVI: A Word at parting to Junius: 7 October 1769.

[95] SIR*,

AS you have not favoured me with either of the explanations demanded of you, I can have nothing more to say to you upon my own account. Your mercy to me, or tenderness for yourself, has been very great. The public will judge of your motives. If your excess of modesty forbids you to produce either the proofs or yourself, I will excuse it. Take courage; I have not the temper of Tiberius, any more than the rank or power. You, indeed, are a tyrant of another sort; and, upon your political bed of torture, can excruciate any subject, from a first minister down to such a grub or butterfly as myself: like another detested tyrant of antiquity [Procrustes], can make the wretched sufferer fit the bed, if the bed will not fit the sufferer, by disjointing or tearing the trembling limbs, until they are stretched to its extremity. But courage, constancy, and patience, under torments, have sometimes caused the most hardened monsters to relent, and forgive the object of their cruelty. You, Sir, are determined to try all that human nature can endure, until she expires;

* "Measures, and not men", is the common cant of affected moderation: a base counterfeit language, fabricated by knaves, and made current among fools. Such gentle censure is not fitted to the present degenerate state of society. What does it avail to expose the absurd contrivance, or pernicious tendency, of measures, if the man who advises, or executes, shall be suffered, not only to escape with impunity, but even to preserve his power, and insult us with the favour of his Sovereign. I would recommend to the reader the whole of Mr. Pope's letter to Doctor Arbuthnot, dated July 26th, 1734, from which the following is an extract: "To reform, and not to chastise, I am afraid, is impossible; and that the best precepts, as well as the best laws, would prove of small use, if there were no examples to enforce them. To attack vices in the abstract, without touching persons, may be safe fighting, indeed, but it is fighting with shadows. My greatest comfort and encouragement to proceed has been to see, that those who have no shame, and no fear of any thing else, have appeared touched by my satires."

[96] else, was it possible that you could be the author of that most inhuman letter to the Duke of Bedford, I have read with astonishment and horror. Where, Sir, where were the feelings of your own heart, when you conld upbraid a most affectionate father with the loss of his only and most amiable son? Read over again those cruel lines of yours, and let them wring your very soul! Cannot political questions be discussed, without descending to the most odious personalities? Must you go wantonly out of your way to torment declining age, because the Duke of Bedford may have quarrelled with those whose cause and politics you espouse? For shame! For shame! As you have spoke daggers to him, you may justly dread the use of them against your own breast, did a want of courage, or of nohle sentiments, stimulate him to such mean revenge. He is ahove it; he is brave. Do you fancy that your own base arts have infected our whole island? But your own reflections, your own conscience, must, and will, if you have any spark of humanity remaining, give him most ample vengeance. Not all the power of words with which you are so graced, will ever wash out, or even palliate, this foul blot in your character. I have not time, at present, to dissect your letter so minutely as I could wish; but I will be bold enough to say, that it is (as to reason and argument) the most extraordinary piece of florid impotence that was ever imposed upon the eyes and ears of the too credulous and deluded mob. It accuses the Duke of Bedford of high treason. Upon what foundation? You tell us, "the Duke's pecuniary character makes it more than probable, that he could not have made such sacrifices at the peace, without some private compensations; that his conduct carried with it an interior evidence, beyond all the legal proofs of a court of justice."

My academical education, Sir, bids me tell you, that it is necessary to establish the truth of your first proposition, before you presume to draw inferences from it. First prove the avarice, before you make the rash, hasty, and most wicked conclusion. This father, Junius, whom you call avaricious, allowed that son eight thousand pounds a-year. Upon his most unfortunate death, which your usual good-nature took care to remind him of, he greatly increased the jointure of the afflicted lady his widow. [97] Is this avarice? Is this doing good by stealth? It is upon record.

If exact order, method, and true economy, as a master of a family; if splendour and just magnificence, without wild waste and thoughtless extravagance, may constitute the character of an avaricious man, the Duke is guilty. But, for a moment, let us admit that an ambassador may love money too much what proof do you give that he has taken any to betray his country? Is it hearsay, or the evidence of letters, or ocular; or the evidence of those concerned in this black affair? Produce your authorities to the public. It is a most impudent kind of sorcery, to attempt to blind us with the smoke, without convincing us that the fire has existed. You first brand him with a vice that he is free from, to render him odious and suspected. Suspicion is the foul weapon with which you make all your chief attacks; with that you stab. But shall one of the first subjects of the realm be ruined in his fame, shall even his life be in constant danger, from a charge built upon such sandy foundations? Must his house be besieged by lawless ruffians, his journies impeded, and even the asylum of an altar be insecure from assertions so base and false? Potent as he is, the Duke is amenable to justice; if guilty, punishable. The parliament is the high and solemn tribunal for matters of such great moment; to that he they submitted. But I hope, also, that some notice will be taken of, and some punishment inflicted upon, false accusers; especially upon such, Junius, who are wilfully false. In any truth I will agree even with Junius; will agree with him that it ia highly unbecoming the dignity of Peers to tamper with boroughs. Aristocracy is as fatal as democracy. Our constitution admits of neither. It loves a King, Lords, and Commons, really chosen by the unbought suffrages of a free people. But if corruption only shifts hands, if the wealthy commoner gives the bribe instead of the potent peer, is the state better served by this exchange? Is the real emancipation of the borough effected, because new parchment bonds may possibly supersede the old ? To say the truth, wherever such practices prevail, they are equally criminal to, and destructive of, our freedom.

The rest of your declamation is scarce worth considering, except for the elegance of the language. Like [98] Hamlet, in the play, you produce two pictures: you tell us, that one is not like the Duke of Bedford; then you bring a most hideous caricature, and tell us of the resemblance; but multum abludit imago [there is no real resemblance here].

All your long tedious accounts of the ministerial quarrels, and the intrigues of the cabinet, are reducible to a few short lines; and to convince you, Sir, that I do not mean to flatter any minister, either past or present, these are my thoughts: they seem to have acted like lovers, or children; have* pouted, quarrelled, cried, kissed, and been friends again, as the objects of desire, the ministerial rattles, have been put into their hands. But such proceedings are very unworthy of the gravity and dignity of a great nation. We do not want men of abilities, but we have wanted steadiness; we want unanimity; your letters, Junius, will not contribute thereto. You may one day expire by a flame of your own kindling. But it is my humble opinion, that lenity and moderation, pardon and oblivion, will disappoint the efforts of all the seditious in the land, and extinguish their wide-spreading fires. I have lived with this sentiment ; with this I shall die.


* Sir William gives us a pleasant account of men, who, in his opinion at least, are the best qualified to govern an empire.

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