« PreviousContinue »
character of those who filled the principal departments of state, and declaring, “We need look no farther for the cause of every mischief which befalls us.” “It is not a casual concurrence of calamitous circumstances—it is the pernicious hanl of government alone, that can make a whole people desperate." All this was done with a dignity, force, and elegance entirely without parallel in the columns of a newspaper. The attention of the public was strongly arrested. The poet Gray, in his correspondence, speaks of the absorbing power of this Letter over his mind, when he took it up casually for the first time at a country inn, where he had stopped for refreshment on a journey. He was unable to lay it down, or even to think of the food before him, un til he had read it over and over again with the most painful interest. The same pro found sensation was awakened in the higher political circles throughout the kingdoni.
Still it may be doubted whether the writer, at this time, had formed any definite plan of continuing these Letters. Very possibly, except for a circumstance now to be mentioned, he might have stopped here ; and the name of Junius have been known only in our literature by this single specimen of eloquent vituperation. But he was instantly attacked. As if for the very purpose of compelling him to go on, and of giving notoriety to his efforts, Sir William Draper, Knight of the Bath, came out under his own signature, charging him with "maliciously traducing the best characters of the kingdom," and going on particularly to defend the Commander in Chief, the Marquess of Granby, against the severe imputations of this Letter. Junius himself could not have asked, or conceived of, any thing more perfectly suited to make him conspicuous in the eyes of the public. Sir William had the character of being an elegant scholar, and had gained high distinction as an officer in the army by the capture of Manilla, the capital of the Philippine Islands, in 1762. It was no light thing for such a man to throw himself into the lists without any personal provoca tion, and challenge a combat with this unknown champion. It was the highest possible testimony to his powers. Junius saw his advantage. He perfectly understood his antagonist an open-hearted and incautious man, vain of his literary attainments, and uncommonly sensitive to ridicule and contempt. He seized at once on the weak points of Sir William's letter. He turned the argument against him. He overwhelmed him with derision. He showed infinite dexterity in wresting every weapon from his hands, and in turning all his praises of the Marquess, and apologies for his failings, into new instruments of attack. “It is you, Sir William, who make your friend appear awkward and ridiculous, by giving him a laced suit of tawdry qualifications which Nature never intended him to wear!" • It is you who have taken pains to represent your friend in the character of a drunken landlord, who deals out his promises as liberally as his liquor, and will suffer no man to leave his table either sorrowful or sober !" He then turned upon Sir William himself. He glanced at some of the leading transactions of his life. He.goaded him with the most humiliating insinuations and interrogatories. He hinted at the motives which the public would impute to him, in thus coming out from his retirement at Clifton ; and concluded by asking in a tone of lofty contempt, “ And do you now, after a retreat not very like that of Scipio, presume to intrude yourself, unthought of, uncalled for, upon the patience of the public ?" Never was an assailant so instantaneously put on the defensive. Instead of silencing the “ traducer," and making him the object of public indignation, he was himself dragged to the confessional, or rather placed as a culprit at the bar of the public. His feelings at this sudden change seem much to have resembled those of a traveler in the forests of Africa, when he finds himself, without a moment's warning, wrapped in the folds of a boa constrictor, darting from above, and crushed beneath its weight. He exclaimed piteously against this “uncandid Junius," his “ abominable scandals," his delight in putting men to "the rack," and “mangling their carcasses with a hatchet.” He quoted Virgil, and made a feeling allusion to Æsop's Fables' “You bite against a file ; cease, viper !" Junius replied in three letters, two of which will be found below. He tells Sir William that ar “academical education had given him an unlimited command over the most beautiiul figures of speech." "Masks, hatchets, racks, and vipers dance through your letters in all the mazes of metaphorical confusion. These are the gloomy companions of a disturbed imagination; the melancholy madness of poetry, without the inspiration.” As the correspondence went on, Sir William did, indeed, clear himself of the imputations thrown out by Junius affecting his personal honesty, but he was so shockod and confounded by the overmastering power of his antagonist, that he soon gave up the contest. Some months after, when he saw these Letters collected and republished in a volume, he again came forward to complain of their injustice. “Hæret lateri lethalis arundo," was the savage exclamation of Junius, when he saw the writhings of his prostrate foe. Such was the first encounter of Junius before the public. The whole nation looked on with astonishment; and from this hour his name was known as familiarly in every part of the kingdom as that of Chatham or Johnson. It was a name of terror to the King and his ministers ; and of pride and exultation to thousands throughout the empire, not only of those who sympathized in his malignant feelings, but those who, like Burke, condemned his spirit, and yet considered him engaged in a just cause, and hailed him as a defender of the invaded rights of the people.
Junius now resumed his attack on the ministry with still greater boldness and virulence. After assailing the Duke of Grafton repeatedly on individual points, he came out in two Letters, under date of May 30th and July 8th, 1769, with a gen eral review of his Grace's life and conduct. These are among his most finished pro ductions, and will be given below. On the 19th of September, he attacked the Duke of Bedford, whose interests had been preferred to those of Lord Rockingham in the ministerial arrangements mentioned above. This Letter has even more force than the two preceding ones, and will also be found in this collection. Three months after, December 19th, 1769, appeared his celebrated Letter to the King, the longest and must elaborate of all his performances. The reader will agree with Mr. Burke in saying, “it contains many bold truths by which a wise prince might profit.” Lord Chatham now made his appearance on the stage, after an illness of three years; and at the opening of Parliament, January 9th, 1770, took up the cause with more than his accustomed boldness and eloquence. Without partaking of the bitter spirit of Junius, he maintained his principles on all the great questions of the day, in their fullest extent. He at once declared in the face of the country, “A breach has been made in the Constitution—the battlements are dismantled—the citadel is open to the first invader—the walls totter—the Constitution is not tenable. What remains, then, but for us to stand foremost in the breach, to repair it, or perish in it ?” The result has already been stated in connection with that and his other speech on this subject, p. 114-18. At the end of nineteen days, January 28th, 1770, the Duke of Grafton was driven from power! About a fortnight after, Junius addressed his fall. en adversary in a Letter of great force, which closes the extracts from his writings in this volume. Lord North’s ministry now commenced. Junius continued his labors with various ability, but with little success, nearly two years longer, until, in the month of January, 1772, the King remarked to a friend in confidence, “ Junius is known, and will write no more.” Such proved to be the fact. His last perform. ance was dated January 21st, 1772, three years to a day from his first great Letter to the printer of the Public Advertiser. Within a few months Sir PHILIP FRANCIS was appointed to one of the highest stations of profit and trust in India, at a distance of fifteen thousand miles from the seat of English politics !
8 Still rankles in his side the fatal dart.
LETTERS OF JUNIUS
TO THE PRINTER OF THE PUBLIC ADVERTISER. SiR,—The submission of a free people to the the history of a free people, whose rights have executive authority of government is no more been invaded, we are interested in their cause. than a compliance with laws which they them. Our own feelings tell us how long they ought to selves have enacted. While the national honor have submitted, and at what moment it would is firmly maintained abroad, and while justice is have been treachery to themselves not to have impartially administered at home, the obedience resisted. How much warmer will be our re of the subject will be voluntary, cheerful, and, I sentment, if experience should bring the fatal might say, almost unlimited. A generous na-example home to ourselves ! tion is grateful even for the preservation of its The situation of this country is alarming rights, and willingly extends the respect due to enough to rouse the attention of every man who the office of a good prince into an affection for pretends to a concern for the public welfare. bis person. Loyalty, in the heart and under- Appearances justify suspicion; and, when the standing of an Englishman, is a rational attach- safety of a nation is at stake, suspicion is a just ment to the guardian of the laws. Prejudices ground of inquiry. Let us enter into it with and passion have sometimes carried it to a crim- candor and decency. Respect is due to the stainal length; and, whatever foreigners may im- tion of ministers; and if a resolution must at agine, we know that Englishmen have erred as last be taken, there is none so likely to be supmuch in a mistaken zeal for particular persons ported with firmness as that which has been and families, as they ever did in defense of what adopted with moderation. they thought most dear and interesting to them- The ruin or prosperity of a state depends so selves.
It naturally fills us with resentment to see affection (as shown in their history) had often been such a temper insulted and abused. In reading excessive among the English, who were, in fact,
peculiarly liable to a “mistaken zeal for particular 1 Dated January 21, 1769. There is great regu- persons and families.” Hence they were equally larity in the structure of this letter. The first two liable (this is not said, but implied) to have their paragraphs contain the exordium. The transition loyalty imposed upon; and therefore the feeling follows in the third paragraph, leading to the main then so prevalent was well founded, that the King, proposition, which is contained in the fourth, viz., in his rash counsels and reckless choice of minis. " that the existing discontent and disasters of the ters, must have been taking advantage of the gen. nation were justly chargeable on the King and minerous confidence of his people, and playing on the istry." The next eight paragraphs are intended to easiness of their temper. If so, they were indeed give the proof of this proposition, by reviewing the insulted and abused. The exordium, then, is a chief departments of government, and endeavoring complete chain of logical deduction, and the case to show the incompetency or maladministration of is fully made out, provided the popular feeling rethe men to whom they were intrusted. A recapit. ferred to was correct. And here we see where the ulation follows in the last paragraph but one, lead. fallacy of Junias lies, whenever he is in the wrong. ing to a restatement of the proposition in still broad. It is in taking for granted one of the steps of his er terms. This is strengthened in the conclusion by reasoning. He does not, in this case, even mention the remark, that if the nation should escape from its the feeling alluded to in direct terms. He knew it desperate condition through some signal interposi- was beating in the hearts of the people; his whole tion of Divine Providence, posterity would not be preceding train of thought was calculated to justify lieve the history of the times, or consider it possible and inflame it; and he therefore leaps at once to that England should have survived a crisis " so full the conclusion it involves, and addresses them as of terror and despair."
actually filled with resentment " to see such a tem. : We have here the starting point of the exordi. per insulted and abused.” The feeling, in this inum, as it lay originally in the mind of Junius, viz., stance, was to a great extent well founded, and so that the English nation was “insulted and abused" far bis logic is complete. In other cases his assumpby the King and ministers. But this was too strong tion is a false one. He lays hold of some slander of a statement to be brought out abruptly. Junius the day, some distorted statement of facts, some therefore went back, and prepared the way by show. j maxim which is only half true, some prevailing pas. ing in successive sentences, (1.) Why a free people sion or prejudice, and, dexterously intermingling obey the laws"because they have themselves en- them with a train of thought which in every other acted them.” (2.) That this obedience is ordinarily respect is logical and just, he barries the mind to a cheerfal, and almost unlimited. (3.) That such obe. conclusion which seems necessarily involved the dience to the guardian of the laws naturally leads premises. Hardly any writer has so much art and to a strong affection for his person. (4.) That this plausibility in thus misleading the mind.
much upon the administration of its government, | event has not been answerable to the design nat, to be acquainted with the merit of a min- After a rapid succession of changes, we are reistry, we need only observe the condition of the duced tc that change which hardly any change people. If we see them obedient to the laws, can mend Yet there is no extremity of disprosperous in their industry, united at home, and tress which of itself ought to reduce a great na. respected abroad, we may reasonably presume tion to despair. It is not the disorder, but the that their affairs are conducted by men of expe- physician; it is not a casual concurrence of ca rience, abilities, and virtue. If, on the contrary, lamitous circumstances, it is the pernicious hand we see a universal spirit of distrust and dissat- of government, which alone can make a whole islaction, a rapid decay of trade, dissensions in all people desperate. parts of the empire, and a total loss of respect Without much political sagacity, or any ex. in the eyes of foreign powers, we may pronounce, traordinary depth of observation, we need only without hesitation, that the government of that mark how the principal departments of the conntry is weak, distracted, and corrupt. The state are bestowed (distributed], and look ne multitude, in all countries, are patient to a cer- farther for the true cause of every mischief that tain point. Ill usage may rouse their indigna- befalls us. tion, and hurry them into excesses, but the orig. The finances of a nation, sinking under its inal fault is in government. Perhaps there debts and expenses, are committed to a young never was an instance of a change in the cir- nobleman already ruined by play.5 Introduced cumstances and temper of a whole nation, so sudden and extraordinary as that which the mis- of absolute fatuity. The way being thus prepared, conduct of ministers has, within these very few what was first insinuated is now openly expressed years, produced in Great Britain. When our in the next sentence. The word “folly" is applied gracious sovereign ascended the throne, we were
to the conduct of the King of England in the face of à flourishing and a contented people. If the per- severe by the gravest irony. Still, there is one re
his subjects, and the application rendered doubly sonal virtues of a king could have insured the lief. Allusion is made to his “unbounded goodness happiness of his subjects, the scene could not of heart," from which, in the preceding chain of in. have altered so entirely as it has done. The sinuations, these errors of judgment had been de idea of uniting all parties, of trying all charac- duced. The next sentence takes this away, It ters, and distributing the offices of state by ro- directly ascribes to the King, with an increased se. tation, was gracious and benevolent to an ex- verity of ironical denial, some of the meanest pas. treme, though it has not yet produced the many faces," a natural love of low intrigue,” - the treach:
sions of royalty, “a capricious partiality for new salutary effects which were intended by it.
erous amusement of double and triple negotiations !" say nothing of the wisdom of such plan, it un
It is unnecessary to remark on the admirable pre. doubtedly arose from an unbounded goodness of cision and force of the language in these expres. heart, in which folly had no share. It was not sions, and, indeed, throughout the whole passage. a capricious partiality to new faces; it was not There had been just enough in the King's conduct a natural turn for low intrigue, nor was it the for the last seven years to make the people suspect treacherous amusement of double and triple ne- all this, and to weaken or destroy their affection for gotiations. No, sir, it arose from a continued the Crown. It was all connected with that systema anxiety in the purest of all possible hearts for of favoritism introduced by Lord Bute, which the the general welfare. Unfortunately for us, the have made them endure for a moment such an at
nation so much abhorred. Nothing but this would Here is the central idea of the letter-the prop tack on their movarch, and especially the absolute osition to be proved in respect to the King and his mockery with which Junius concludes the whole, by ministers. The former part of this paragraph con speaking of “the anxiety of the purest of all possible tains tbe major premise, the remainder the minor hearts for the general welfare!" His entire Letter down to the last sentence, which brings out the con- to the King, with all the rancor ascribed to it by clusion in emphatic terms. In order to strengthen Burke, does not contain so much bitterness and in. the minor, which was the most important premise, sult as are concentrated in this single passage. he rapidly contrasts the condition of England before While we can not but condemn its spirit, we are and after the King ascended the throne. In doing forced to acknowledge that there is in this and many this, he dilates on those errors of the King wbich led other passages of Junius, a rhetorical skill in the to, and which account for, so remarkable a change. evolution of thought which was never surpassed by Thus the conclusion is made doubly strong. This Demosthenes. union of severe logic with the finest rhetorical skill 5 The Duke of Gralton, first Lord of the Treasury. in filling out the premises and giving them their ut. It is unnecessary to remark on the dexterity of con. most effect, furnishes an excellent model for the stu. necting with this mention of a treasury, "sinking dent in oratory.
under its debts and expenses," the idea of its head 4 In this attack on the King, there is a refined being a gambler loaded with his own debts, and li. artifice, rarely if ever equaled, in leading the mind able continually to new distresses and temptations gradually forward from the slightest possible insin. from his love of play. The thought is wisely left nation to the bitterest irony. First we have the here. The argument which it implies would be “uniting of all parties," which is proper and desira- weakened by any attempt to expand it. Junius ble; next, "trying all characters," which suggests often reminds us of the great Athenian orator, ic decidedly a want of judgment; then “distributing thus striking a single blow, and then passing on to the offices of state by rotation," a charge rendered some other subject, as he does here to the apostasy plausible, at least, by the frequent changes of min. of the Duke of Grafton, bis inconsistency, caprica, isters, and involving (if true) a weakness little short and irresolution.
10 act under the auspices of Lord Chatham, and ment of the King's affairs in the House of Com ieft at the head of affairs by that nobleman's re- mons can not be more disgraced than it has been. treat, he became a minister by accident; but, de- A leading minister repeatedly called down for ab. serting the principles and professions which gave solute ignorance-ridiculous motions ridiculously him a moment's popularity, we see him, from withdrawn—deliberate plans disconcerted, and every honorable engagement to the public, an a week's preparation of gracesul oratory lost in a apostate by design. As for business, the world moment, give us some, though not an adequate yet knows nothing of his talents or resolution, idea of Lord North's parliamentary abilities and unless a wavering, wayward inconsistency be a influence. Yet, before he had the misfortune of mark of genius, and caprice a demonstration of being Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was neispirit. It may be said, perhaps, that it is his ther an object of derision to his enemies, nor of Grace's province, as surely it is his passion, rath- melancholy pity to his friends. er to distribute than to save the public money, A series of inconsistent measures had alien. and that, while Lord North is Chancellor of the ated the colonies from their duty as subjects and Exchequer, the first Lord of the Treasury may from their natural affection to their common be as thoughtless and extravagant as he pleases. country. When Mr. Grenville was placed at I hope, however, he will not rely too much on the head of the treasury, he felt the iin possibility the fertility of Lord North's genius for finance. of Great Britain's supporting such an establishHis Lordship is yet to give us the first proof of ment as her former successes had made indishis abilities. It may be candid to suppose that pensable, and, at the same time, of giving any he has hitherto voluntarily concealed his tal sensible relief to foreign trade and to the weight ents; intending, perhaps, to astonish the world, of the public debt. He thought it equitable that when we least expect it, with a knowledge of those parts of the empire which had benefited Tade, a choice of expedients, and a depth of re- most by the expenses of the war, should contribsources equal to the necessities, and far beyond ute something to the expenses of the peace, and the hopes of his country. He must now exert he had no doubt of the constitutional right vestthe whole power of his capacity, if he woulded in Parliament to raise the contribution. But, wish us to forget that, since he has been in office, unfortunately for this country, Mr. Grenville was no plan has been formed, no syste:n adhered to, at any rate to be distressed because he was min. nor any one important measure adopted for the ister, and Mr. Pitt and Lord Camden were to be relief of public credit. If his plan for the serv- patrons of America, because they were in oppoice of the current year be not irrevocably fixed sition. Their declaration gave spirit and argu
le: me warn him to think seriously of conse- ment to the colonies; and while, perhaps, they quclces before he ventures to increase the pub- meant no more than the ruin of a minister, they lic debt. Outraged and oppressed as we are, in effect divided one half of the empire from the this nation will not bear, after a six years' peace, other.S to see new millions borrowed, without any eventual diminution of debt or reduction of interest. 7 Notwithstanding these early difficulties, Lord The attempt might rouse a spirit of resentment, North became at last a very dexterous and effective which might reach beyond the sacrifice of a min- debater. ister. As to the debt upon the civil list, the
8 This attack on Lord Chatham and his friend people of England expect that it will not be paid with Mr. Grenville and Lord Rockingham in the
shows the political affinities of Junius. He believed without a strict inquiry how it was incurred. right of Great Britain to tax America ; and in referIf it must be paid by Parliament, let me advise ring to Mr. Grenville's attempt to enforce that right the Chancellor of the Exchequer to think of some by the Stamp Act, he adopts his usual course of inbetter expedient than a lottery. To support an terweaving an argument in its favor into the lan. expensive war, or in circumstances of absolute guage used. He thus prepares the way for his cen. necessity, a lottery may perhaps be allowable; sures on Lord Chatham and Lord Camden, affirming but, besides that it is at all times the very worst that they acted on the principle that“Mr. Grenville way of raising money upon the people, I think it was at any rate to be distressed because he was ill becomes the royal dignity to have the debts of minister and they were in opposition,” thus imply. a prince provided for, like the repairs of a coun- ing that they were actuated by factious and selfish
views in their defense of America. About a year try bridge or a decayed hospital. The manage after this letter was written, Lord Rockingham was
6 Within about seven years, the King had run up reconciled to Lord Chatham and Lord Camden, and a debt of £513,000 beyond the ample allowance all united to break down the Grafton ministry. Ju. made for his expenses on the civil list, and had just nius now turned round and wrote his celebrated applied, at the opening of Parliament, for a grant to eulogium on Lord Chatham, contained in his fifty. pay it off. The nation were indignant at such over- fourth letter, in which he says, “ Recorded bonors reaching. The debt, however, was paid this ses shall gather round his monument, and thicken over sion, and in a few years there was another contract. him. It is a solid fabric, and will support the laurels ed. Thus it went on, from time to time, antil 1782, that adorn it. I am not conversant in the language when £300,000 more were paid, in addition to a of panegyric. These praises are extorted from me; large sam during the interval. At this time a par- but they will wear well, for they have been dearly tial provision was made, in connection with Mr. earned." The last of his letters was addressed to Barke's plan of economical reform, for preventing Cord Camden, in which he says, “I turn with pleas. all future encroachments of this kind on the public ure from that barren waste, in which no solitary
plant takes root, no verdure quickens, to s charao