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Wilkes were exciting discontents at home. They were considered as a gross violation of the rights of election. An alarm for the constitution was spread; an alarm much beyond its cause; since, admitting one unconstitutional assumption of power to have taken place, it did not follow, from a particular fact, that a general system was endangered,
Dr. Johnson's · False Alarm' endeavours to prove that the power of disqualification of expelled members was necessary to the House of Commons, as expulsion, with reeligibility, would be a nominal not a real punishment. But the question was not what power it might be expedient that the House of Commons should possess, but what powers from statute or custom it actually did possess. To his arguments on expediency it might be replied, the house could have repeatedly expelled Wilkes if they thought him still to deserve expulsion.--If they could prove it to be expedient that expulsion should constitute disqualification,
let a bill to that effect be moved ; and if approved' of by the other branches of the legislature, passed into a law. Dr. Johnson, aware that expediency alone would not support his position, attempts to adduce precedents, but fails in' their application. It is to be observed here, that Burke, and many others, who opposed the return of Colonel Luttrel, strongly disapproved of many parts of Mr. Wilkes's conduct as morally profligate and politically seditious.
The proceedings of the Grafton Administration respecting Wilkes, and other subjects, gave rise to the celebrated Letters of Junius. These compositions, in clearness, neatness, precision of style, in such arrangement and expression as give the materials fully the desired effect, have few equals among political publications. Unclaimed by any, they have been ascribed to several authors, among others to Burke. Most of the writers against Junius, in the periodical publications of the times, address him as an Irishman; and at the same time endeavour
to reproach Burke for being of that nation. One of them, Antimalagrida, in abusing the Marquis of Rockingham, makes one article of his invective, that he was guided by an Irish Secretary. Some of Burke's friends supposed him the author, as the only man equal to the performance. On that ground Johnson, according to Boswell, once thought him the writer ; but on his spontaneously declaring the contrary, was convinced by his assertion. I should,' he said, have believed Burke to be Junius, because I know no man but Burke who is capable of writing these letters; but Burke spontaneously denied it to me: the case would have been different had I asked him if he was the author, a man may think he has a right to deny it, when so questioned as to an anonymous publication. Even spontaneous disavowal of a performance, by many imputed to him, and of which the supposition of his being the writer might have exposed him to prosecution, is not a disproof. As there is no testimony to prove, either who was the writer, or that Burke was not, our opinion
must be formed from probability. Those who impute the Letters of Junius to Burke may probably reason in some such manner as the following :-They are evidently the production of very considerable talents. There were very few writers of the times equal to. the task. They'ınust have been written by a person inimical to the Grafton Administration, and to the secret influence by which it was believed to be now guided. In the general opinion, and in the particular circumstances of Burke, we can find probable motives which might have induced him to commence and continue the attack. The Duke of Grafton had been brought into Administration by the Rockingham party, and was represented as having betrayed that nobleman and his friends: either, on that account, or because he succeeded to the Ministry, he was very obnoxious to the friends of the Marquis. Hence it was natural to impute a severe attack on him to one of that party, in which the pre-eminence of genius unquestionably belonged to Burke, He, in the house, poured forth his
eloquence in attacks upon the Grafton Administration in general, and more particularly on those of its acts which are the principal butts of Junius's invective. Burke strenuously maintained the existence of a system of court-favouritism, and joined in ascribing to its influence the dismission of his friends. He reprobated the measures which he supposed to originate from that source, and the principal agents of the junto. Hence it was very probable that the Duke of Bedford, the negociator of Lord Bute's peace and the opposer of the Rockingham interest, should excite the displeasure of Burke. The Whig party considered the doctrines advanced by the Lord Chief Justice on the bench as inconsistent with constitutional liberty, and as a branch of the same Tory or rather Jacobite origin. Burke, in the House of Commons, frequently displayed his eloquence against the doctrines and practices of Lord Mansfield. He particularly execrated the proceedings respecting the Middlesex election. In all these circumstances he coincided with Junius. In con