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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 8

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The day had now arrived for Wilkes to appear at the bar of the commons in obedience to its order; but, instead of Wilkes, two physicians appeared to testify that his health would not allow him to attend. The house granted a further delay till the 16th of December; but the physicians again appeared, and made the same statement. The house then appointed two other physicians to see him and report the state of his health, but Wilkes refused to see them, and sent in a report by two Scotch doctors, as a jocose proof that they must give a truthful report, as all Scotchmen were so hostile to him. And in this violent excitement regarding one man, which had occupied nearly the whole of the session, closed the year 1763.

As this excitement closed the old year, so it opened the new one. No sooner did the parliament meet, after the Christmas recess, than, on the 17th of January, the order for Wilkes's attendance at the bar was read. It was then found that he had thought it best for him to get over into France. His notoriety in England had made him a subject of curiosity in Paris, where he was enjoying himself in fashionable society. Still he did not hesitate to send over a medical certificate, signed by one of the king's physicians and an army surgeon, affirming that his wound was in such a condition that it was not safe for him to leave Paris. As all Paris was making a lion of him, and wonderfully admiring his wit and jokes, imagining him as great a man as Pitt, the house of commons paid no attention to the certificate, but proceeded to examine evidence, and the famous No. 45 of the " North Briton; " and after a violent debate, continuing till three o'clock in the morning, passed a resolution that the paper in question contained the grossest insults to his majesty, to both houses of parliament, and tended to traitorous insurrection against the government. Accordingly, the next day, he was formally expelled the house, and a new writ was issued for Aylesbury.

Wilkes continued in Paris, being now afraid of being arrested for debt, being no longer a member of parliament. Still the people regarded him as a man persecuted for his defence of their rights, and did not hesitate to show their disapprobation even to the king. Whenever he appeared in public, or at the theatre, they gave no token of loyalty towards him, but shouted "Wilkes and liberty!" On the 13th of February the opposition in the commons brought on the question of the validity of general warrants. The debate continued all that day and the next night till seven o'clock in the morning. Numbers of whigs and many ladies of rank, amongst them lady Rockingham, lady Sondes, the duchess of Richmond, lady Pembroke, &c., sate out the whole debate. The motion was thrown out; but Sir William Meredith immediately made another, that a general warrant for apprehending the authors, printers, and publishers of a seditious libel is not warranted by law. The combat was renewed, and Pitt made a tremendous speech, declaring that if the house resisted Sir William Meredith's motion, they would be the disgrace of the present age, and the reproach of posterity. He upbraided ministers with taking mean and petty vengeance on those who did not agree with them, by dismissing them from office. This charge Grenville had the effrontery to deny, though it was a notorious fact. Even whilst he was denying it, general A'Court, who had just been dismissed from his command of a regiment of the guards, walked up the house, as if to convict the minister of the lie; the circumstance being noticed by a murmur through the whole house. Soon after the speaker calling on Barre, as colonel Barre, that officer said, "I beg your pardon, sir; you have given me a title I have no right to, I am no longer a colonel; they have dismissed me from my regiment, and from the office of adjutant-general." In addition to these two unfortunate contretemps, it was equally well known that they had dismissed Mr. John Calcraft from the post of deputy commissioner-general of musters, and menaced many others; and, spite of this public exposure, they soon after dismissed general Conway, brother of the earl of Hertford, our ambassador at Paris, both from his military and his court employments, simply for his voting against them on the general warrant question, though it was the only instance in which he had voted with the opposition.

The chagrin of ministers was made the more intolerable because they saw that their conduct was thus alienating their supporters in the house. As the debate approached its close, they called in every possible vote; the sick, the lame were hurried into the house, so that, says Horace Walpole, you would have thought they had sent a search warrant into every hospital for members of parliament. When the division came, which was only for the adjournment of Meredith's motion for a month, they only carried it by fourteen votes. In the City there was a confident anticipation of the defeat of ministers, and materials for bonfires all over London, and for illuminating the monument. Temple was said to have faggots ready for bonfires of his own.

Government, not content with expelling Wilkes from the house of commons, had commenced an action against him in the court of king's bench, where they succeeded in obtaining a verdict against him for a libel in the "North Briton." Temple paid the costs, and the City of London turned this defeat into a triumph, by presenting its freedom to the lord chief-justice Pratt, for his bold and independent conduct in declaring against the general warrants. They ordered his portrait to be placed in Guildhall; and the example of London was followed by Dublin and many other towns, who presented freedoms and gold snuff-boxes to Pratt. The City of London also presented its thanks to their members of the house of commons for their patriotic conduct there.

During this session, the princess Augusta, one of the king's sisters, was married to the hereditary prince of Brunswick, and parliament voted her a dowry of eighty thousand pounds. The prince, who was a nephew of Frederick of Prussia,, and had fought in Germany with our army under the auspices of Pitt, gave offence to the court, during his visit, by showing his veneration for the great man, and by paying him a visit at Hayes. He lived to engage in the campaign, as Duke of Brunswick, against Buonaparte, and died of a wound received, in 1806, at the battle of Jena. A daughter of his marriage was the unfortunate queen Caroline, wife of George IV.

Another minor act of this summer was the presentation of our bills for the two million dollars from Spain, as the Manilla ransom, given to Sir William Draper by the governor of the Philippines. The Spaniards laughed at the demand; and the feeble Grenville, whom Dr. Johnson said could have counted the money had he been able to get it, for that was rather his post than governing a great nation, knew not how to enforce it. Had Pitt been in power, he would have seized unceremoniously a Spanish treasure ship, and paid himself.

Several distinguished members of the opposition died during this year, amongst them Legge, formerly Pitt's chancellor of the exchequer, the duke of Devonshire, and the earl of Hardwicke. Pitt, though tortured with the gout, received the unexpected legacy of an estate in Somersetshire of three thousand pounds a-year, from Sir William Pynsent, whom he had never seen in his life, but who had a wonderful admiration of him.

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