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Remarks on the Character of Junius.
or sparkles in the coronet of rank,—or stains the ermine of justice, mor skulks in the cleft of the mitre,—or is wrapped up in the senatorial robe,~or cankers the green wreath of genius,when acts of political corruption, or public immorality are mingled with individual, domestic, or social vices,—courting imitation or applause, and offering violence to the feelings and principles of the community, it becomes the duty of the patriot and the moralist to hold up to public shame the enemies of public virtue.
Such a patriot and moralist was Junius. The flash of his mental eye scathed as with a lightning-stroke the minions of corruption, and men paused in their career of political mischief in order to avoid the fate of his victims. Envenomed with wit and winged with sarcasm his shafts carried dismay into the ranks of his adversaries, and they struck deeper into their prey in proportion to the polish with which they had been elaborated": And when he failed to annoy and dislodge his antagonist by the light troops of his wit and ridicule, he brought up in reserve the heavy artillery of a powerful and commanding eloquence. In thus discharging the duties of a public censor, and in defending, at the risk of his life, the laws and constitution of his country, we may admire the courage of Junius, and even proffer to him our gratitude, though we disown his political principles and disapprove of his conduct
. As the enemy of public corruption and the assertor of public rights every succeeding age will do homage to his intrepidity and success; and if during the prosecution of a lofty purpose he occasionally forgot in the heat of controversy the courtesies of polished life, the patriot will but shed a tear over human frailty, and fix his eye on the great truths which may have been established, or the important victory which has been achieved. In the moral and in the physical world the forces which are called into action must obey the laws from which they originate. The solar ray may occasionally consume when its purpose is but to illuminate, and the tornado which is sent to purify our atmosphere bears in its bosom the elements of death and desolation. In social life the intellectual powers must often perform their functions under the high pressure of the passions and affections, and even when most nobly and generously exercised, they may display the temperature of the one and the taint of the other. The good done by Junius has lived after him, let the evil be interred with his bones.
Although the scenes in which Junius played so conspicuous a part have been, to a certain extent, cast into the shade by the wars and revolutions of modern times, yet the public anxiety to give life to his shade has not abated; and were we to judge by the number of the works which have been published for the purpose
of identifying him with some eminent statesman,* we should draw the inference that the political changes which convulse the age in which we live have but created a more ardent desire to discover the name of a writer who in “ thoughts that breathed and words that burned" defended the inalienable rights of Englishmen, while he warned them against any revolutionary inroads upon the constitution by which these rights were secured.
In attempting to substantiate the charges of malignity and personality which have been brought against Junius, his accusers have availed themselves of most unjust and unpardonable assumptions. He is supposed to have written a number of other letters bearing various signatures, and containing virulent attacks upon public men to whom, in his acknowledged compositions, he had avowed the deepest attachment. He is thus arraigned as the warm friend and the bitter enemy of Lord Chatham, and he is made to occupy the odious position of the worshipper and the slanderer of Lord Shelburne. The accusers of Junius, too, presuming that they have identified him with some contemporary statesman, charge him-and justly charge him, if their hypothesis be true-with attacking those with whom he lived on the most intimate terms, and to whom he was under the greatest obligations. If Sir Philip Francis were the author of these letters, as some of Junius' accusers believe, we admit at once the truth of the charge. He who assails with intemperate abuse the Government of his country while he is eating its bread and doing its work—who exposes the immoralities and sullies the honour of a noble family while he shares their confidence and enjoys their hospitality-and he who slanders his benefactor, and aims his deadliest shaft at the patron who placed him in office-deserves to be made an outlaw from social life, and stigmatized as the basest of mankind. But Sir Philip Francis was not guilty of being Junius, and Junius was not Sir Philip Francis-not a clerk in the War Office, and the slanderer of Lord Barrington, not the protégé and the calumniator of Mr. Welbore Ellis, (Lord Mendip,) not the guest and the spy at the Duke of Bedford's table. Junius was neither ATTICUS, nor LUCIUS, nor Brutus, nor DOMITIAN. These personages must occupy their own niche in the temple of fame: The reputation of Junius requires no supplement from theirs, and the name of Junius shall not be sullied either by their errors or their crimes.
Regarding Junius, aloof from his contemporaries, and unidentified with any brilliant name, let us view him as a shadow hovering
* All the works placed at the head of this Article, which have for their object the identification of Junius with some distinguished character, have been published since the peace of 1815.
+ Lord Brougham's Historical Sketches, &c., pp. 115, 116.
Junius as seen in his Genuine Letters.
above the mighty obelisk which has been reared to his genius—as England's Shakspeare in prose--and let us consider what may have been his probable position in the conflict which he waged, and what palliation that position may offer for the ardour of his temperament and the severity of his judgments. Let us suppose him holding office under Lord Shelburne-deprived of that office by a change of ministry—unconnected by ties of gratitude or affection with most of the public characters of the day--prompted and aided by the chiefs of his party—obtaining his materials, sometimes correct, sometimes exaggerated, and sometimes false, * through the same party channels, and without the power, as an anonymous writer, of inquiring into their truth-daring through the press to stem the tide of political corruption, to stifle in their birth the schemes of ministerial intrigue-to protect the public journalist from malicious prosecutions—to expose private vices when united with the power of doing mischief to the community, and even to remonstrate with the sovereign against the folly and treachery of his servants.f Supposing this to have been the position which Junius held, and these the functions which he fearlessly, and often successfully, exercised, his moral portrait displays a nobler phase than if it bore the autograph of Burke, or of Barré, of Francis, or of Sackville. But even if Junius were identified with some contemporaneous politician, whether a peer of the realm, or a clerk in the War Office, we venture to say that we could point out in the speeches and writings of living statesmen, and in the anonymous essays and reviews which have been ascribed to public men, as grave examples of “ virulent abuse," “ envious malignity,"
,” “rash accusation,” and even “ferocious personality,” as are to be found in the genuine, or even in the spurious pages of that immortal author. In an age more religious than his, when the courtesies of society are better known and more widely practised, and under Governments whose functionaries were men of high character, and where corruption was the exception, and not, as it then was, the rule, party spirit has borne the same bitter and noxious fruit; and whatever be our progress in refinement and civilisation, we shall have to deplore in
* On the testimony of Dr. Musgrave, for example, it had been generally_believed, and therefore asserted by Junius, that the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Bute had concluded the peace of Paris under the influence of a bribe from France. In our own day, analogous charges have been made against ministers, not anonymously, but even in the House of Commons, and in their own hearing. On the other hand, in order to make out a charge of falsehood against Junius, it has been alleged that Lord Mansfield did not, as alleged by Junius, drink the health of the Pretender on his knees. But it is positively asserted “that Lord Ravensworth, in 1753, before the Privy Council, convicted Lord Mansfield of that offence.”
+ In his celebrated expostulation with the king, while Junius expressed it as the first wish of his heart," that the people may be free,” he as sincerely avowed it to be the second, that his majesty“ might long continue king of a free people.”
the dialectics of political strife all the malice and asperity and personality which have been associated with the name of Junius.
Such are the general views under which we shall now proceed to the subject of the identification of Junius; but as many of our readers are but imperfectly acquainted with the circumstances under which his letters were composed and published, we must, for their benefit, make a few preliminary observations. The genuine letters of Junius, seventy-one in number, including two to Lord Chatham, which have been only recently published, were written between the 2d January 1768, and the 21st January 1772. They first appeared in the Public Advertiser, conducted by H. S. Woodfall. They were afterwards collected into a volume by their author, and dedicated, in an eloquent address, to the English Nation. The Duke of Grafton was at the head of the Tory administration, which was then in power. Lord North was Chancellor of the Exchequer; Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief-Justice; Lord Weymouth and the Earl of Hillsborough, Secretaries of State; The Marquis of Granby, Commander-inChief; and Viscount Townshend, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. The letters of Junius, when not addressed to the editor of the Public Advertiser, were addressed chiefly to the three first of these distinguished statesmen ; and as Junius was a moderate Whig, with scarcely any leaning to democratic principles, he was the admirer and supporter of Lord Shelburne and Lord Chatham, while he denounced the measures of the Grafton administration, and exerted all his influence to damage it in public opinion, and restore Lord Shelburne to power. At the commencement of these discussions, a controversy arose between Junius and Sir William Draper, which occupies six letters; and about two and a half years afterwards, another controversy sprung up between Junius and the Rev. Mr. Horne, which occupies five letters, all of which are written with a spirit and talent which have been universally admired.
After the publication of his first public letter on the 21st of January 1769, which contained a general review of the character and conduct of the Ministry, and after the termination of the sharp controversy with Sir William Draper, the fame and popularity of Junius were established. The poignancy of his wit and satire, the splendour of his diction, the logic of his argument, and the power of his eloquence confounded the ministry, and inspired the opposition with new energy and zeal. The anxiety of the public, the hatred of his enemies, and even the admiration of his friends, were combined in the attempt to remove his mask, and discover his retreat. Spies of all shades were employed in this
* Chatham’s Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 305, and iv. p. 190.
Burke and Lord North on Junius.
secret service, and even David Garrick seems to have undertaken the task of detecting him. Junius, however, obtained intelligence of their schemes, and by his own skill and caution, coupled with the honesty of Woodfall
, he baffled every attempt to unveil him. When his Letters to the Duke of Grafton and the Duke of Bedford were published, new motives for his detection presented themselves, but when his celebrated Letter to the King appeared, bold beyond all precedent, and eloquent above all eloquence, a new spirit was awakened against Junius, which rendered it necessary for his personal safety to persist in the concealment of his name. Upon this “ mighty boar of the forest” Burke, who gave him this name, pronounced a splendid eulogy, and while he denounced the severity of his censure, he admitted that in the Letter to the King, there were “ many bold truths by which a wise prince might profit.” “ It was the rancour and venom,” he continues, “ with which I was struck. In these respects the North Briton is as much inferior to him as in strength, wit, and judgment. But while I expected in this daring flight his final ruin and fall, behold him rising still higher, and coming down souse upon both houses of Parliament. Yes, he did make
Yes, he did make you his quarry, and you still bleed from the wounds of his talons. You crouch, and still crouch, beneath his rage, nor has he dreaded the terrors of your brow,* Sir. He has attacked even you-he has—and I believe you have no reason to triumph in the encounter. In short, after carrying away our Royal Eagle in his pounces, and dashing him against a rock, he has laid you prostrate. King, Lords, and Commons, are but the sport of his fury. Were he a member of this House, what might not be expected from his knowledge, his firmness, and his integrity? He would be easily known by his contempt of all danger, by his penetration, by his vigour. Nothing would escape his vigilance and activity. Bad ministers could conceal nothing from his sagacity, nor could promises or threats induce him to conceal anything from the public.” Even Lord North, who was now Prime Minister, and to whom Junius had addressed his fortieth letter on the appointment of Colonel Luttrel, deplored the popularity of Junius, and looked forward to his detection and punishment. “Why, therefore, says he, should we wonder that the great boar of the wood, this mighty Junius, has broke through the toils, and foiled the hunter. Though there may be at present no spear that will reach him, yet he may be sometime or other caught. At any rate he will be exhausted with fruitless efforts; those tusks which he has been whetting to wound and gnaw the constitution, will be worn out. Truth will at last prevail.”
* The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Fletcher Norton, “ was distinguished by a pair of large black eyebrows." --Prior's Life of Burke, vol. i.