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213

1.- JOHN WILKES AND THE LIBERTY OF THE

PRESS.

THE WILKES CUP. IN N the year 1772, on the 24th of January, the Court of

Common Council of the City of London voted a Silver Cup* to the celebrated patriot John Wilkes for his defence of the freedom of the Press, and left the design to his own direction. The death of Cæsar in the Roman Senate House was the subject of his choice, being, he said, one of the greatest sacrifices to public liberty recorded in history. The dagger being in the first quarter of the City Arms, furnished the hint of “ The dagger wont to pierce the tyrant's breast.”

-POPE. Julius Cæsar is represented on the Cup as he is described by historians at that important moment, i.e., gracefully covering himself with his toga and falling at the base of the pedestal which supports the statue of Pompey. Brutus, Cassius, and other Romans who conspired on behalf of their country, form a circle around the body of Cæsar. Every eye is fixed on Brutus, who is in the attitude of congratulating Cicero on the

the recovery of the public liberty, and pointing to the prostrate and expiring man. At the bottom of the Cup is the following inscription, encircled with myrtle and oak leaves :

. . May every tyrant feel
The keen deep searchings of a patriot's steel?”

-CHURCHILL. On the reverse of the Cup is the inscription : “ The gift of the City of London to Alderman Wilkes 1772.'

* Drawn by my daughter Miss Henrietta Sherston Baker, from the original now in my possession. Miss Mary Wilkes (second sister of the above John Wilkes, married to George Hayley, Alderman and M.P. for the City of London) being my ancestress.

The facts which occasioned the presentation of this Cup are very interesting, and were as follows: On the meeting of Parliament in 1769, some occasional sketches of the proceedings of the House of Commons were printed in the London Evening Post; other newspapers in a short time followed the example.

On the 12th of February, 1771, Colonel George Onslow, at the instigation of the Cabinet, complained that six printers of newspapers had printed Parliamentary debates and proceedings. All these persons were ordered to attend the House. Some obeyed the summons, but Miller, the printer of the London Evening Post, did not comply with the order. Colonel Onslow having previously declared that he intended to bring before the House every printer who had printed any of the debates or proceedings of Parliament, in order that they might receive the punishment of their contumacy, it was concerted between Wilkes and Mr. Almon, the proprietor of the London Evening Post, that if Miller, the printer of that journal, should be sought for, a serious, a bold, and a strong resistance should be made. The plan was this: The printer should pay no regard to the order to attend the House of Commons, but if the House, sent a messenger to apprehend him, Miller was to have a City constable in readiness to take the messenger into custody, that then they were to proceed to the Mansion House, where Mr. Alderman Wilkes, the Lord Mayor (Brass Crosby), and Mr. Alderman Oliver would attend as Magistrates. Circumstances happened exactly as had been foreseen. The printer having neglected to attend to the order of the House of Commons, on the 15th March, a messenger of the House came to take him into custody. The printer thereupon gave the messenger in charge to the city constable for an assault, and they all proceeded to the Mansion House. The messenger attempted to justify the arrest of the printer by virtue of the Speaker's warrant, but on it being shewn that

the messenger was not a peace officer and moreover that the warrant was not backed by a City magistrate, the court, after hearing the case, discharged the printer from the custody of the messenger. The printer in his turn now charged the messenger with a breach of the peace, and was thereupon bound over to prosecute the messenger, who was desired to find bail for his offence.

This the messenger refused to do; he was therefore committed to prison (Wood Street counter). By this time the deputy serjeantat-arms arrived from the House and gave the required bail for the prisoner. The Ministry and their party in the House of Commons were enraged at this violent resistance to their power. The Lord Mayor and Mr. Alderman Oliver were ordered to attend the House. The Clerk to the Lord Mayor was also ordered to attend with the book containing the entry of the bail found by the messenger. The Lord Mayor and Mr. Alderman Oliver were committed to the Tower, where they were visited by all the Lords and members of the House of Commons, who were in opposition to the Ministry, as well as by great numbers of private gentlemen. They also received addresses containing expressions of the highest approbation and of the warmest thanks from every Ward in the City of London. The Clerk to the Lord Mayor duly attended the House and was ordered to immediately expunge the entry from his book. Wilkes was left alone, for the House feared to arrest him; they had, however, recourse to a prudent subterfuge. They ordered him to attend on the 8th of April, and then moved the adjournment for the Easter Vacation until the gth. The Lord Mayor and Mr. Alderman Oliver were liberated on the 8th of May, the day of the prorogation of Parliament. The City was illuminated in their honour, and every mark of rejoicing was displayed. The Corporation of the City of London presented each of the above magistrates with a silver cup, in commemoration of their

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