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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Churchill was not a man of irreproachable character


Government already had a severe journalistic critic in the _Monitor_, a newspaper edited by John Entinck, which had been started in 1755. The _Monitor_ was not at all like a modern newspaper. It was really little more than a weekly pamphlet, a folio of six pages published every Saturday, and containing an essay upon the political situation of the hour. Its hostility to Bute goaded the minister into the production of the _Briton_, which was afterwards supplemented by the creation of the _Auditor_ when it was found that Smollett had called up against the Ministry a more terrible antagonist than the _Monitor_. For the _Briton_ only lives in the memories of men because it called into existence the _North Briton_.

Wilkes had entered Parliament as the impassioned follower of Pitt. He made many confessions of his desire to serve his country, professions which may be taken as sincere enough. But he was also anxious to serve himself and to mend his fortunes, and he did not find in Parliamentary life the advancement for which he hoped. Twice he sought for high position under the Crown, and twice he was unsuccessful. He wished to be made ambassador to Constantinople, where he would have found much that was congenial to him, and his wish was not granted. He wished to be made Governor-General of the newly conquered Quebec, and again his desires were unheeded. Wilkes believed that Bute was the cause of his double disappointment. He became convinced

that while the favors of the State lay in Bute's hands they would only be given to Tories, and more especially to Tories who were also {52} Scotchmen. If Bute could have known, it would have been a happy hour for him which had seen Wilkes starting for the Golden Horn or sailing for the St. Lawrence. But Bute was a foolish man, and he did his most foolish deed when he made Wilkes his enemy.

The appearance of the _North Briton_ was an event in the history of journalism as well as in the political history of the country. It met the heavy-handed violence of the _Briton_ with a frank ferocity which was overpowering. It professed to fight on the same side as the _Monitor_, but it surpassed Entinck's paper as much in virulence as in ability. Under the whimsical pretence of being a North Briton, Wilkes assailed the Scotch party in the State with unflagging satire and unswerving severity. In the satire and the severity he had an able henchman in Charles Churchill.

[Sidenote: 1731-1764--The poet Churchill]

Those who are inclined to condemn Wilkes because for a season he found entertainment in the society of a Sandwich, a Dashwood, and a Potter, must temper their judgment by remembering the affection that Wilkes was able to inspire in the heart of Churchill. While the scoundrels of Medmenham were ready to betray their old associate, and, with no touch of the honor proverbially attributed to thieves, to drive him into disgrace, to exile, and if possible to death, the loyal friendship of the poet was given to Wilkes without reserve. Churchill was not a man of irreproachable character, of unimpeachable morality, or of unswerving austerity. But he was as different from the Sandwiches and the Dashwoods as dawn is different from dusk, and in enumerating all of the many arguments that are to be accumulated in defence of Wilkes, not the least weighty arguments are that while on the one hand he earned the hatred of Sandwich and of Dashwood, on the other hand he earned the love of Charles Churchill.

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