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

The daring of Wilkes carried the day


[Sidenote:

1768--Wilkes as Member for Middlesex]

As soon as Wilkes knew of his defeat in the City, he struck a yet bolder note for success. He came forward at once as a candidate for the County of Middlesex in opposition to the established interest of two gentlemen who had represented it for several years, who were supported by the whole interest of the Court and who had considerable fortunes and great connections in it. But Wilkes, too, had powerful abettors. The Duke of Portland was one of his most prominent supporters. His old friend Temple {117} supplied the freehold qualification which was then essential for a Parliamentary candidate. Horne, the Rector of Brentford, where the election took place, gave all his great influence and all his gifts to the service of Wilkes with the same devotion that had formerly animated Churchill. Horne was not altogether an admirable character, and his enthusiasm for Wilkes had hitherto awakened no corresponding enthusiasm on Wilkes's part. But Horne was invaluable at a crisis like the Middlesex election. He had the eloquence of a sophist; he had the strategy of a tactician; he was endowed with an unconquerable energy, an indomitable determination. He was exceedingly popular in his parish; he caught the mood of the popular party, and he happened to be on the right side. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the services he rendered to Wilkes and to the cause of which Wilkes was the figurehead

by his work in the Middlesex election. The zeal of Horne, the friendship of Temple, the daring of Wilkes carried the day. It was no ordinary victory. It was an astonishing triumph. As Burke pointed out, the same causes did not operate upon the freeholders at large which had prevented the inclinations of the livery of London from taking effect in Wilkes's favor, and the result of the polling on March 28 was that Wilkes was returned to Parliament by a prodigious majority. Wilkes polled 1290 votes. Mr. George Cooke, the Tory candidate, who had been the representative for eighteen years, only scored 827, and Sir W. Beauchamp Procter, the Whig candidate, only got 807 votes.

There was great excitement in London when the result of the election was known. It pleased the popular voice to insist that every window should be illuminated in honor of Wilkes's triumph, and all windows that were not lit up were unhesitatingly broken. Those persons who were known to be Wilkes's principal opponents received the special attentions of the mob. Lord Bute's house had to stand a siege; so had the house of Lord Egremont, who had signed the warrant for Wilkes's committal; so had other houses which were either known to belong to the {118} opponents of the hero or showed themselves to be such by their darkened windows. All such windows were instantly broken, to the joy of the glaziers, who declared that a Middlesex election was worth any number of Indian victories. The mob had it all its own way, for the strength of the constabulary had been drafted off to Brentford in expectation


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