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

Sidenote 1797 Death of Wilkes On November 38


1797--Death of Wilkes]

On November 38, 1797, the old, worn, weary man, who had worked so hard and done so much, welcomed, in his capacity of Chamberlain of the City of London, Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson to the honorary freedom of the City. The setting star saluted the rising star. Nelson was then thirty-nine. He had been at sea since he was twelve. He had voyaged in polar seas and tropic waters. He had fought the Americans. He had fought the French. "Hate a Frenchman as you would the devil" was his simple-minded counsel of perfection. He had fought the Spaniards. He had lost an eye at Calvi. He had lost an arm at Santa Cruz. He was ten years married. His love, his error, his glory, Emma Hamilton, Carracioli, Trafalgar, were yet to come.

Less than a month later, in the late December, 1797, John Wilkes was dead. He was seventy years old. For nearly forty years he had lived unknown, unheeded. For {140} ten years he was the most conspicuous man in England, the best hated and the best loved. For twenty years more he was an honored public and private citizen. He will always be remembered as one of the most remarkable men of a century of remarkable men.




[Sidenote: 1749-1768--A champion of

popular rights]

One of the most immediate results of the Wilkes controversy in the House of Commons was to draw attention to a young man who had entered Parliament at the General Election of 1768 while he was still considerably under age. The young member for Midhurst made himself conspicuous as the most impassioned opponent of Wilkes. A strenuous supporter of Luttrell outside the walls of Westminster, inside those walls the boy who represented the fictitious constituency of Midhurst distinguished himself by the easy insolence with which he assailed Wilkes and the popular cause which Wilkes represented. He delighted in informing the delighted majority in the House that he, for his part, "paid no regard whatever to the voice of the people." When Burke condescended to notice and to rebuke the impertinence of a youth of nineteen, he little thought that the lad whom he reproved would come to be a far more extreme advocate of popular rights than he himself, or that the chronicle of the century in recording the names of those who made themselves prominent for the utterance of democratic opinions should place the name of John Wilkes far below the name of Charles James Fox.

It would not be easy to imagine a worse training for a youth intended for the service of his country and destined to contend for the honors of the State than the life that was lived by Charles James Fox from early boyhood to early manhood. It was not in the power of his father, Henry Fox, Lord Holland, to set before his son the example of a parent whose public life was pure, admirable, and honorable. But in the domestic circle Lord Holland was {142} a very different man from the corrupt and juggling politician known to the world. In the domestic circle his affections and his tendernesses were his most conspicuous traits, and in the domestic circle he was as unfortunate for his children through his very virtues as outside it he was unfortunate by reason of his vices. Fox was a loving husband, but he was an adoring father,

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