|Who is it?||English journalist|
|Birth Day||October 17, 1727|
|Birth Place||Clerkenwell, London, British|
|Age||292 YEARS OLD|
|Died On||26 December 1797(1797-12-26) (aged 72)\nWestminster, London, Great Britain|
|Literary movement||Radicalism An Essay on Woman The North Briton (newspaper)|
|Alma mater||University of Leiden|
|Occupation||Magistrate Essayist Journalist MP Soldier (militia)|
A radical contemporary Irish Politician Charles Lucas, who sat for Dublin City in the Irish Parliament, was known as the "Irish Wilkes". The Dutch Politician Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol (1741–1784), who advocated American independence and criticised the Stadtholder regime, was inspired by Wilkes.
Born in Clerkenwell in London, Wilkes was the second son of the distiller Israel Wilkes and his wife Sarah (née Heaton), who had six children including three daughters: Sarah, the eldest, Mary, a tomboy who outlived three husbands, and Ann, the youngest who died in her teens from smallpox. John Wilkes was educated initially at an academy in Hertford; this was followed by private tutoring and finally a stint at the University of Leiden in the Dutch Republic. There he met Andrew Baxter, a Presbyterian clergyman who greatly influenced Wilkes' views on religion. Although Wilkes remained in the Church of England throughout his life, he had a deep sympathy for non-conformist Protestants and was an advocate of religious tolerance from an early age. Wilkes was also beginning to develop a deep patriotism for his country. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, he rushed home to London to join a Loyal Association and readied to defend the capital. Once the rebellion had ended after the Battle of Culloden, Wilkes returned to the Netherlands to complete his studies.
In 1747, he married Mary Meade (1715-1784) and came into possession of an estate and income in Buckinghamshire. They had one child, Mary (known as Polly), to whom John was utterly devoted for the rest of his life. Wilkes and Mary, however, separated in 1756, a separation that became permanent. Wilkes never married again, but he gained a reputation as a rake. He was known to have fathered two other children, John Henry Smith and Harriet Wilkes.
Wilkes was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1749 and appointed High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1754. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Berwick in the 1754 parliamentary elections but was elected for Aylesbury in 1757 and again in 1761. Elections took place at the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aylesbury where he held a manorial pew. He lived at the Prebendal House, Parsons Fee, Aylesbury.
Wilkes began his parliamentary career as a follower of william Pitt the Elder and enthusiastically supported Britain's involvement in the Seven Years War of 1756-1763. When the Scottish John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, came to head the government in 1762, Wilkes started a radical weekly publication, The North Briton, to attack him, using an anti-Scots tone. Typical of Wilkes, the title made satirical reference to the pro-government newspaper, The Briton, with "North Briton" referring to Scotland. Wilkes became particularly incensed by what he regarded as Bute's betrayal in agreeing to overly generous peace terms with France to end the war.
He was first elected Member of Parliament in 1757. In the Middlesex election dispute, he fought for the right of his voters—rather than the House of Commons—to determine their representatives. In 1768 angry protests of his supporters were suppressed in the St George's Fields Massacre. In 1771, he was instrumental in obliging the government to concede the right of printers to publish verbatim accounts of parliamentary debates. In 1776, he introduced the first bill for parliamentary reform in the British Parliament.
On 5 October 1762, Wilkes fought a duel with william Talbot, 1st Earl Talbot. Talbot was the Lord Steward and a follower of Bute; he challenged Wilkes to a pistol duel after being ridiculed in issue 12 of The North Briton. The encounter took place at Bagshot - at night to avoid attracting judicial attention. At a range of eight yards, Talbot and Wilkes both fired their pistols but neither was hit. Somewhat reconciled, they then went to a nearby inn and shared a bottle of claret. When the affair later became widely known, some viewed it as comical, and a satirical print made fun of the duelists. Some commentators even denounced the duel as a stunt, stage-managed to enhance the reputations of both men.
Bute had resigned (8 April 1763), but Wilkes opposed Bute's successor as chief advisor to the King, George Grenville, just as strenuously. On 16 November 1763, Samuel Martin, a supporter of George III, challenged Wilkes to a duel. Martin shot Wilkes in the belly.
Wilkes's political enemies, foremost among them John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was also a member of the Hellfire Club, obtained the parody. Sandwich had a personal vendetta against Wilkes that stemmed in large part from embarrassment caused by a prank of Wilkes involving the Earl at one of the Hellfire Club's meetings; he was delighted at the chance for revenge. Sandwich read the poem to the House of Lords in an effort to denounce Wilkes's moral behaviour, despite the hypocrisy of his action. The Lords declared the poem obscene and blasphemous, and it caused a great scandal. The House of Lords moved to expel Wilkes again; he fled to Paris before any expulsion or trial. He was tried and found guilty in absentia of obscene libel and seditious libel, and was declared an outlaw on 19 January 1764.
When Wilkes was imprisoned in the King's Bench Prison on 10 May 1768, his supporters appeared before King's Bench, London, chanting "No liberty, no King." Troops opened fire on the unarmed men, killing seven and wounding 15, an incident that came to be known as the St George's Fields Massacre. The Irish Playwright Hugh Kelly, a prominent supporter of the government, defended the right of the army to use force against rioters, which drew the anger of Wilkes' supporters and they began a riot at the Drury Lane Theatre during the performance of Kelly's new play A Word to the Wise forcing it to be abandoned.
In defiance, Wilkes became an Alderman of London in 1769, using his supporters' group, the Society for the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, for his campaign. Wilkes eventually succeeded in convincing Parliament to expunge the resolution barring him from sitting. While in Parliament, he condemned Government policy towards the American colonies during the American Revolution of 1775-1783. In addition, he introduced one of the earliest radical Bills to Parliament, although it failed to gain passage. On his release from prison in March 1770, Wilkes was appointed a sheriff in London.
In 1774 he became Lord Mayor of London; he was simultaneously Master of the Joiners' Company, where he changed the motto from "GOD GRANNTE US TO USE JUSTICE WITHE MERCYE" to "JOIN LOYALTY AND LIBERTY", a political slogan associated with Wilkes. That year Wilkes was re-elected to Parliament, again representing Middlesex. He was one of those opposed to war with the American colonies. He was also a supporter of the Association Movement and of religious tolerance. His key success was to protect the freedom of the press by gaining passage of a bill to remove the power of general warrants and to end Parliament's ability to punish political reports of debates. In 1779 he was elected to the position of Chamberlain of the City of London, a post of great responsibility which he was to hold until his death in 1797.
After 1780, his popularity declined as he was popularly perceived as less radical. During the uprising known as the Gordon Riots, Wilkes was in charge of the Soldiers defending the Bank of England from the attacking mobs. It was under his orders that troops fired into the crowds of rioters. The working classes who had previously seen Wilkes as a "man of the people", then criticised him as a hypocrite; his middle-class support was scared off by the violent action. The Gordon Riots nearly extinguished his popularity.
While he was returned for the county seat of Middlesex in 1784, he found so little support that by 1790, he withdrew early in the election. The French Revolution of 1789 had proved extremely divisive in England, and Wilkes had been against it due to the violent murders in France. His position was different from that of many radicals of the time and was a view more associated with conservative figures, including expressed indifference as to Catholic Emancipation. Edmund Burke, who had also supported American Independence, made a similar switch.
Between 1788 and 1797 he occupied a property named "Villakin" in Sandown, Isle of Wight. The site is marked by a blue plaque.
Wilkes died at his home at 30 Grosvenor Square, Westminster, London on 26 December 1797. The cause of death was a wasting disease known at the time as marasmus. His body was buried in a vault in Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, London on 4 January 1798.
In a famous exchange with John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, where the latter exclaimed, "Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox," Wilkes is reported to have replied, "That depends, my lord, on whether I embrace your lordship's principles or your mistress." Fred R. Shapiro, in The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), disputes the attribution based on a claim that it first appeared in a book published in 1935, but it is ascribed to Wilkes in Henry Brougham's Historical Sketches (1844), related from Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk, who claims to have been present, as well as in Charles Marsh's Clubs of London (1828). Brougham notes the exchange had in France previously been ascribed to Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau and Cardinal Jean-Sifrein Maury.