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POLITICAL WARFARE IN 1799
But then in far more bitter spite
They truly print what M-d says!
There is no difficulty in identifying the name of the courtly wight. He was Sir John Mitford, AttorneyGeneral in 1799, Speaker of the House of Commons in 1801, and afterwards Lord Redesdale. The epigram brings out one of the methods of political warfare which were adopted in those early days of the press, but which have been happily altogether outgrown. One of the happiest features of political controversy in these days is the fulness and fairness with which the chief newspapers of all shades of politics report the political speeches of their leading opponents. In these dark closing years of the eighteenth century political passion ran high in this country, stirred by the violent movement in France. It was quite common to accuse prominent politicians of being in communication with the enemy, and the usual explanation given by the supporters of the Government for Fox's opposition to the war, was, that he was in the pay of France. Walpole in one of his letters had made the accusation against Wilkes, and it seems to have become a common weapon of political warfare. Walpole said that he was as sure that Wilkes was in the pay of France as of any fact he knew; and there were a thousand lesser Walpoles in the last decade of the eighteenth century who were not only sure of it with respect to Fox, but who professed to know the exact amount he received, the time it was paid, and the persons who
conducted the transaction. Writing to Lord Webb Seymour so late as the 26th of December 1805, Francis Horner says: 'I could name to you gentlemen with good coats on, and good sense in their own affairs, who believe that Fox did actually send information to the enemy in America, and is actually in the pay of France."1 In the days of the Anti-Jacobin 2 this charge was constantly urged against the journals and the statesmen that opposed the Government. The Anti-Jacobin in
sinuates it against the Morning Chronicle, which, with the Morning Post, were the leading journals of 'Jacobinism.' The spirit of the time when Erskine wrote to Rogers that Fox had no hope, is forcibly illustrated by an event in which many of Rogers's personal friends, and in all probability Rogers himself, took part; and which may have tended to produce the despondency Fox felt in that gloomy year. There was a great gathering at the Crown and Anchor' on Fox's birthday, the 24th of January, 1798. Two thousand people were present, among them the Duke of Bedford, Lord Lauderdale, Lord Oxford, Sheridan, Tierney, Erskine, and Horne Tooke. Lord John Russell 3 was one of the stewards, and presided in one of the rooms. After the health of Fox had been drunk the Duke of Norfolk, as chairman, gave several other toasts. These were: These were: The Rights of the People; Constitutional Redress of the Wrongs of the People;' A speedy and effectual Reform of the Repre
Horner's Memoirs and Correspondence, vol. i. p. 323.
2 The Anti-Jacobin issued its first number on the 20th November, 1797, and the last-the 36th on July 9th, 1798.
3 Afterwards the sixth Duke of Bedford; father of the Lord John Russell of the Reform Bill era.
GILBERT WAKEFIELD'S PROSECUTION
sentation of the People in Parliament; Principles of the British Constitution; ' "The People of Ireland may they be speedily restored to the Blessings of Law and Liberty!' The Cause of Liberty all over the World; and The Freedom of the Press, and Trial by Jury.' A chronicler of the time says that the seditious and daring tendency of these toasts had not passed unnoticed. The Anti-Jacobin which published a caricature report of the proceedings, reminded the Duke that, under another Sovereign than the Sovereign people, he now holds the lieutenancy of the West Riding of the County of York and the command of a regiment of militia.' From both these offices the Duke was immediately dismissed.
The dangers of the times, however, came more immediately home to Rogers and his friends by the prosecution of the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield for a pamphlet on the Income Tax, in reply to the Bishop of Llandaff. Wakefield had been a friend of Rogers's father, who speaks of him in a letter in a preceding chapter. He had come to London from Nottingham in 1790 to undertake the duties of the classical professorship in the college then just established at Hackney, of which Thomas Rogers was chairman. He failed to agree with his colleagues, and left the college in 1791. He continued, however, to be one of the friends of the Rogers family, and was regarded by Samuel Rogers as one of those
Guides of my life, instructors of my youth,
Pleasures of Memory.' Gilbert Wakefield's pamphlet was as mild as the toasts at the Fox dinner, but it seems to have been thought that the time had come for the prosecution of some person whose position would make his condemnation strike terror into others; or, as Dr. Aikin says: a victim to the liberty of the press, of name and character to inspire a wide alarm, was really desired.' Gilbert Wakefield was therefore selected for the sacrifice, and no pains was spared to secure his conviction. He was not attacked at once. Johnson and Jordan, the booksellers who sold the pamphlet, were first tried, and sentenced the former to a fine of fifty pounds and six months' imprisonment; the latter to a year's confinement. Mr. Cuthell, the publisher, was also punished; and then the blow fell on the gentle scholar and divine. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to two years imprisonment in Dorchester gaol. This fierce blow at freedom of discussion created almost a panic. Gilbert Wakefield's friends did all that could be done to modify the rigour of his confinement, and Fox kept up with him that learned correspondence which had been begun in happier circumstances, and which was afterwards published. Many of the Whigs made Wakefield's prison cell the object of a pious pilgrimage; and Rogers and his sister Sarah were among them. The utmost consideration was shown to Wakefield by his gaolers, but the imprisonment shortened his life, and he died less than four months after his liberation in 1801. To the end of his life Rogers never failed to speak of him with affection and regard, and of his prosecution and sentence as infamous. It brought home in the strongest way to him
PARR AND MACKINTOSH
and to his friends the full nature of the oppression which they held to justify the Whigs for seceding for a time from a House of Commons which kept such a Government in power.
In his Recollections' of Fox Rogers tells the story, as repeated by Fox in 1805, of an apparently discourteous reply of Dr. Parr to Mackintosh. The same story is also told in Mr. Dyce's book. Mr. Dyce reports Rogers as saying that when he read to Parr the account of O'Quigley's death-who had been hanged on Penenden Heath for a traitorous correspondence with France-the tears rolled down his cheeks. His reply to Mackintosh arose out of a conversation on the subject at a party at which many Whigs were present. Parr said O'Quigley was no impostor, that he died in the conviction that the cause in which he intrigued and suffered was a good one. 'I am hurt,' rejoined Mackintosh, to hear Dr. Parr employing his great talents in defence of such a wretch as O'Quigley, who was as bad a man as could possibly be.' 'No, no, Jamie,' responded Dr. Parr; not so bad a man as could possibly be: for, recollect O'Quigley was a priest -he might have been a lawyer; he was an Irishman—he might have been a Scotchman; he was consistent, Jamie -he might have been an apostate.' I tell the story, as it is given by the Rev. C. Colton in the notes to his satire, Hypocrisy.' It has no meaning, however, apart from the explanation Colton gives and Rogers omits, that Parr and many of Mackintosh's friends were greatly pained at what some of them regarded as Mackintosh's political apostasy. Rogers has himself recorded that Mackintosh had confessed to Burke some change of view; and at a later