"My country is the World. My Religion is to do Good."

Junius Unmasked Or Thomas Paine,

the Author of the Letters of Junius and the Declaration of Independence

Joel Moody

[The Preface through the first of the Letters of Junius,
from the book published by John Gray & Co., 1872]


One hundred years ago to-day, Junius wrote as follows:

"The man who fairly and completely answers this argument, shall have my thanks and my applause. ...Grateful as I am to the good Being whose bounty has imparted to me this reasoning intellect, whatever it is, I hold myself proportionably indebted to him from whose enlightened understanding another ray of knowledge communicates to mine. But neither should I think the most exalted faculties of the human mind a gift worthy of the Divinity, nor any assistance in the improvement of them a subject of gratitude to my fellow-creatures, if I were not satisfied that really to inform the understanding corrects and enlarges the heart."

These were the concluding words of his last Letter. So say I now, and I make them the preface to an argument which now sets the great apostle of liberty right before the world. They serve, like a literary hyphen, to connect the two ages- his own with this ; and the two lives -- the masked with the open one; in both of which ages and lives he did good to mankind, and that mightily.

"Washington, D.C, January 21, 1872.



The literary work which survives a century has uncommon merit. Time has set the seal of approval upon it. It has passed its probation and entered the ages. A century has just closed upon the work of Junius. The causes which produced it, either in act or person, have long since passed away. The foolish king, the corrupt minister, and the prostituted legislature are forgotten, or only recalled to be despised; but the work of Junius, startling in thought, daring in design, bristling with satire, a consuming fire to those he attacked, remains to be admired for its principles, and to be studied for its beauty and strength.

The times in which Junius wrote were big with events. The Seven Years' War had just closed with shining victories to Prussia and England. Frederic, with an unimpaired nation and a permanent peace, it left with a good heart and much personal glory ; but George III., with India and America in his hands, with the plunder of a great conquest to distribute to a greedy and licentious court, it left pious, but simple.

Great wars disturb the masses. They awaken them from the plodding, dull routine of physical labor, and, thrusting great questions of conquest and defense, of justice and honor, before them, agitate them into thought. Conditions change; new ideas take the place of old ones, and a revolution in thought and action follows. But a war of ideas, starting from principles of peace, brings the enslaved again to the sword, and this crisis is termed a revolution.

Junius wrote at the dawn of the age of revolutions. The war of ideas was waged against priestcraft, and skepticism was the result. Voltaire had struck fable from history with the pen of criticism, and a scientific method here dawned upon history. Rousseau's democracy had entered the hearts of the down-trodden in France, and, a wandering exile, he had spread the contagion in England. George Berkeley, the Irish idealist, had just died, and the Scotch Thomas Reid arose with the weapon of common sense to test the metaphysician's ideas. Common Sense was, in the strictest sense, revolutionary, and, under the tyranny of king, lords, and commons, meant war. It was not a phrase without meaning, but a principle proclaimed, and it passed more readily into the understanding of the common people because conveyed in common speech. When Reid said, "I despise philosophy, and renounce its guidance; let my soul dwell in common sense," he illuminated all Britain and America. The philosophy of common sense entered the professor's chair, invaded the pulpit, and, having passed thence into the humblest cottage, soon took a higher range - it went immediately up and knocked at the king's gate. It would be false to say it found admittance there. It was only because there had been a new world opened as an asylum for the oppressed of every land, that it did not sweep kings and monarchs from all the high places in Europe.

At this time, too, Mr. Pitt, the great commoner, the friend of common sense and English liberty, in his old age, war-worn and sick, had compromised with his vanity for a title. In his great fall from Pitt to Chatham, from the people to a peerage, he gained nothing but lost his good name. He exchanged worth for a bauble, and a noble respect for the contempt of nobles and the sorrows of the people. Mr. Pitt had departed, Lord Chatham was passing away; and in any assault by a trafficking ministry and corrupt legislature upon the people's rights, there was no one left to bend the bow at the gates.

To tax the colonies became the settled plan of king, ministers, and parliament. The tax was easily imposed, but c6uld not be enforced. Freedom had long before been driven to America, and, in a line of direct descent, her blood had been transmitted from mother to son. The true sons of freedom now stood shoulder to shoulder, and, looking forward to independence, claimed to have rights as men, which king and lords would not concede to subjects. The Stamp Act was passed and repealed, and a Test Act substituted. England refused to compel the colonies to give up their money without their consent, but menaced them, and consoled herself with these words: "The king in parliament hath full power to hind the colonies in all things whatsoever." Having surrendered the fact, she indulged in declamation, and the world laughed at her folly. Like a fretful and stupid mother demanding a favor of her son grown to manhood, and, being refused, persists in scolding and shaking the fist at him, as if he still wore a baby's frock.

At this juncture Junius wrote his Letters. The circumstances called him forth. He was a child of fate. He spoke to the greatest personages, assaulted the strongest power, and advocated the rights of man before the highest tribunal then acknowledged on earth. This he could not do openly, and what he said came as with the power of a hidden god. There is no evidence that Junius ever revealed himself. "I am the sole depository of my own secret, and it shall perish with me." This he said and religiously kept. But his was the age which demanded it. He also said: "Whenever Junius appears, he must encounter a host of enemies." One hundred years have passed since he said this, but this "host" is less to be feared now than when he wrote. No one now can injure him, and there are few who would assault his grave. It is time to unmask Junius, and though still to be hated, I will reveal the enemy of kings and the friend of man. The reforms he advocated for England are partly accomplished, and the principles he taught, if not adopted there, have been established in America. He left no child to bear his name, but he was the father of a nation. The unimpaired inheritance was his thoughts and principles; these he transmitted, not alone to this nation, but to the world -- for the world was his country.


In the investigation of a subject so startling and novel, and especially when it leads to the criticism of a work which has found favor with the public^ and now to be attributed to an author who has been publicly condemned^ it becomes the critic to state clearly the plan of his argument, what he designs to do, and how he intends to do it. I therefore ask: Who was Junius? I answer: Thomas Paine. The object of this book is to prove this, and possibly to demonstrate it. To do this, I shall follow as closely as possible the order of events, giving parallels and coincidences in character, conduct, and composition of the masked and the open life.

I do not fear as to the proof of my proposition, but I shall aim higher, I shall try to demonstrate by the overwhelming weight of facts. Proof produces belief, demonstration knowledge. The innocent have been hanged on the evidence of proof, but a fact is established by demonstration. Demonstration follows proof, and knowledge follows belief; and ascending from the individual to mankind, we find the age of reason to succeed the age of faith. Science dwells in demonstration, and establishes principles from observed facts. Why may there not be a scientific criticism? To arrive at this the writer must ascend to that eminence in feeling where the opposing prejudices of mankind can not reach him; he must rise above praise or censure, he must dwell alone in the light of reason, he must be a child of Truth. Vain, however,' would it be to expect to find himself or a public devoid of prejudice. This is impossible, for prejudice is produced by strong conviction. It is a feeling which, like a magnet, points as the electric force directs. To counteract this force is to destroy the magnet. It is those who think deeply, and have investigated thoroughly, who have an enlightened prejudice, and those who take upon authority what others tell them, who have a blind prejudice; but those who neither think nor investigate for themselves may truly be said to have no prejudice. My object is to convince the understanding and thereby build up a prejudice in favor of my proposition, which shall have a foundation of fact and argument, not to be removed, and to be but little disturbed. The world is my jury, they shall decide upon the facts. Lord Bacon gave the world a method, this method is also mine: Let FACTS REVEAL THE INWARD TRUTH OF KATTJEE.


There is a scarcity of facts, a painful obscurity connected with that part of Mr. Paine's life before he removed to America. In fact, history has given him to the world, as almost beginning life on his arrival at Philadelphia, near the close of the year 1774. At this time, in the full stature of manhood, a little less than forty years of age, we find him without a personal history, without any events in life sufficient to predicate his after life upon. Can the great life to come rest on nothing? How came that mighty mind so fully stored with history, so deeply analytic, so skilled in literature and science, so perfect in the art of expressing ideas, so highly disciplined and finely equipped, ready to do battle against kings and ministers and in behalf of human rights? Whence came that mighty pen, which has often been acknowledged to have done more for human freedom than the .sword of Washington? Why this dumb silence of history? There comes to us no thought of Mr. Paine worth recording prior to this time. The proud and imposing superstructure stands on a basis fit and substantial, but it rises out of the depths of mystery. And what little we do know of him prior to this time, aside from the great fact of his birth, is only a series of minor facts, with great blanks not even capable of being filled up by the imagination.

When a lad he went to school, but how long he went, or with what proficiency he studied, nobody knows. At sixteen he went aboard a privateer, but how long he served, or what made him quit the service, nobody knows. At twenty-seven he enters the employ of the English government as an exciseman, but was dismissed in a little over a year, nobody knows why. He now teaches school in Loudon a year, but nobody knows with what success, or what were his accomplishments. He now quits London and letters, and the society of the learned, to return to the same petty office from which he had been dismissed, and for the trifling salary of less than fifty pounds a year. This office he now holds eight years more. Only a solitary ray of light illuminates this long period, when in the full tide of life. The chronicler renders it insignificant by a single dash of the j3en. It is closed with. another dismissal and dismal mystery. He now forever separates from his wife upon amicable terms, nobody knows why. During their after lives they neither of them marry, and never speak disrespectfully of each other. He leaves her all the property, and often sends her money during his after life. This obscure and twice dismissed English exciseman, it is said, now goes to talk with Benjamin Franklin, minister at the court of St. James, for several of the colonies; and, by what means nobody knows, obtains letters of the highest commendation, as an introduction to America, from her greatest and most honored citizen. A few months afterward Benjamin Franklin places in the hands of Mr. Paine important documents, for him to write a history of the political troubles and a defense of the colonies. A mighty work, worthy of a greater than Franklin! These facts stagger credulity. An obscure English exciseman, whose life is yet a blank, who has never been an author, save perhaps of some fugitive pamphlet to demand more pay for excise officers, is introduced to America, and is solicited and intrusted by America's greatest writer, thinker, patriot, and statesman, to do America's greatest work, and that work, too, which shall decide forever the fate of a world. Franklin! by what mysterious gift of divination hast thou found thy man? Is there no child of America among all the sons of Freedom equal to the task? Where art thou thyself? But the man Franklin found had no need of books or his documents. This obscure Englishman had the facts in his memory, the wrongs in his heart, the logic in his reason, and he thought for himself. His work was half written before Franklin had furnished him with the "necessary papers," and as a New Year's gift surprised the learned doctor with the first pamphlet of Common Sense.

The appearance of this greatest of political works which has blessed a world, with all the attending circumstances -- the obscure life of Paine, the few wild events connected with it, the unprecedented action of Franklin, the introduction to the world of a profound thinker and almost perfect writer in the full ripeness of his intellect, and the beginning of an unceasing brilliant literary life at its meridian, are mysteries, save in this instance, unknown to history. Common Sense is a child of mystery. It is the best of this great author's productions. He himself so considered it, for he directs that his tombstone shall bear the simple inscription, Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense.

That Thomas Paine should have lived an easy, idle life, without any great effort in thought, study, or composition, for fifteen years immediately preceding the appearance of Common Sense, is what no writer, or thinker, or student, or statesman will believe. Great works of genius do not come in this way, much less profound political writings. Even inspiration would desert the connection. And that the proud, ambitious, literary adventurer, who shall dedicate his life to the good of mankind, who shall wrest the power from priests and the scepter from kings, should content himself to fill a poor and petty office under a king he despised, without some nobler object in view, and at that age too when the mind of man is the most aspiring, and drives to the greatest activity, is what no one who knows the heart of man, and the secret springs of action, will believe. But if it can be proven that Thomas Paine was Junius, then will every blank be filled and every mystery dispelled.

There is no external evidence, direct in its nature, as to the authorship of Junius; the evidence is internal. That the secret did not perish with Junius, no one can gainsay. But that he told it to no one, we are not at liberty to conclude. Time has sufficiently removed us from the scene of conflict. We are not bewildered with a multitude of claimants, with an army of witnesses for and against ; nor are we disturbed by the clamors of the public, and the hearsay evidence of belligerents. In this universal calm I will bring Junius forth to speak for himself.


The time occupied in writing the Letters of Junius was just three years. The first one is dated January 21, 1769, and the last one January 21, 1772. They were written for the Public Advertiser, a newspaper printed in London, and were afterward revised and corrected by Junius. The edition which he corrected "contains all the letters of Junius, Philo Junius, and of Sir William Draper, and Mr. Home to Junius, with their respective dates, and according to the order in which they appeared in the Public Advertiser. There are seventy-eight in all. Of these, Junius wrote sixty; thirty the first year, five the second, and twenty- five the third year. In these Letters Junius frequently defends himself over the signature of Philo Junius, which he deemed indispensably necessary in answer to plausible objections. On this point Junius observes:

"The subordinate character is never guilty of the indecorum of praising his principal. The fraud was innocent, and I always intended to explain it."

These letters were an attack upon the king and minis- try, and a defense of the people, whose original rights had been invaded. If Thomas Paine wrote them, he was then an exciseman stationed at Lewes, about forty miles south of London, and was just thirty-live years old when he completed them.

I will now introduce to the reader Junius himself through his first letter, which was one of his most finished productions, and contains the germs of all the rest. I will give also the comments of Chauncey A. Goodrich, D. D., formerly professor of Rhetoric in Yale College. These comments are to be found in the doctor's work, entitled British Eloquence. I do this for two reasons: to let the reader see what high value is placed on Junius by the learned who teach eloquence by example, and also that he may see the object, method, and style of Junius. I shall afterward add my own comments on the doctor's notes, setting him right when in error in matters of fact. This will fully open the question and prepare the reader for my argument.

Letter to the Printer of the Public Advertiser[1]

Sir, - The submission of a free people to the executive authority of government is no more than a compliance with laws which they themselves have enacted. While the national honor is firmly maintained abroad, and while justice is impartially administered at home, the obedience of the subject will be voluntary, cheerful, and, I might say, almost unlimited. A generous nation is grateful even for the preservation of its rights, and willingly extends the respect due to the office of a good prince into an affection for his person. Loyalty, in the heart and understanding of an Englishman, is a rational attachment to the guardian of the laws. Prejudices and passion have sometimes carried it to a criminal length, and, whatever foreigners may imagine, we know that Englishmen have erred as much in a mistaken zeal for particular persons and families, as they ever did in defense of what they thought most dear and interesting to themselves.

It naturally fills us with resentment to see such a temper insulted and abused.[1] In reading the history of a free people, whose rights have been invaded, we are interested in their cause. Our own feelings tell us how long they ought to have submitted, and at what moment it would have been treachery to themselves not to have resisted. How much warmer will be our resentment, if experience should bring the fatal example home to ourselves!

The situation of this country is alarming enough to rouse the attention of every man who pretends to a concern for the public welfare. Appearances justify suspicion; and, when the safety of a nation is at stake, suspicion is a just ground of inquiry. Let us enter into it with candor and decency. Respect is due to the station of ministers ; and if a resolution must at last be taken, there is none so likely to be supported with firmness as that which has been adopted with moderation.

The ruin or prosperity of a state depends so much upon the administration of its government, that, to be acquainted with the merit of a ministry, we need only observe the condition of the people. If we see them obedient to the laws, prosperous in their industry, united at home, and respected abroad, we may reasonably presume that their affairs are conducted by men of experience, abilities, and virtue. If, on the contrary, we see a universal spirit of distrust and dissatisfaction, a rapid decay of trade, dissensions in all parts of the empire, and a total loss of respect in the eyes of foreign powers, we may pronounce, without hesitation, that the government of that country is weak, distracted, and corrupt. The multitude, in all countries, are patient to a certain point. Ill usage. may rouse their indignation and hurry them into excesses, hut the original fault is in government.[3] Perhaps there never was an instance of a change in the circumstances and temper of a whole nation, so sudden and extraordinary as that which the misconduct of ministers has, within these very few years, produced in Great Britain. When our gracious sovereign ascended the throne, we were a flourishing and a contented people. If the personal virtues of a king could have insured the happiness of his subjects, the scene could not have altered so entirely as it has done. The idea of uniting all parties, of trying all characters, and distributing the offices of state by rotation, was gracious and benevolent to an extreme, though it has not yet produced the many salutary effects which were intended by it. To say nothing of the wisdom of such plan, it undoubtedly arose from an unbounded goodness of heart, in which folly had no share. It was not a capricious partiality to new faces; it was not a natural turn for low intrigue, nor was it the treacherous amusement of double and triple negotiations. No, sir; it arose from a continued anxiety in the purest of all possible hearts for the general welfare.[4] Unfortunately for us, the event has not been answerable to the design. After a rapid succession of changes, we are reduced to that change which hardly any change can mend. Yet there is no extremity of distress which of itself ought to reduce a great nation to despair. It is not the disorder, but the physician; it is not a casual concurrence of calamitous circumstances, it is the pernicious hand of government, which alone can make a whole people desperate.

Without much political sagacity, or any extraordinary depth of observation, Ave need only mark how the principal departments of the state are bestowed [distributed], and look no farther for the true cause of every mischief that befalls us.

The finances of a nation, sinking under its debts and expenses, are committed to a young nobleman already ruined by play.[5] Introduced to act under the auspices of Lord Chatham, and left at the head of affairs by that nobleman's retreat, lie became a minister by accident; but, deserting the principles and professions which gave him a moment's popularity, we see him, from every honorable engagement to the public, an apostate by design. As for business, the world yet knows nothing of his talents or resolution, unless a wavering, wayward inconsistency be a mark of genius, and caprice a demonstration of spirit. It may be said, perhaps, that it is his Grace's province, as surely as it is his passion, rather to distribute than to save the public money, and that while Lord North is Chancellor of the Exchequer, the first Lord of the Treasury may be as thoughtless and extravagant as he pleases. I hope, however, he will not rely too much on the fertility of Lord North's genius for finance. His Lordship is yet to give us the first proof of his abilities.

It may be candid to suppose that he has hitherto voluntarily concealed his talents; intending, perhaps, to astonish the world, when we least expect it, with a knowledge of trade, a choice of expedients, and a depth of resources equal to the necessities, and far beyond the hopes of his country. He must now exert the whole power of his capacity, if he would wish us to forget that, since he has been in office, no plan has been formed, no system adhered to, nor any one important measure adopted for the relief of public credit. If his plan for the service of the current year be not irrevocably fixed on, let me warn him to think seriously of consequences before he ventures to increase the public debt. Outraged and oppressed as we are, this nation will not bear, after a six years' peace, to see new millions borrowed, without any eventual diminution of debt or reduction of interest. The attempt might rouse a spirit of resentment, which might reach beyond the sacrifice of a minister. As to the debt upon the civil list, the people of England expect that it will not be paid without a strict inquiry how it was incurred.[6] If it must be paid by Parliament, let me advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer to think of some better expedient than a lottery. To support an expensive war, or in circumstances of absolute necessity, a lottery may perhaps be allowable; but, besides that it is at all times the very worst way of raising money upon the people, I think it ill becomes the royal dignity to have the debts of a prince provided for, like the repairs of a country bridge or a decayed hospital. The management of the king's affairs in the House of Commons can not be more disgraced than it has been. A leading minister repeatedly called down for absolute ignorance - ridiculous motions ridiculously withdrawn -- deliberate plans disconcerted, and a week's preparation of graceful oratory lost in a moment, give us some, though not an adequate idea of Lord North's parliamentary abilities and influence.[7] Yet, before he had the misfortune of being Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was neither an object of derision to his enemies, nor of melancholy pity to his friends.

A series of inconsistent measures has alienated the colonies from their duty as subjects and from their natural affection to their common country. When Mr. Grenville was placed at the head of the treasury, he felt the impossibility of Great Britain's supporting such an establishment as her former successes had made indispensable, and, at the same time, of giving any sensible relief to foreign trade and to the weight of the public debt. He thought it equitable that those parts of the empire which had benefited most by the expenses of the war, should contribute something to the expenses of the peace, and he had no doubt of the constitutional right vested in Parliament to raise the contribution. But, unfortunately for this country, Mr. Grenville was at any rate to be distressed because he was minister, and Mr. Pitt and Lord Camden were to be patrons of America, because they were in opposition. Their declaration gave spirit and argument to the colonies; and while, perhaps, they meant no more than the ruin of a minister, they in effect divided one- half of the empire from the other.[8]

Under one administration the Stamp Act is made, under the second it is repealed, under the third, in spite of all experience, a new mode of taxing the colonies is invented, and a question revived, which ought to have been buried in oblivion. In these circumstances, a new office is established for the business of the Plantations, and the Earl of Hillsborough called forth, at a most critical season, to govern America. The choice at least announced to us a man of superior capacity and knowledge. Whether he be so or not, let his dispatches as far as they have appeared^ let his measures as far as they have operated, determine for him. In the former we have seen strong assertions without proof, declamation without argument, and violent censures without dignity or moderation, but neither correctness in the composition, nor judgment in the design. As for his measures, let it be remembered that he was called upon to conciliate and unite, and that, when he entered into office, the most refractory of the colonies were still disposed to proceed by the constitutional methods of petition and remonstrance. Since that period they have been driven into excesses little short of rebellion. Petitions have been hindered from reaching the throne, and the continuance of one of the principal assemblies put upon an arbitrary condition, which, considering the temper they were in, it was impossible they should comply with, and which would have availed nothing as to the general question if it had been complied with.[9] So violent, and I believe I may call it so unconstitutional an exertion of the prerogative, to say nothing of the weak, injudicious terms in which it was conveyed, gives us as humble an opinion of his Lordship's capacity as it does of his temper and moderation. While we are at peace with other nations^ our military force may perhaps be spared to support the Earl of Hillsborough's measures in America. Whenever that force shall be necessarily withdrawn or diminished, the dismission of such a minister will neither console us for his imprudence, nor remove the settled resentment of a people, who, complaining of an act of the legislature, are out- raged by an unwarrantable stretch of prerogative, and, supporting their claims by argument, are insulted with declamation.

Drawing lots would be a prudent and reasonable method of appointing the officers of state, compared to a late disposition of the secretary's office. Lord Kochford was acquainted with the affairs and temper of the Southern courts; Lord Weymouth was equally qualified for either department. By what unaccountable caprice has it happened, that the latter, who pretends to no experience whatsoever, is removed to the most important of the two departments, and the former, by preference, placed in an office where his experience can be of no use to him?* Lord Weymouth had distinguished himself in his first employment by a spirited, if not judicious conduct. He had animated the civil magistrate beyond the tone of civil authority, and had directed the operations of the army to more than military execution. Recovered from the errors of his youth, from the distraction of play, and the bewitching smiles of Burgundy, behold him exerting the whole strength of his clear, unclouded faculties in the service of the crown. It was not the heat of midnight excesses, nor ignorance of the laws, nor the furious spirit of the house of Bedford; no, sir; when this respectable minister interposed his authority between the magistrate and the people, and signed the mandate on which, for aught he knew, the lives of thousands depended, he did it from the deliberate motion of his heart, supported by the best of his judgment.[11]

It has lately been a fashion to pay a compliment to the bravery and generosity of the Commander-in-chief [the Marquess of Granby] at the expense of his understanding. They who love him least make no question of his courage, while his friends dwell chiefly on the facility of his disposition. Admitting him to be as brave as a total absence of all feeling and reflection can make him, let us see what sort of merit he derives from the remainder of his character. If it be generosity to accumulate in his own person and family a number of lucrative employments; to provide, at the public expense, for every creature that bears the name of Manners; and, neglecting the merit and services of the rest of the army, to heap promotions upon his favorites and dependents, the present Commander-in-chief is the most generous man alive. Nature has been sparing of her gifts to this noble lord; but where birth and fortune are united, we expect the noble pride and independence of a man of spirit, not the servile, humiliating complaisance of a courtier. As to the goodness of his heart, if a proof of it be taken from the facility of never refusing, What conclusion shall we draw from the indecency of never performing? And if the discipline of the army be in any degree preserved, what thanks are due to a man whose cares, notoriously confined to filling up vacancies, have degraded the office of Commander-in-chief into [that of] a broker of commissions.[12]

With respect to the navy, I shall only say that this country is so highly indebted to Sir Edward Hawke, that no expense should be spared to secure him an honorable and affluent retreat.

The pure and impartial administration of justice is perhaps the firmest bond to secure a cheerful submission of the people, and to engage their affections to government. It is not sufficient that questions of private right or wrong are justly decided, nor that judges are superior to the vileness of pecuniary corruption. Jeffries himself, when the court had no interest, was an upright judge. A court of justice may be subject to another sort of bias, more important and pernicious, as it reaches beyond the interest of individuals and affects the whole community. A judge, under the influence of government, may be honest enough in the decision of private causes, yet a traitor to the public. When a victim is marked out by the ministry, this judge will offer himself to perform the sacrifice. He will not scruple to prostitute his dignity, and betray the sanctity of his office, whenever an arbitrary point is to be carried for government, or the resentment of a court to be gratified.

These principles and proceedings, odious and contemptible as they are, in effect are no less injudicious. A wise and generous people are roused by every appearance of oppressive, unconstitutional measures, whether those measures are supported openly by the power of government, or masked under the forms of a court of justice. Prudence and self-preservation will oblige the most moderate dispositions to make common cause, even with a man whose conduct they censure, if they see him persecuted in a way which the real spirit of the laws will not justify. The facts on which these remarks are founded are too notorious to require an application.[13]

This, sir, is the detail. In one view, behold a nation overwhelmed with debt; her revenues wasted; her trade declining; the affections of her colonies alienated; the duty of the magistrate transferred to the soldiery; a gallant army, which never fought unwillingly but against their fellow-subjects, moldering away for want of the direction of a man of common abilities and spirit; and, in the last instance, the administration of justice become odious and suspected to the whole body of the people. This deplorable scene admits of but one addition -- that we are governed by counsels, from which a reasonable man can expect no remedy but poison, no relief but death. If, by the immediate interposition of Providence, it were [be] possible for us to escape a crisis so full of terror and despair, posterity will not believe the history of the present times. They will either conclude that our distresses were imaginary, or that we had the good fortune to be governed by men of acknowledged integrity and wisdom. They will not believe it possible that their ancestors could have survived or recovered from so desperate a condition, while a Duke of Grafton was Prime Minister, a Lord North Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Weymouth and a Hillsborough Secretaries of State, a Granby Commander-in-chief, and a Mansfield chief criminal judge of the kingdom.


  1. Dated January 21, 1769. There is a great regularity in the structure of this letter. The first two paragraphs contain the exordium. The transition follows in the third paragraph, leading to the main proposition, which is contained in the fourth, viz., "that the existing discontent and disasters of the nation were justly chargeable on the king and ministry." The next eight paragraphs are intended to give the proof of the proposition, by reviewing the chief departments of government, and endeavoring to show the incompetency or mal-administration of the men to whom they were intrusted. A recapitulation follows in the last paragraph but one, leading to a restatement of the proposition in still broader terms. This is strengthened in the conclusion by the remark, that if the nation should escape from its desperate condition through some signal interposition of Divine Providence, posterity would not believe the history of the times, or consider it possible that England should have survived a crisis " so full of terror and despair."
  2. We have here the starting point of the exordium, as it lay originally in the mind of Junius, viz., that the English nation was "insulted and abused" by the king and ministers. But this was too strong a statement to be brought out abruptly. Junius therefore went back, and prepared the way by showing in successive sentences, (1.) Why a free people obey the laws -- "because they have themselves enacted them." (2.) That this obedience is ordinarily cheerful, and almost unlimited. (3.) That such obedience to the guardian of the laws naturally leads to a strong affection for his person. (4.) That this affection (as shown in their history) had often been excessive among the English, who were, in fact, peculiarly liable to a "mistaken zeal for particular persons and families." Hence they were equally liable (this is not said, but implied) to have their loyalty imposed upon; and therefore the feeling then so prevalent was well founded, that the king in his rash counsels and reckless choice of ministers, must have been taking advantage of the generous confidence of his people, and playing on the easiness of their temper. If so, they were indeed insulted and abused. The exordium, then, is a complete chain of logical deduction, and the case is fully made out, provided the popular feeling referred to was correct. And here we see where the fallacy of Junius lies, whenever he is in the wrong. It is in taking for granted one of the steps of his reasoning. He does not, in this case, even mention the feeling alluded to, in direct terms. He knew it was beating in the hearts of the people; his whole preceding train of thought was calculated to justify and inflame it, and he therefore leaps at once to the conclusion it involves, and addresses them as actually filled with resentment "to see such a temper insulted and abused." The feeling, in this instance, was to a great extent well founded, and so far his logic is complete. In other cases his assumption is a false one. He lays hold of some slander of the day, some distorted statement of facts, some maxim which is only half true, some prevailing passion or prejudice, and dexterously intermingling them with a train of thought which in every other respect is logical and just, he hurries the mind to a conclusion which seems necessarily involved in the premises. Hardly any writer has so much art and plausibility in thus misleading the mind.
  3. Here is the central idea of the letter -- the proposition to be proved in respect to the king and his ministers. The former part of this paragraph contains the major premise, the remainder the minor down to the last sentence, which brings out the conclusion in emphatic terms. In order to strengthen the minor, which was the most important premise, he rapidly contrasts the condition of England before and after the king ascended the throne. In doing this, he dilates on those errors of the king which led to, and which account for, so remarkable a change. Thus the conclusion is made doubly strong. This union of severe logic with the finest rhetorical skill in filling out the premises and giving them their utmost effect, furnishes an excellent model for the student in oratory.
  4. In this attack on the king, there is a refined artifice, rarely if ever equaled, in leading the mind gradually forward from the slightest possible insinuation to the bitterest irony. First we have the "uniting of all parties," which is proper and desirable; next "trying all characters," which suggests decidedly a want of judgment; then "distributing the offices of state by rotation," a charge rendered plausible, at least, by the frequent changes of ministers, and involving (if true) a weakness little short of absolute fatuity. The way being thus prepared, what was first insinuated is now openly expressed in the next sentence. The word "folly" is applied to the conduct of the king of England in the face of his subjects, and the application rendered doubly severe by the gravest irony. Still, there is one relief. Allusion is made to his "unbounded goodness of heart," from which, in the preceding chain of insinuations, these errors of judgment had been deduced. The next sentence takes this away. It directly ascribes to the king, with an increased severity of ironical denial, some of the meanest passions of royalty, "a capricious partiality for new faces," a "natural love of low intrigue," "the treacherous amusement of double and triple negotiations!" It is unnecessary to remark on the admirable precision and force of the language in these expressions, and, indeed, throughout the whole passage. There had been just enough in the king's conduct, for the last seven years, to make the people suspect all this, and to weaken or destroy their affection for the crown. It was all connected with that system of favoritism introduced by Lord Bute, which the nation so much abhorred. Nothing but this would have made them endure for a moment such an attack on their monarch, and especially the absolute mockery with which Junius concludes the whole, by speaking of "the anxiety of the purest of all possible hearts for the general welfare!" His entire Letter to the king, with all the rancor ascribed to it by Burke, does not contain so much bitterness and insult as are concentrated in this single passage. While we can not but condemn its spirit, we are forced to acknowledge that there is in this and many other passages of Junius, a rhetorical skill in the evolution of thought which was never surpassed by Demosthenes.
  5. The Duke of Grafton, first Lord of the Treasury. It is unnecessary to remark on the dexterity of connecting with this mention of a treasury, "sinking under its debts and expenses," the idea of its head being a gambler loaded with his own debts, and liable continually to new distresses and temptations from his love of play. The thought is wisely left here. The argument which it implies would be weakened by any attempt to expand it. Junius often reminds us of the great Athenian orator, in thus striking a single blow, and then passing on to some other subject, as he does here to the apostasy of the Duke of Grafton, his inconsistency, caprice, and irresolution.
  6. Within about seven years, the king had run up a debt of £513,000 beyond the ample allowance made for his expenses on the civil list, and had just applied, at the opening of Parliament, for a grant to pay it off. The nation were indignant at such overreaching. The debt, however, was paid this session, and in a few years there was another contracted. Thus it went on, from time to time, until 1782, when £300,000 more were paid, in addition to a large sum during the interval. At this time a partial provision was made, in connection with Mr. Burke's plan of economical reform, for preventing all future encroachments of this kind on the public revenues.
  7. Notwithstanding these early difficulties, Lord North became at last a very dexterous and effective debater.
  8. This attack on Lord Chatham and his friend shows the political affinities of Junius. He believed with Mr. Grenville and Lord Rockingham in the right of Great Britain to tax America; and in referring to Mr. Grenville's attempt to enforce that right by the Stamp Act, he adopts his usual course of interweaving an argument in its favor into the language used.[1] He thus prepares the way for his censures on Lord Chatham and Lord Camden, affirming that they acted on the principle that "Mr. Grenville was at any rate to be distressed because he was minister and they were in opposition," thus implying that they were actuated by factious and selfish views in their defense of America. About a year after this letter was written, Lord Rockingham was reconciled to Lord Chatham and Lord Camden, and all united to break down the Grafton ministry. Junius now turned round and wrote his celebrated eulogium on Lord Chatham, contained in his fifty-fourth letter, in which he says, "Recorded honors shall gather round his monument, and thicken over him. It is a solid fabric, and will support the laurels that adorn it. I am not conversant in the language of panegyric. These praises are extorted from me; but they will wear well, for they have been dearly earned." The last of his letters was addressed to Lord Camden, in which he says, " I turn with pleasure from that barren waste, in which no salutary plant takes root, no verdure quickens, to a character fertile, as I willingly believe, in every great and good qualification." Political men have certainly a peculiar faculty of viewing the characters of others under very different lights, as they happen to affect their own interests and feelings.[2]
  9. The "arbitrary condition" was that the General Court of Massachusetts should rescind one of their own resolutions and expunge it from their records. The whole of this passage in relation to Hillsborough is as correct in point of fact, as it is well reasoned and finely expressed.
  10. The changes here censured had taken place about three months before. The office of Foreign Secretary for the Southern Department was made vacant by the resignation of Lord Shelburne.[3] Lord Rochford, who had been minister to France, and thus made "acquainted with the temper of the Southern courts," ought naturally to have been appointed (if at all) to this department. Instead of this he was made Secretary of the Northern Department, for which he had been prepared by no previous knowledge; while Lord Weymouth was taken from the Home Department, and placed in the Southern, being "equally qualified" [that is, wholly unqualified by any "experience whatsoever"] for either department in the Foreign office, whether Southern or Northern.
  11. As Secretary of the Home Department, Lord Weymouth had addressed a letter to the magistrates of London, early in 1768, advising them to call in the military, provided certain disturbances in the streets should continue. The idea of setting the soldiery to fire on masses of unarmed men has always been abhorrent to the English nation. It was, therefore, a case admirably suited to the purposes of this Letter. In using it to inflame the people against Lord Weymouth, Junius charitably supposes that he was not repeating the errors of his youth -- that he was neither drunk, nor ignorant of what he did, nor impelled by "the furious spirit" of one of the proudest families of the realm -- all of which Lord Weymouth would certainly say -- and therefore (which his Lordship must also admit) that he did, from "the deliberate motion of his heart, supported by the best of his judgment," sign a paper which the great body of the people considered as authorizing promiscuous murder, and which actually resulted in the death of fourteen persons three weeks after. The whole is so wrought up as to create the feeling, that Lord Weymouth was in both of these states of mind - that he acted with deliberation in carrying out the dictates of headlong or drunken passion.
    .... All this, of course, is greatly exaggerated. Severe measures did seem indispensable to suppress the mobs of that day, and, whoever stood forth to direct them, must of necessity incur the popular indignation. Still, it was a question among the most candid men, whether milder means might not have been effectual.
  12. The Marquess of Granby, personally considered, was perhaps the most popular member of the cabinet, with the exception of Sir Edward Hawke. He was a warm-hearted man, of highly social qualities and generous feelings. As it was the object of Junius to break down the ministry, it was peculiarly necessary for him to blast and destroy his popularity. This he attempts to do by discrediting the character of the marquess, as a man of firmness, strength of mind, and disinterestedness in managing the concerns of the army. This attack is distinguished for its plausibility and bitterness. It is clear that Junius was in. some way connected with the army or with the War Department, and that in this situation he had not only the means of very exact information, but some private grudge against the Commander-in-chief."[4] His charges and insinuations are greatly overstrained; but it is certain that the army was moldering away at this time in a manner which left the country in a very defenseless condition. Lord Chatham showed this by incontestible evidence, in his speech on the Falkland Islands, delivered about a year after this Letter was written.
  13. It is unnecessary to say that Lord Mansfield is here pointed at. No one now believes that this great jurist ever did the things here ascribed to him by Junius.[5] All that is true is, that he was a very high Tory, and was, therefore, naturally led to exalt the prerogatives of the crown ; and that he was a very politic man (and this was the great failing in his character), and therefore unwilling to oppose the king or his ministers, when he knew in heart they were wrong. This was undoubtedly the case in respect to the issuing of a general warrant for apprehending Wilkes, which he ought publicly to have condemned; but, as he remained silent, men naturally considered him, in his character of Chief Justice, as having approved of the course directed by the king. Hence Mansfield was held responsible for the treatment of Wilkes, of whom Junius here speaks in very nearly the terms used by Lord Chatham, as a man whose " conduct" he censured, but with whom every moderate man must "make common cause," when he was "persecuted in a way which the real spirit of the laws will not justify."

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