Wilkes, John (17271797)

Wilkes, John, a notable figure in the English political world of the 18th century, born in Clerkenwell, son of a distiller; was elected M.P. for Aylesbury in 1761; started a periodical called the North Briton, in No. 45 of which he published an offensive libel, which led to his arrest and imprisonment in the Tower, from which he was released—on the ground that the general warrant on which he was apprehended was illegal—amid general rejoicing among the people; he was afterwards prosecuted for an obscene production, an “Essay on Women,” and outlawed for non-appearance; he sought an asylum in France, and on his return was elected for Middlesex, but instead of being allowed to sit was committed to prison; this treatment made him the object of popular favour; he was elected Lord Mayor of London, re-elected for Middlesex, and at length allowed to take his seat in the House; he was for years the cause of popular tumults, the watchword of which was “Wilkes and Liberty”; the cause of civil liberty certainly owes something to him and to the popular agitations which an interest in him stirred up (17271797).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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