Biography of Colorful English Politician John Wilkes Part 1

About the colorful English politician John Wilkes, his biography including his love of women and affairs.

JOHN WILKES (1725-1797). Colorful English politician.

John Wilkes, the champion of English-American liberty, ranks high among the great lovers elected to political office. Wilkes's Irish wit and suave manner made up for his physical shortcomings--though small and squint-eyed, he was able to launch his career with an expedient marriage. "I married a woman twice my age," he wrote shortly after his wedding night. "It was a sacrifice to Plutus, not to Venus." Of course, the marriage didn't last. Once he had obtained the funds he needed, Wilkes abandoned the domestic life.

After separating from his wife, he began his dual career in earnest. First he joined the Hellfire Club--a secret fraternity which included in its membership such peccant officials as Lord Orford, Lord Sandwich, and Charles Churchill. At this time Wilkes wrote and had printed his obscene "Essay on Woman," a parody on Pope's "Essay on Man," which was to plague his political career as much as the orgies for which the Hellfire Club was infamous. Wilkes hardly slept while a member of the Hellfire Club, where wild parties with naked masked women, drinking bouts, and weird religious ceremonies were routine.

Eventually, Wilkes directed all his energies to affairs of state. Initially, he tried to get elected to Parliament. During his 1st campaign, the opposition imported a boatload of voters from another district. Wilkes promptly bribed the ship's captain to deliver his cargo to Norway. Persistent, he was. "I'd sooner vote for the devil than John Wilkes," a constituent once told him. "And what if your friend is not running?" Wilkes replied.

Finally, cleverness and bribery paid off, and in 1757, by an arrangement that cost him only $35,000 of his wife's money, John Wilkes was elected. His personal life was wild and nomadic-"the chapter of accidents," he wrote, was "the longest in the book"--but as an MP he at once proved a worthy politician. The great wit of his 1st polemics resulted in Prime Minister Lord Bute's downfall, and spurred on by his victory, enchanted by the voice of the common man, Wilkes turned his vitriolic pen against King George III himself. In issue #45 of the North Briton he viciously attacked a speech of the King's and the royal sovereign immediately sought revenge.

A general warrant was issued, and Wilkes was arrested and jailed in the Tower of London. But when his case was brought to trail, the court declared that a warrant that did not name the persons to be arrested was illegal. A great victory had been won in the name of personal liberty, but the Government wasn't finished with Wilkes.

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