Papers of John Adams, volume 1



Serjeant John Glynn, John Wilkes, and the Rev. John Horne Tooke, By Richard Houston, 1769 234[unavailable]

John Wilkes (1727–1797), Member of Parliament, became a hero to American whigs when he was charged with seditious libel for his part in publishing The North Briton, No. 45, in 1763, a savage attack on George III's speech to Parliament, which praised the peace with France arranged largely by the King's favorite, Lord Bute. What attracted Americans was Wilkes' ringing defense of the liberties of Englishmen, of their rights under the British constitution, particularly freedom of the press. To escape imprisonment again after he had been freed on Parliamentary privilege, Wilkes fled to the Continent, from which he returned in 1768. He was re-elected to Parliament only to be denied his seat and thrown in prison. That same year a Sons of Liberty committee, of which xivAdams was a member, opened a correspondence with Wilkes. He was not freed from prison until 1770.

John Horne Tooke (1736–1812) at the time this mezzotint was made was a firm supporter of Wilkes and active in the Society of Supporters of the Bill of Rights, which devoted itself to paying off Wilkes' debts, and to which Adams was formally elected. Later Tooke turned against Wilkes in the belief that money collected should go to others who suffered in behalf of principle.

Serjeant John Glynn (1722–1779) was a close associate of Wilkes, who acted in a legal capacity in his behalf, and who with Wilkes' help was elected to Parliament in 1768.

The paper lying under Glynn's hand reads, “Addresses to County of Middlesex, Constitutional Law, Legal Liberty.” That to which Wilkes points, reads, “General Warrants, Seizure of Papers, Habeas Corpus, Alteration of Records, Informations ex Officio, Close Imprisonment.” And the paper in front of Horne Tooke reads, “Treatise on Inclosing, Commons Freedom of Elections, Trial by Jury, Letters to Sr. J. Gilbans and Sir W. B. Proctor.” Gilbans has not been identified, but Proctor was the ministerial candidate opposing Wilkes in the Parliamentary election of 1768.

This group was painted and engraved by Richard Houston (1712?–1775), the engraving being distributed by Robert Sayer (British Museum, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits, 5 vols., London, 1908–1922, 5:55). On the three subjects and their painter, see DNB .

Courtesy of the Bostonian Society.