Lord Mayor of London


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Lord Mayor of London

[1772]-[1775] DURING the next four years Wilkes was the most conspicuous figure in the turbulent arena of city politics.  Two powerful factions were arrayed against him all the while, disputing his progress step by step, the mercantile adherents of the Government and the party of Oliver and Townsend…

…It was Wilkes’s fate invariably to be badly served by those he trusted, being, in spite of all his shrewdness, absolutely without discretion when choosing a subordinate.  

During his shrievalty and for many years afterwards, the Supporters of the Bill of Rights continued to pay his debts and provide him with an annuity.  With happy tact, shortly after the great schism, he had persuaded the society to “take into consideration the state of his affairs,” declaring at the same time that he had no claim upon them.  The docile and opulent Bull was proud to act as treasurer, Sir Watkin Lewiswhile Brass Crosby and Watkin Lewis contended with each other for the chair.  Although the contributions of the faithful flowed in a less copious stream, the principal members of the club could afford to make up the deficiency.  Dr. Wilson and Sir Joseph Mawbey were wealthy men, and Humphrey Cotes, who remained a devoted slave, was always ready to canvass for the benefit of his leaders.  Many of the Whig magnates, including Lord Rockingham and the Dukes of Portland and Devonshire, contributed an annual sum of £100 for Wilkes’s benefit.   An occasional legacy swelled the balance-sheet.   And though his income was considerable, he supplemented it largely by credit.

At the next election he stood for the mayoralty.  In order to prevent the return of a “ministerial alderman,” James Townsend was chosen as the other popular candidate, Lord Shelburne’s influence in the city being in a large measure responsible for his selection.  Having proclaimed publicly in his dispute with Oliver that “it was the duty of every gentleman to submit to the Livery the choice of his colleague,”  Wilkes could make no objection, although the enmity between Townsend and himself was more bitter than ever.  In the Court of Common Council they had accused one another respectively of committing perjury and uttering falsehoods, and everyone believed that sooner or later a duel must take place.  Wilkes headed the poll, as all had expected, followed closely by his enemy, who received only twenty-three votes less, and though their opponents demanded a scrutiny the election was confirmed.  During the contest Townsend disdained to appear on the hustings, proclaiming ostentatiously that he had “gone shooting.”

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 16 Lord Mayor of London


Further Reading and External Links 

John Wilkes on Spartacus Educational

John Wilkes on Google Books

John Wilkes on Wikipedia