The History of Leith

November 9, 2012

John Wilkes

John Wilkes (17 October 1725 – 26 December 1797) was an English radical, journalist, and politician.

He was first elected Member of Parliament in 1757. In the Middlesex election dispute, he fought for the right of voters—rather than the House of Commons—to determine their representatives. In 1771, he was instrumental in obliging the government to concede the right of printers to publish verbatim accounts of parliamentary debates. In 1776, he introduced the first Bill for parliamentary reform in the British Parliament. During the American War of Independence, he was a supporter of the American rebels, adding further to his popularity with American Whigs. In 1780, however, he commanded militia forces which helped put down the Gordon Riots, damaging his popularity with many radicals.

Wilkes’ increasing conservatism as he grew older caused dissatisfaction among radicals and was instrumental in the loss of his Middlesex parliamentary seat at the 1790 general election. At the age of 65, Wilkes retired from politics and took no part in the growth of radicalism in the 1790s following the French Revolution. During his life, he earned a reputation as a libertine. for more click here

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