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John Wilkes
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    (October 17, 1725-December 26, 1797)
    Born in Clerkenwell, England, United Kingdom
    Journalist and politician
    Founded the newspaper 'The North Briton' (1762)
    Member of Parliament for Aylesbury (1757-64) and Middlesex (1768-9,1774-90)
    Lord Mayor of London (1774-75)
    He was a member of the notorious Hellfire Club, which combined Satanic rituals with orgies.
    He fathered at least five children out of wedlock.
    He married a woman almost twice his age solely for her money.
    He won his first election to Parliament by bribing the voters.
    He was jailed for writing 'An Essay on Women,' a pornographic parody of Alexander Pope's 'An Essay on Man.' (1768-70)
    During the Gordon Riots (1780), he commanded a militia protecting the Bank of England and ordered the soldiers to fire on a crowd, alienating the radicals that had been his main supporters.
    He was said to be the ugliest man in England, with a protruding jaw and unbecoming squint.
    He was known for his charm and wit, and said it 'took only half an hour to talk away [my] face.'
    When a constituent told him. 'I'd sooner vote for the devil than you,' he replied, 'Naturally. But what if your friend decides not to run?'
    During an argument with John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, Montagu said, 'I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox.' Wilkes retorted, 'That depends on whether I embrace your lordship's principles or your mistress.'
    He smuggled a baboon outfitted with horns and a cape into the Hellfire Club, creating a panic when members thought they had actually summoned Satan.
    As a publisher, he forced the government to concede that newspapers had the right to print verbatim accounts of Parliamentary debates.
    He condemned the government's policies towards the American colonies during the run-up to the American Revolution.
    He successfully fought against the use of 'general warrants' that did not name a specific person to be arrested.
    He proposed several political reform bills that would have ended property qualifications for voters and guaranteed freedom of speech and the press.

Credit: C. Fishel

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