The North Briton

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The North Briton was a radical newspaper published in 18th century London. The North Briton also served as the pseudonym of the newspaper's author, used in advertisements, letters to other publications, and handbills.

The term "Radical" during the late 18th-century and early 19th-century identified proponents of democratic reform, in what subsequently became the parliamentary Radical Movement.

Newspaper scheduled publication containing news of events, articles, features, editorials, and advertising

A newspaper is a periodical publication containing written information about current events.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.


Although written anonymously, [1] The North Briton is closely associated with the name of John Wilkes. [2] The newspaper is chiefly famous for issue number 45, the forty or so court cases spawned by that issue, and for the genesis of "45" as a popular slogan of liberty in the latter part of the 18th century.

John Wilkes 18th-century English radical, journalist, and politician

John Wilkes was a British radical, journalist, and politician.



Issues number 1 (5 June 1762) to number 44 (2 April 1763) were published on consecutive Saturdays.

The newspaper was begun in response to The Briton , a pro-government paper started by Tobias Smollett. Only eight days after that newspaper began publication, the first issue of The North Briton came out. It then came out weekly until the resignation of the Bute government.

Tobias Smollett 18th-century poet and author from Scotland

Tobias George Smollett was a Scottish poet and author. He was best known for his picaresque novels, such as The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751), and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), which influenced later novelists including Charles Dickens. His novels were amended liberally by printers; a definitive edition of each of his works was edited by Dr O. M. Brack, Jr, to correct variants.

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute 18th-century Prime Minister of Great Britain

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, was a British nobleman who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1762 to 1763 under George III. He was arguably the last important favourite in British politics. He was the first Prime Minister from Scotland following the Acts of Union in 1707 and the first Tory to have held the post. He was also elected as the first President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland when it was founded in 1780.

Issue 45

The North Briton issue number 45 (23 April 1763) is the most famous issue of the paper. It criticized a royal speech in which King George III praised the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years' War. Wilkes was charged with libel (accusing the King of lying), and imprisoned for a short time in the Tower of London. Wilkes challenged the warrant for his arrest and seizure of his paper, eventually winning the case. His courtroom speeches started the "Wilkes and Liberty!" cry, popular slogan for freedom of speech and resistance to power. Later that year, Wilkes reprinted the issue, which was again seized by the government. Before it could be burned, assembled crowd rescued the text, and the ensuing events caused Wilkes to flee across the English Channel to France, and be eventually imprisoned again. In 1764, the British House of Commons declared Wilkes the author of number 45. Nonetheless, by the time Wilkes was released from prison in 1770, "45" was still a popular icon not only of Wilkes, but of freedom of speech in general. [3]

George III of the United Kingdom King of Great Britain and Ireland

George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg ("Hanover") in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.

Treaty of Paris (1763) 1763 treaty that ended the Seven Years War

The Treaty of Paris, also known as the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763 by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement, after Great Britain's victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years' War.

Seven Years War Global conflict between 1756 and 1763

The Seven Years' War was a global conflict fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain on one side and the Kingdom of France, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Swedish Empire on the other. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal. The war's extent has led some historians to describe it as "World War Zero", similar in scale to other world wars.


Issue numbers 47 (10 May 1768) to 218 (11 May 1771) were published by William Bingley. [4]

Bingley was gaoled in Newgate and then in King's Bench Prison on account of issues number 50 and 51. He was released after two years without trial. [5]

Newgate ancient gate in the wall of the City of London

Newgate was one of the historic seven gates of the London Wall around the City of London and one of the six which date back to Roman times. From it, a Roman road led west to Silchester, Hampshire. Excavations in 1875, 1903 and 1909 revealed the Roman structure and showed that it consisted of a double roadway between two square flanking guardroom towers.

Kings Bench Prison

The King's Bench Prison was a prison in Southwark, south London, England, from medieval times until it closed in 1880. It took its name from the King's Bench court of law in which cases of defamation, bankruptcy and other misdemeanours were heard; as such, the prison was often used as a debtor's prison until the practice was abolished in the 1860s. In 1842, it was renamed the Queen's Prison, and later became the Southwark Convict Prison.

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  1. Noorthouck, John (1773). A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark. pp. 419–450.
  2. Cash, Arthur (2006). John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 69. ISBN   0-300-12363-9.
  3. Tilly, C. (2004). Social Movements, 1768–2004. Paradigm. ISBN   1-59451-043-1.
  4. Nichols, John (1812). Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. London: Nichols, Son, and Bentley. pp. 631–632.
  5. Noorthouck, John (1773). A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark. pp. 450–485.