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John Wilkes was a satirist turned politician who argued vehemently in print and in Parliament for the rights of the press and against the policies of the Tories. He was ejected from the House of Commons on numerous occasions. After publishing the 45th edition of his satirical newspaper, The North Briton, in 1763, he was arrested. The 45th edition and John Wilkes came to symbolize freedom of speech and freedom of the press for people throughout Great Britain and its colonies.

Wilkes’ 45th edition criticized King George III and his ministers in 1763 for having too lenient of a peace with France following the end of the Seven Years' War. An attack on the monarch himself was a step too far for many, but his imprisonment under a general warrant caused many to find sympathy with Wilkes. In America, the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock voiced their support for him. The number 45 and the name John Wilkes became a symbol for many on both sides of the Atlantic arguing for a more liberal government and freedom of speech.

Object Details

  • Item: Mug
    Place: Leeds, England
    Year: 1763-1765
    Material: Earthenware (creamware)
    Credit: Museum of the American Revolution, acquired with support from The Landenberger Family Foundation, Pamela J. and James D. Penny, and Richard Brown and Mary Jo Ostea, 2021.09.11

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