THE FIRST PUBLIC DEBATE ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY IN ENGLAND
Letters in the Public Ledger concerning the Case of Captain Jones, 1772
NOTE: The following "Letters to the Printer" (the eighteenth-century equivalent to "Letters to the Editor") were published in The Public Ledger during August and September 1772, in response to the reprieve and subsequent royal pardon granted to Captain Robert Jones, who had been capitally convicted of sodomy with a 13-year-old boy. For an overview, and links to other pages in this section, see my essay The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England. The Public Ledger described itself as "A Daily Political and Commercial Paper, Open to All Parties, but influenced by None." I believe that the correspondent signing himself "A MAN" was William Jackson. Jackson became the Editor of the Public Ledger by the mid-1760s. He was known for his vituperative polemic, and in 1776 attacked the dramatist Samuel Foote in Sodom and Onan.
25 July 1772
To the Printer of the PUBLIC LEDGER.
THOUGH I look upon this Country to be devoted to destruction though I think our crimes have contributed to draw down the vengeance of Heaven though Impartial Justice be no more, and Gold will screen a Villain, however atrocious, from punishment yet an addition may be made to the degree of our offences. Prostituted as Mercy has been, it still may increase in prostitution; and the pardon of a Man fairly convicted of a crime not to be named amongst Christians, will subject us to the censure of encouraging enormities, that shock Human Nature. Yet this, I fear, will happen; the diabolical Agents of an abandoned Ministry have, by paragraphs, insinuations, and letters, been tampering with the Public; they want to feel the pulse of the People, to sound them, and try first how they will receive the idea that Captain Jones is to be pardoned.
But, degenerate as Mankind are grown, surely their natures must revolt at the suggestion. What can be alledged in favour of this Man? He himself could urge nothing on his Trial, but a general assertion of his innocence. Have any proofs appeared to evince that the Boy was hired for the purpose? No such thing. Doth it seem as if Vengeance, Malice, or Hatred, were at the bottom of the Prosecution? Nothing like it. On the contrary, it rather seems as if no Prosecution would ever have been commenced, had not the Captain wanted the Boy to go again to his Lodgings; his seeming reluctance first occasioned his Friends to ask him the reason, and this gave birth to a discovery which, but for this, if we may judge from appearances, would never have come to light. Here, therefore, are to found no traces of Malice, nothing like a settled, pre-determined Plan; and as to a Confederacy, the supposition is quite contrary to the matter of fact. The Boy’s Relation is a Man of respectable character; and, so far from having any Enmity to Captain Jones, must have been obliged to him for his custom: Neither can we discover the shadow of a Reason to call in question the Boy’s veracity; his Tale is artless, his Evidence clear and consistent.
God forbid that I should exaggerate an offence! nothing so foreign from the purpose of my heart: The same God, I hope, will ever keep me from contributing to enhance the miseries of the already wretched; but there is something due to one’s Country, some reverence necessary to be paid to the Laws of the Deity, whose decree on the head before us is so explicit, that it cannot be mistaken. The will of Heaven is, that the ‘Soul committing such a crime as that for which Jones is condemned, should be cut off from among his People.’ The Earthly Monarch, therefore, who acts conformable to his duty cannot pardon where the case is so clear as to admit of no extenuation; for that nothing hath been offered, by way of diminishing the weight of the Evidence, admits, I think, of no doubt.
We are told, indeed, that Captain Jones made excellent Fireworks; that he hath written a Treatise upon Skaiting; that he was a constant Frequenter of Madam Cornelys; that he was a good Mask; and that he is intimate with several Persons of Fashion; which last assertion makes greatly against the Captain, for why did not some of these Persons of Fashion appear at his Trial? It is confidently reported that Jones requested Lord By to attend; and that his Lordship promised the Messenger he would, in case the Evidence, during the course of the Trial, appeared to him of such a nature as to afford room to conclude that the Captain was innocent; yet my Lord did not appear for him, the inference is obvious.
On the whole, though I would not wish to hasten this unhappy Man’s fate, yet I will not suffer the Public to be deceived, or an Object to be recommended to the Royal mercy, altogether unworthy of Clemency. The Friends of Captain Jones had much better not have began to write in his favour in the Public Papers; it is a subject which ought not to be touched upon; nothing can, with propriety, be said in his behalf, therefore the matter should rest. But if a Wretch, with great effrontery, will avowedly step forth the Champion of a convicted CATAMITE if the Ministry are disposed to pardon a Being for a crime, at the mention of which Human Nature shudders if, not content with encouraging Murders, they will encourage Enormities equally forbidden by the Law of God, and full as atrocious if a Prince of an excellent heart is still to be misled if in his Reign to counteract the God of Nature’s institution, and bid defiance to his Social Laws if this be recommendatory to that Prince’s Mercy, it then behoves every person who reveres his Creator to vindicate the rights of Humanity, to enter a PROTEST against such prostituted Clemency, to oppose such diabolical proceedings, and this to act as becometh the Characer of
30 July 1772
To the Printer of the PUBLIC LEDGER.
I AM again induced to take up my pen; for, to the scandal of some of our Public Prints, they are open to the purchase of every Villain: and, for the sake of a golden crown, they may be converted into Vehicles through which to poison the ears of MAJESTY, by soliciting the pardon of a Being fairly, justly, and, according to the Laws of his Country, convicted of a Crime not mentioned even in HELL but with evident marks of disapprobation.
A Supplicative Letter yesterday appeared in behalf of Captain Robert Jones; time is requested, it seems, until the matter can be re-considered; that is, until the Experiment can be made, whether there is in the British Dominions a Nobleman so lost to Virtue, Modesty, and true Delicacy, who will plead for a CONVICTED CATAMITE. Blessed Request! What an insult to the King of England! How doth the language run in plain English? Why thus, ‘SIRE, Captain Robert Jones hath been arraigned of Bestiality, he hath had a fair Trial, and, after every favour the Law will allow, he has been found guilty, upon the judgment of Twelve Men; the Judge hath pronounced sentence upon him, and you, Sire, have ordered that sentence to be executed. But, Sire, your Majesty’s leige Subjects, who conduct the News-Papers, have given us liberty to plead the Captain’s Cause; nay, such good Men, and true, are they, that if the veriest Wretch which ever disgraced Sodom, with his crimes was to be convicted, and sentenced to die, whilst he could pay for a Column, they would take his money, and poison the ears of your Majesty, and the chaste part of your Subjects, with the filthy trash. Our Hero, Sire, is a Gentleman well known to Mrs. Cornellys, and all the People of Fashion, not ONE of whom would appear for him upon Trial; he has nothing to say in his defence; nor have we any thing to say for him, but that he was never before detected, and therefore hath, till now, escaped punishment. He might, or might not, have before been guilty of the crime; we are utter Strangers to the Man, though we well know the Company he has always kept; and, though we scarcely known his countenance, we can assure your Majesty he looks like a Man. Had he been a poor, low-bred Rogue, we should not have interefered, nor would a News-Paper have inserted our Petition; they would all have been overstocked with Political Correspondents. As it is from you, Sire, who are known to have an aversion to every species of Indecency from you we beg time for a Convict; that unhappy Man has only been sentenced to die for a crime, at which Nature shudders, Modesty stands aghast, and Providence frowns Vengeance. Thus, Sire, should you graciously comply with our request, future Trials will be needless, Courts of Judicature may be dispensed with, and persons who have a gusto, a refined taste, may import Italian vices, revel in Degeneracy, and keep a Seraglio of Boys, if, like Captain Jones, they are Gentlemen, and have kept good Company.’
Such is the language of a Petition to the King, which appeared in a Paper of yesterday; such at least is the meaning of that Petition, though it assumes the suppliant form of meekness.
We talk of partiality in our Courts of Law, but we talk idly, it is the Press that disgraces us as a Nation. What would a stranger think to behold our periodical publications prostitute, basely prostitute, to plead the Cause of Murder, Adultery, Knavery of every kind, and to crown the whole, of unnatural Lust. Yet this is the case, send a Petition in behalf of some of the poor Rogues that are to be hung with Captain Jones for stealing a five-and-threepence, you will have a sagacious look from the Publisher, a stroke of the chin, and a pompous deportment, with an hint that such things would hurt his Paper, and that as the man has been fairly convicted, he sees not what can be said in his favour. If the crime be an atrocious one, even the Printer’s Devil will assume the Politician, and tell you that an example should be made. All this is to be understood, where the Convict is so poor he cannot pay for insertion; yet these very corrupted public Prints are daily filled with invectives against the greatest Men in the Nation for Corruption!
In a former Letter I told the friends of Captain Jones, that it shewed great imprudence in them to begin publishing any thing about him; where nothing can be urged in extenuation, the Advocates cut a most pitiful figure. That his Relations should use their interest in private is extremely natural, but that, well as they may pay a News Paper, the Public shall not be imposed upon, the Ministry shall not be misled, nor the King shall not be made a Tool of, unless with his eyes open; this is a determination to which I am resolved to adhere.
Publishers in general have done mischief enough to this Nation; they shall not add to the Catalogue if I can help it; they may stand forth Advocates for a CONVICTED CATAMITE, if it so please them; but would they have our Monarch, by shewing tenderness to a Vice the most enormous, tarnish his Crown and Dignity, offend the King of Kings, and draw down vengeance on the innocent in his dominions? Forbid it Religion, and forbid it Modesty! This shall never be whilst in the Realm there remains a good Subject, and
P.S. If you are not wonderfully stocked with Originals from Correspondents, in nubibus, you will print this Letter tomorrow; if you are it will be sent for, and we shall know the complexion of the Public Ledger.
5 August 1772
For the PUBLIC LEDGER.
The following Letter was sent us by a Correspondent, on a supposition that Captain Jones would have been executed this morning according to his Sentence.
To the MACCARONIES.
THIS Morning Captain Robert Jones is to suffer death, for the commission of a crime imported from Italy by our spindle-shanked Gentry, who make the grand Tour but to bring home the vices of our Neighbours, and return, if possible, greater Coxcombs than they were before Embarkation.
The chief design of Capital Punishment, in Civil Communities, is to strike terror into the Spectators: With respect to the Criminal himself it is soon at an end his life pays the forfeit, the grave receives his body, and his soul is delivered into the hands of the Father of Spirits; with respect, however, to the Spectators, the effect should be more lasting, or the end of Public Punishment is lost. That Captain Jones, who, when living, was too much engaged in every scene of idle Dissipation and wanton Extravagance that this same MILITARY MACCARONI may, when dead, be of service to his CORNELLYAN Brethren, strikes forcibly; deign, therefore, ye Beaux, ye sweet-scented, simpering He-she Things, deign to learn wisdom from the death of a Brother, and, however uncouthly it may sound, let the GALLOWS work a reformation in your minds, and a thorough change in your manners.
You will wonder, my Dears, why I thus rudely address you; you will deem it a mark of prodigious unpoliteness thus to accost a Race, who, however addicted to the crime for which Jones suffers, have, as yet, escaped detection, and therefore cannot fairly be charged with the criminality; but Suspicion, that jealous, troublesome passion, Suspicion is got abroad the carriage the deportment the dress the effeminate squeak of the voice the familiar loll upon each others shoulders the gripe of the hand the grinning in each others faces, to shew the whiteness of the teeth in short, the manner altogether, and the figure so different from that of Manhood, these things conspire to create Suspicion; Suspicion gives birth to watchful observation; and, from a strict observance of the Maccaroni Tribe, we very naturally conclude, that to them we are indebted for the frequency of a crime which Modesty forbids me to name. Take warning, therefore, ye smirking group of TIDDLY-DOLS: However secret you may be in your amours, yet in the end you cannot escape detection; nor are we as yet so wholly degenerated by your practices, as not to shudder at the thoughts of Beastiality. This I know you smile at, and deem it an instance of our Barbarism; but I sincerely hope it will require a few centuries before we are refined in the manner you could wish.
Thus far I have addressed you in sport; indulge me now in a little serious recrimination.
From what we can discover of the Author of Nature, by Reason or Revelation, it appears that Man was ordained to be useful in Society; each Person was designed to contribute something to the good of the Community; as the Body occupies a certain space, so the Mind of every Man was ordained to fill that kind of sphere to which its faculties were best adapted.
Admitting this position, those wretched beings called MACCARONIES are useless lumber in creation, or if they seem to live, they live but to be mischievous. The MILITARY creatures of that order seem designed for nothing but to parade the Park, to captivate silly band-box women, weaker than themselves to promise them happiness, they are too debilitated to bestow to stroke each others cheeks in the glare of day lisp about horses through the afternoon, and at night retire to the Bird Cage Walk, with some male cara-sposa, there to practice those infernal rites for which Jones this day is to make his military exit. These, my countrymen, are the creatures that are to defend us; these compose our standing army, and wretches like these are to be found in every avenue leading to the fort.
But let us advert to such of our Maccaronies as have sense enough not to disgrace any profession by their presence. They may be less mischievous, but are equally useless with the military of that order; they keep horses for parade, hounds for shew, and French valets to display their taste. Mistresses they have several for two purposes: first, they remove all suspicion; secondly, they are at hand to appear in case of need at the Old Bailey, and exculpate the charge laid against them. For, is not the Gentleman addicted to women? Their route extends to Hyde Park, the Coffee Houses about the Strand and St James’s. Their evenings, except when engaged in their private amours, are spent in that public nuisance, that Sink of letchery, debauch, and lewdness, SOHO. Here they whimper, grin, chatter, and talk nonsense. The MISSES hearken to their idle tales, smell at their nosegays, and admire the whiteness of their breeches, the cut of their coats, the clocks of their stockings, or their shoes buckled down to their toes. This, and their male seraglios fill up their vacant hours, and thus is life whiled away in rank vice, foul enormities, and follies of the most unmanly kind.
To address such miscreants is almost to squander one’s precious moments, but to hold them up to view, to expose them to the detestation they merit; this is a task that the men of this age will thank me for; the country is over-run with Catamites, with monsters of Captain Jones’s taste, or, to speak in a language which all may understand, with MACCARONIES: to hunt such reptiles down, is therefore the business of every good member of society. It is a pity the vengeance of Heaven should not, in an especial manner, interfere and destroy every Maccaroni Sodomite’s erectness of stature, and thus abolish the only visible distinction Providence has made between them and Brutes.
Alexander knew himself not to be a God, because he was prone to Intemperance and Sleep; the MACCARONIES claim a relationship with men, only becasue they are of an erect stature, and if demanded to produce a proof of their existence, could only do it by referring to some smock-faced Wretch, whom they keep in pay for the amusement of their love-sick hours.
Ye degenerate beastly Crew, that in quest of refinement spurn at nature’s social laws, and neglect those beauteous fair ones who are justly the boast of our Isle, and who, when innocent, are living emblems of every earthly perfection!
A certain great Person wished but to live to meet a truly honest Man; for the sake of Virtue, and the honour of human Nature, I wish to live only to see the time, when a Maccaroni shall not dare to disgrace us by shewing his head in the street; when they shall be banished from our public places, hooted from society, and sent to herd with castrated Eunuchs in the confines of Italy or Persia; till then I hope this day’s event will strike terror into their dastardly, effeminate souls. Where, ye CATAMITES, is your quondam Associate? Ye frequenters of Galas, Masquerades, and Pantheons, where is your Punchinello, your Bear, your Monkey, and your Holland *Skaiter? He is now suspended, a wretched spectacle to Men and Angels; swift fly his moments, and the next half hour he launches through an ignominious passage into the wide-yawning gulf of ETERNITY. Nature’s living hue hath fled his cheek; the suffocating cord creates convulsive pangs; see he struggles hard for life One effort more and now the conflict is over! Behold, ye shining Gewgaws, behold your favourite, a poor, pale, contemptible outcast, whom none but yourselves can pity, and all MEN must despise.
See then, ye MACCARONIES, the end of your enjoyments; yet British Fair join but our efforts, treat but such Miscreants with the contempt they merit, and we shall exterminate them from Society. Their conduct shews them unfit for breeches; lend them not your petticoats, ye Fair, to screen them from our indignation; afford them no protection, nor give them any quarter; and may such of the Ladies, whatever be their rank in life, as any way countenance or encourage the addresses of a MACCARONI, die disappointed Virgins; or if they MARRY, may they meet with a CAPTAIN JONES, instead of
*All Characters in which Captain Jones appeared at Mrs. Cornelys’s Masquerades.
[NOTE: For a fuller discussion of the "macaronies", see The Macaroni Club.]
13 August 1772
For the PUBLIC LEDGER.
To the PEOPLE of ENGLAND.
FRIENDS and FELLOW-SUBJECTS,
THE efforts of A MAN to withstand the torrent of Degeneracy have proved ineffectual. A Ministry, lost to all sense of Private Virtue, dead to every feeling for Religion and Morality, have triumphed over Modesty, and permitted the case of SODOM to prevail.
It is not my province to say how far some of our Rulers are involved in the same kind of guilt with their darling Captain. I touch not upon the amusements of their private hours, but I will venture to pronounce, that the Respite granted to a CONVICTED SODOMITE is the most impudent stretch of Despotism that ever was exercised since this Kingdom has been blessed with a Code of Laws; it is setting Heaven at defiance, it is sporting with the decrees of Nature, and the God thereof. With respect to you, my Countrymen, it is an insult upon your Understandings; it is designed to shew you how heartily the Ministry despise you, and that they DARE to do any thing, however atrocious, however villainous.
These Epithets are not bestowed at random; they are the result of Thought and forecast; for I do solemnly avow, that, in my estimation, Mercy was never so prostituted as in the case of that amiable piece of Military Debauchery SQUIRE JONES. I know I shall be censured for this declaration; the indignant group of MACCARONIES, who frequent the Park, the Play, the New Exchange, and the Bird-cage Walk, these will pour forth their curses upon the Man who stands forth an Advocate for Impartial Justice, and pleads the cause of Modesty and of Truth. Notwithstanding the censure of these hair-plaited, white-breeched, short-skirted Gentry, I appeal unto the PEOPLE AT LARGE; by your verdict, my Countrymen, I will abide. My Letters have not proceeded from Rancour, Malice, or Inhumanity of Heart; this has been alledged but it is false in every particular: I scarcely know the figure of Captain Jones; but this I know, that had he not been what I call a TRIFLER, but the Maccaronies will term a GENTLEMAN, had he not been this he would have made his exit amidst the execrations of a surrounded Multitude. Such a proceeding, therefore, in our Ministry is a shameful and bandoned partiality.
Is it because the Sodomites are a most powerful party? Is it because Mat. Vernon and a Great Lawyer were hand and glove? Is it because the life of a Brother in Iniquity sets them all at work, and induces each reptile Catamite, from the Toyman [i.e. Samuel Drybutter] up to his Excellency, who, for this crime, was burnt in effigy at Florence? Is it because Sam. Foote, the mimic, hobbled to Lord Mansfield to bespeak his favour? Is it because of these things that the course of Justice should be perverted, and the Laws of God and Man be set at nought? In a Country that lays claim to Civilization, this ought not to be; yet in England, formerly renouned for deeds of arts and arms, for justice, sound policy, and freedom; in England, every indecent familiarity between persons of the same sex is encouraged by the fostering hand of power, and our great men, in quest of amusement, set nature at defiance. What a set of Italianized wretches must our Ministry be! In what an uhhappy situation has our amiable Monarch plunged himself, to have his ears poisoned by the intercessions of such a crew! But I retract, I ask their pardons, they were afraid to appear in the affair themselves, and therefore they employed the LADIES to deliver the petition, and to suggest what a fine Gentleman this same Jones was: ‘Oh, what a charming mask! the most tittle-tattle entertaining creature; knew about every body; all the news of the town; played upon the fiddle, and could act the Monkey at Cornelly’s to admiration; that such a dear little fellow should be hung only for an hour’s diversion, would disgrace the Annals of Gallantry, and throw the Coterie into the utmost confusion!’
I am aware that this will be called declamation [i.e. mere rhetoric], but as I have been abused for endeavouring to support the right of manhood, I shall, once for all, answer each particular which hath been advanced as a reason why the Captain should be pardoned, then close the controversy, and for ever have done with the reptile, and his filthy mode of Maccaroni entertainment.
A Boy at thirteen, in affairs of this kind, is deemed a COMPETENT EVIDENCE, because, not being arrived at the age of puberty, he is not supposed capable to assent, and so become an ACCOMPLICE. The Boy, with whom Jones was enamoured, stands in this predicament; he was under age, consequently to all lintents and purposes a LEGAL COMPETENT EVIDENCE.
How, therefore, do the Captain’s Advocates get over this difficulty? Why, by this sophism: ‘We grant, say they, that by the Register, the Boy is under age; but his mode of acting shews him to have greater sagacity than generally falls to the share of children at his time of life, and if his faculties are as strong at thirteen as those of other lads at sixteen, he is as to his mind, at age, and therefore should be deemed an accomplice, which destroys his evidence.’
Here’s ingenuity for you! This is quibbling with a witness! For who shall determine about the ripeness of children’s faculties! The Law has laid down a general rule, and SUPPOSES them at FOURTEEN capable of voluntary assent or dissent, consequently accomplices to guilt; and if the letter of the Law runs thus, why should an exception be made in favour of a particular criminal? When the Ministry tell me this, I will acknowledge them to be, what at present I do not believe them, honest men.
The fact is, that about the Commission of the Crime there was no doubt; these then were the only quirks that could have been used in favour of the Culprit; the lad is an accomplice, because though not at the age the Law prescribes, yet his abilities are as good as if he was fourteen. The inference is, that the Captain should not be hung upon the evidence of an accomplice; but this is a presumptive IMPUDENT FALLACY, and a shameful departure from the letter of the Law, which fixes the time of age so as to constitute an accomplice at FOURTEEN. Now suppose the lad, instead of possessing a share of good sense, had been defective in abilities, what would then have been the case? Why the Maccaronies, and the whole Party, would have canted and whined about the ‘hardship of taking away the life of a fine Gentleman upon the evidence of a Lad, so young, and so weak.’ Thus, therefore, if the Boy is sensible, they will have him of age to make him an accomplice; had he been a Lad of indifferent capacity, he would have been a Suckling, a Babe, an Infant, and how deplorable to deprive Soho of a good Mask upon the charge of a CHILD!
As I embarked in this Cause from motives of principle, I thought it proper in this address to you, my Countrymen, to lay open and expose the weakness of every argument urged in behalf of Jones. It is all fallacy, trick, quibbling, and prevarication; his best friends, as I observed before, think him guilty, but catch at every paltry evasion to misguide the Public. The Privy Council examined the Boy on Monday [other newspapers said this was a false report]; his answers to the questions put were clear and decisive; his story in substance the same as upon the trial, and not the smallest trace of chicanery or lyes was discoverable. The Members dwelt indeed upon the cruelty of a Man suffering from the charge of a single Evidence; but this was mere pretence; the Ministry had previously determined to save him, for which purpose they employed two Dames of Fashion to work upon female royalty, and bring about the business; their names, and a list of all who commenced intercessors for a convicted Sodomite, may shortly be laid before the Public.
As a Member, therefore, of the Community, as a Lover of my Country, I dedicate this Paper to my fellow-subjects; the Letters I have written against Jones were not dictated by rancour, but from a full conviction of his guilt; I thought it my duty to call for justice on a Culprit, who, had he not been connected with Reptiles of Fashion, would have died unpitied.
When the Israelitish Camp was defiled by an adulterous pair, the Plague was deputed to be Heaven’s Messenger of Vengeance. PHINEAS stood nobly forth struck a javelin through the hearts of the Culprits – the Plague was stayed, and the deed, as the sacred Historian informs us, was accounted unto him for RIGHTEOUSNESS. It was an Act JEHOVAH approved; I therefore glory in the attempts I have made to excite an odium against an infernal Crew of beastly Wretches, who defile the Land, disgrace their Species, and insult their God. If these attempts have not been successful, if the Party are too powerful, if they can influence the Ministry to cast a foul blot upon the annals of this reign, by pardoning a Sodomite as well as Murderers; as a good Citizen I lament the miseries of my Country; as a friend to Virtue I feel for her expiring Cause; and as a loyal Subject I am concerned that my Sovereign should be so imposed upon.
It would be needless to expatiate further upon this head. If what has passed will not open the eyes of my Countrymen, and rouse their indignation, nothing will. YOUR SUPINENESS, BRITONS, is inexcusable: your Rights have been invaded – your Privileges trampled upon – your Blood has been spilt, and a Jury of Surgeons summoned to prove it no Murder Your Treasure has been wasted your Confidence abused. You have been insulted laughed at despised and called the Scum of the Earth, by those MISCREANTS IN OFFICE, who, did you, my Countrymen, but properly exert yourselves, must sue for Mercy, and tremble for their HEADS Yet all these Injuries you have patiently endured. Has your Loyalty worked a Reformation in our Rules? Quite the reverse; it has made them only the more hardened; they have dared to do just what they please. You have no redress Your Daugthers may be debauched, it is only a piece of Gallantry your Brothers may be butchered, it is all fair at Elections and now, to crown the whole, your SONS and NEPHEWS may be defiled it is a fashionable Vice, and no justice can you expect if the Villain is connected with Whores of the first consequence, and has figured away as a principal Actor in the follies of the times!
Be it so, my Fellow-subjects if so it seemeth good in your eyes; if in despair you are determined to give up all for lost. Expostulation is fruitless: but if a spark of Virtue remains in any of your hearts, let it be kindled into a flame, and fired with the noble deeds your Ancestors have performed catch the generous Enthusiasm from their virtuous Shades resist Oppression oppose with vigor an Administration that, to convince us our opinion of their degeneracy was WELL founded, have acted as became the PATRONS of Sodomitical Practices. In such an undertaking you will be joined by every person intitled to the name of
We are infinitely obliged to this Correspondent for the preference he has shewn in sending his Letters to our Paper; and we shall be happy in the future favours of so able a Writer upon any temporary subject he shall think worthy his attention. We acknowledge to have received many Epistles for and against a wretched Culprit; and we have exercised our judgment in selecting those on both sides of the question which appeared to us the most striking, amongst which those signed A MAN and A WOMAN seemed best calculated to serve the purpose intended. We have thus, whatever may be our private opinions, evinced in this, as we wish to do in every particular case, our Impartiality.
13 August 1772
To the Printer of the PUBLIC LEDGER.
London, August 10, 1772.
I Cannot but think it is a most scandalous, most scurrilous, dirty action, very much unbecoming the character of a Gentleman, to write in yours, and several other public Papers, and address their Letters to the King; it is merely putting him on a footing with some of the worst people, who are all wrote to on the same sheet, and not the least distinction paid.
Notwithstanding this is a free Nation, and we have that great Liberty of the Press, which ought to be preserved by our heirs and successors till we abuse that Liberty. If any person wants to let our great and worthy Monarch know his sentiments, let him address himself in a more private manner, and his desires will be complied with sooner; for I can safely say, his M[ajesty]y never troubles his head, or hears any of the Papers as to the affair of Captain Jones. I have heard several of my acquaintance say, who I would much sooner believe than any Paper whatever, that the Boy is the most lying, dirty, pilfering scoundrel that ever existed; one Gentleman in particular, whose name you will excuse, said, that he was afraid of ever sending any thing by him to his Uncle, for fear he should pawn it. Now I hope, Mr. Printer, you will agree with me in thinking that the character of this Boy ought to be as strictly as possible enquired into; for it would have been a most shocking thing should this man have suffered innocently: even should he be reprieved, his character would be entirely lost, for no person whatever would chuse to be seen in his company. The reason his friends would not appear in his behalf, was, when they heard the nature of his crime, thought it too detestable to have any thing to say to it, not knowing, or having time to enquire what evidence he was confined upon. If they had known the character the Boy bore by other people, except his Uncle, they could have no manner of objections to giving him the character, to the best of their knowledge, he deserved. I think the Council ought to have had a Surgeon to examine the Boy, for Captain Jones declares he had not the presence of mind to ask for one himself, which I dare say he had not; even when Captain Jones took the Sacrament, he declared himself innocent: it must be the worst of men that would tell a lie at that moment, although he was sure of saving his life by it; and Captain Jones is remarkable for a good character: At the same time I think, that if the Boy’s character is really good, as some people say it is, if he is guilty I hope to God they may both be punished by the utmost rigour of the Law.
C. W. P.
29 August 1772
For the PUBLIC LEDGER.
To the LADIES of GREAT BRITAIN.
MY FAIR COUNTRYWOMEN,
IN a few Epistles I have endeavoured to assert the rights of Manhood, and to rouse your indignation against a Crew of beastly Reptiles, who, like Brother Jones, can fancy raptures in a beardless Boy, and ogle male beauties with a wanton leer of admiration.
To the inexpressible pleasure of the Brotherhood BUM-BARDING Jones is pardoned; no inconvenience, therefore, can now accrue to that dapper Worthy from any thing I may write; nor can the humanity of my temper be now called in question, for publishing what I please. Previous to the Respite being granted, I troubled the Public with my sentiments, and endeavoured to convert the Execution of ONE Convict into an example to deter OTHERS, of the Maccaroni Race, from indulging their amours in too public a manner.
I spoke, Ladies, a few bold truths, and they were carped at by all the smirk-faced Lillies through the Town; I was called a ‘cruel Wretch, devoid of every feeling, thus to persecute a poor unhappy Creature, who had only, God help him, made a trifling faux-pas, and been a little too refined in his pleasures, or rapturous in his enjoyments.’ Thus, without reason, I have heard myself abused to death.
As to persecuting the DEAR little Captain, it was really the farthest from my intention; I considered him as dead in Law, and had a mind to make him serviceable to the Community. My Letters were not intended to accelerate his Execution, that was deemed impossible; nor were they published to make his fate more sure, that I thought irrevocably fixed. I supposed no Minister would have been audacious enough to advise a pious and religious Prince to prostitute his mercy, by pardoning a Criminal that had taken up arms against Nature and the Sovereign Being, who assigned the proper boundaries to human enjoyment.
Thus then I am exculpated from any intention to injure the Maccaroni; it was not the Captain but the Crime I inveighed against; and the Captain only as a Culprit FAIRLY, LEGALLY, and, by his PEERS, TRIED, CONVICTED, and CONDEMNED to suffer.
Some there are whom I have heard exclaim against the Writer of the Letters signed a MAN, for hurting the Captain’s mind; to such I make for answer, that I suppose the MASK [i.e. the masquerader] better employed than in perusing the Public Prints, nor did I ever hear that the Convicts took in the News-papers in the Cells of Newgate, to regale themselves with what passes in a World they are so soon to quit. What, therefore, the Captain does not see can occasion him no uneasiness, for it is presumed no Friend would be the Messenger of ill-news.
Thus, Ladies, I have endeavoured to clear myself from every aspersion cast upon my heart; not that I regard the reproaches of any Maccaroni in the Kingdom; but because, as I profess myself an Admirer of the Fair, and intend, sometime or other, to throw myself at the feet of some bewitching Charmer, should she discover me to be the Author of these Epistles, the report circulated about the inhumanity of my heart might prepossess her against an Union, and induce her to suspect my professions, and treat my passion with disdain.
Having, therefore, said so much in my own vindication, I now, Ladies, expect that you will zealously espouse and patronize the Cause I have all along defended. I have pleaded at the Bar of Reason in Nature’s behalf, against a most abominable practice. The majority of you, I know, will be astonished at my making this request. ‘The Man, say you, must be an Ideot: What, ask us to inveigh against a Crime, or abhor the Perpetrators of what our own feelings teach us to recoil at. Impertinent request!’ Yet, Ladies, impertinent as it is, there is reason to prefer it. How astonished would you be, should I inform you that some Ladies of extreme Rank and Fashion have been the most solicitous to procure a Pardon for their BUM-BARDING Officer. Start not, Ladies, when I tell you, that there is a hopeful Miss busied in collecting Evidence, and procuring Affidavits; whose whole time is taking up in prancing from Newgate to *Parliament-street; and who – but I forbear: When the Mask is finally pardoned – nay, don’t solicit, for I won’t before – but when the Mask is finally pardoned, and Mercy shines fully forth, then, Ladies, I promise to entertain you with a scene diverting to the last degree; then you shall be made acquainted with the female influence that has been used, and the very Names and Condition of those Ladies shall be disclosed; who, good Souls, have night and day laboured to snatch their little Hero from the Gallows.
And now, my amiable Countrywomen, I lay claim to your protection; I would exterminate every wretched Catamite, if not from the face of the earth, at least from this Country; I would write down effeminacy in men, turn the keen edge of satire against those whiffling, scented, smooth-chinned, hair-braided Maccaronies, who want the taste to relish, and the vigour to experience the joys of Womankind; I would decry Celibacy, and promote the union of minds attuned to happiness; I would restore our Sex to the rank we ought to hold in creation; and I would incite the Men, though in a dissipated age, to Virtue, and each noble, each masculine endowment of head and heart.
This is a task, Ladies, to accomplish which your assistance will be necessary; if you listen not to each fantastic Coxcomb, if you are a little less in love with flattery, if good sense operates most powerfully upon your minds, if you would but discountenance a race of triflers, whose utmost excellence it is to excel in the SMALL-TALK way, if you would pay some deference to merit, and exert the magic of your eyes to please such only of the noble and ingenuous Youth as aim at mental perfection, if you would look a little farther than externals, if you would frown impertinent folly out of countenance, though in the butterfly shape of a fashionable Maccaroni. If, Ladies, you would thus act, the necessary reformation would take place, merit would be encouraged as the only recommendation to your caresses, and from an union of female charms with manly excellence, what happiness would not arise to chear us in this vale of misery? The face of things would quite be altered – Love, Honour, Virtue, and the Graces, would all conspire to decorate the charming scene.
Thus, Ladies, some good may be extracted from every event, had the little BUM-BARDING Captain never been detected, had no advocates for the Crime and him attempted to plead for the enormity, I probably had never penned some few Epistles, which may perhaps serve the Cause of Manhood and Virtue. In the interim, as I should be inexcusable not to pay the utmost deference to a female, though an adversary, I will acknowledge to have seen a Letter in this Paper, signed A WOMAN, the writer of which appears capable of wielding the grey-goose quill with success; I cannot enter the lists of controversy with a Lady, but as I think the Authoress erred most egregiously in stepping forth a Champion for a wretched Catamite, I will answer her arguments in a more natural manner, meet her, or any of the Captain’s female advocates when they please, and give them every satisfaction in the power of
*Where the Boy’s Uncle lives.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (ed.), "The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England: Letters in the Public Ledger concerning the Case of Captain Jones, 1772",
Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 19 December 2004
Return to The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England,
or return to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England.