Wilkes and Liberty
I fear neither your prosecution nor your persecution; and I will assert the security of my
house, the liberty of my person, and every right of the people, not so much for my own
sake, as for the sake of every one of my English fellow subjects.
John Wilkes, reply to Secretary of State Halifax,
May 9, 1763
It was not until more than one hundred years after Coke’s death that the courts of England first dealt with the legality of general search warrants, which had been issued under royal authority since the Magna Carta. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, neither Parliament nor the courts were focused on the Crown’s use of general search warrants. Instead, their attention was drawn to the long period of strife between the king and Parliament for supremacy. George III was now king. Following a series of British monarchs who had been shorn of much of their power by Parliament, George III was determined to regain royal power. His mother had told him, “George, be king.”1
From the beginning of George Ill’s reign, his nemesis was a roustabout but very popular member of the House of Commons, John Wilkes. Wilkes came from a family of strict Calvinists. His mother wanted him to become a leader in this religion that shunned singing, dancing, and fun. At his mother’s urging, John married the daughter of an extremely strict Calvinist family. The marriage soon bored him, and he left his new wife to join a group of carefree young men whose principal