‘That Devil Wilkes’

Mike Lee

At the time of our nation’s founding, few men were more admired than the English dissident whom King George III called “that devil Wilkes.” A sometime member of Parliament and a sometime political prisoner, John Wilkes argued that the King’s subjects had rights, and the King’s powers had limits. He spoke out against the king’s tyrannical tendencies before there was a Stamp Act, a Boston Tea Party, or a Declaration of Independence. In colonial America, Wilkes’s name was synonymous with liberty. The story of how his liberty was won inspired one of the most important parts of our Constitution—the Fourth Amendment.