"Waving a mouchoir à la Wilkes": Hume, radicalism and the North Briton

Benjamin Dew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the use of David Hume’s political writing by the extraparliamentary opposition writers of the 1760s and early 1770s. The disturbances surrounding the publication of North Briton 45 and Wilkes’s abortive attempts to become MP for Middlesex attracted a level of public support which was remarkable for its size, social diversity and ideological coherence. Hume, as is well known, reacted angrily to this growth in popular politics, condemning both the “mobs” that swept through London in the latter part of the decade and the Ministry’s failure to deal with them. However, while Hume may have been highly critical of the Wilkites, the Wilkites frequently used ideas and quotations from the Scotsman’s work in their anti-Ministerial polemics. My discussion traces the various ways in which Hume was employed in Wilkite political discourse, and aims to establish the significance of these appropriations for our understanding both of Hume’s later life and of the radical politics of the period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-260
Number of pages26
JournalModern Intellectual History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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