Who were John Wilkes and Isaac Barre?


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My hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was named after two men, John Wilkes and Isaac Barre. I always wondered why we were never taught about these men in school. We certainly went through the American War of Independence and that was the period when these two men became notable. We were told that they were in the British government and they supported independence for the American colonies, but that was all we were told. Was there something about these two men that may not have been very noble?

I believe that this would be a great subject for a child to use as a report for school. The information that I have here is not very detailed. You can find more on John Wilkes at http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/John_Wilkes.aspx and Isaac Barre at http://www.libraryireland.com/biography/IsaacBarre.php.

One common thread in the lives of these two men was an acquaintance with William Pit the Elder. That may have been one reason that they supported the cause of the American colonists.


John Wilkes was a man that certainly had his ups and downs in his career. He was described as being quite clever and having a creative wit. He used his wit to bash opponents, like a certain Lord Bute, in writing in the publication the New Briton.

This need to go after his opponents in print came back to bite him when his supporters fell out of favor. He was arrested for liable and thrown in the Tower of London for a while.

John Wilkes became known as a radical and he supported causes involving better representation of the people in the House of Commons. Though he supported the people politically, he wasn’t all that interested in their physical or their financial woes. It almost seemed like it was the thing for him to do at the time. I think his support of the American colonies was also more of a political move than it was a heartfelt desire for the Americans to be free.



Isaac Barre, I believe supported the American cause more sincerely. Isaac was the son of a Frenchman that fled France and took sanctuary in Dublin, Ireland. Isaac was educated at Trinity College and he had a very successful military career. He rose to the rank of Adjutant-General of the British forces. During this time he was supported by William Pit the Elder which made him an adversary of King George the Third. King George himself was suffering from an intestinal ailment that made him seem irrational and that would spell trouble for Isaac Barre.

When the government passed the Stamp Act in 1765, Isaac Barre opposed it. That started his support of the American cause. From an American perspective, Isaac Barre’s most notable action was coining the name “Sons of Liberty.” He was the first person to label the American freedom fighters as the “Sons of Liberty” and the name became our founding father’s name in their struggle.

That’s just a tiny look at the two men that Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania is named for. They were men that supported freedom, for their own reasons.







Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at Lulu.com; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in History, Wilkes-Barre

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