Letters of Brutus to Certain Celebrated Political Characters was
published in Edinburgh, Scotland. The letters are addressed to
particular anonymous characters (who can be identified by their actions and
reputations within the letters) by an anonymous writer. The
letters critique and scold. In the first, to Lieutenant General
B***, Mackenzie reminds the General of his own past to curb his
political activities and criticisms of others.
Mackenzie letters by coincidence or happenstance share the same
pseudonym with letters written by Robert Yates in the United States during the same period.
Yates addressed his letters "To the citizens of the State of New-York"
and wrote to espouse a strong anti-Federalist stance. Yates'
letters were published in the New York Journal from October 1787
to April 1788. It is certainly possible that Mackenzie heard of
them, even if he did not read them. It is also possible that he
had no knowledge of the "other" Brutus.
Junius Brutus Caepio (85 BC – 42 BC) was, of course, the protégé who
helped to kill Caesar. He can be seen as one who would betray
trust, but he is also an icon of resisting strong centralized power.
He feared for the future of the Republic of Rome, as Caesar declared
himself Emperor and worked to limit the powers of the Senate. He
was forced to flee Rome because those who had supported Caesar and his
goals still held power. Thus, he is also symbolic of those who
must be careful as they feint and parry with words for fear of reprisal.
He has also lent another name to authors who write in fear -- Junius.
In the Advertisement for Letters of Brutus there is a reference
to an earlier Junius (wrote 1767 through 1772), and during the World War I a Junius Pamphlet
(written by Rosa Luxemburg while in prison) gave
a vivid account of the abuse of power. (see resources below).
Mackenzie probably didn't have to fear for his life when he wrote, but
the open critiques which he leveled could certainly have been met with
reprisals. He was not one to mince words, he said of Thomas Paine,
"He possesses that vulgar eloquence which a vigorous mind untutored by
classical education, and unrestrained by delicacy or taste, has an
advantage in exhibiting; and he derives credit from the very want of
qualities which finer minds are at pains to cultivate . . ." Like
the Brutus in America at the time, Mackenzie was a conservative who
mistrusted centralized power and mistrusted those who held either power
Letters of Brutus to Certain Celebrated Political Characters is only
91 pages long. Below you will find the frontispiece of the first
edition, as well as the Advertisement, table of contents and the first six