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- Object: A peep into the city of London Tavern. By an Irish amateur —on the 21st of August 1817—
The title continues: 'Or—A Sample of the Co-Operation to be expected in one of Mr Owen's Projected Paradises—Vide The Times & all the Papers'. Robert Owen stands on a table, his back to the Chairman of his meeting, and directed to the left; he holds a paper: 'New Views of Society by OWEN', his right arm curves above his head, the hand drooping in a curious gesture. Some of the audience sit on the left and right of the table, others crowd behind; many interrupt him. He says, with a complacent expression: "There is not a single Individual in existance who can even partially comprehend my Plan—I am not of your Politics—I am not of your Religion, nor of any Religion yet taught in the World—I move for a committee to consider the Subject—." The chairman sits behind him impassively, but the words "Chair! Chair No Politics No Politics" rise into the air from his closed lips. He holds a paper addressed: 'To the Member for Dover—Port Jackson'. [Sir John Jackson, M.P. for Dover, a London merchant and a Director of the E.I. Co., was in the chair.] On the extreme left stands Waithman, clutching a document inscribed 'Amendment', and saying, "Mr Chairman—I rode on my Hobby [this may be an early allusion to the velocipede, see No. 13399, patented in England in 1818] horse to town this morning for the purpose of opposing the worthy & benevolent Gentleman's Plans which (notwithstanding the observation which has so Swifly flown from the opposite Tower)— Is in my opinion entirely Political—I hold in my hand a bale of soft goods by way of amendment—a String of Resolutions some Yards long but which being Manufactured in the Old popular Machine are so well known to my customers I need not read them—Being a Man of Weight here I am sure to carry them." Swift, the man alluded to, answers from the extreme right, where he stands behind the bench against the table: "Yes I do hold a place in the Tower! am I on that account not to be heard here, or among Englishmen!!—The Plan before us is one of much Philanthropy, & has therefore nothing to do with Politics." He is a good-looking man, and holds a paper: 'Waterloo & other Poems—vide Swifts works'. On the left of the table in the foreground, and in front of Waithman, sits Hone, not caricatured, holding a paper docketed: 'Hone's Reformists Register—Mr Owens Plan'. He looks up, saying quietly: "Let us alone Mr Owen!" Next him, a man dressed as a Quaker and wearing a very broad-brimmed hat, stands on the bench, with clasped hands, saying, "What; not even a Quaker!!!— would'st thou Inoculate us with a pestilence like unto that experienced by those who sit cross legged on the shores of the Levant & amongst whom I have been." In his pocket is a paper: 'Report on Vaccination by Dr Walker'. Next him sits a large, coarse-featured fellow, clasping a paper inscribed 'Black Dwarf' to show that he is Wooler. He says: "what an incomparable yet incomprehensible plan! what great Co-Operation! why it will Remoralize Man! I hope that certain Great people May partake of it." Next, and at the corner of the table, sits Major Cartwright, with his spectacles pushed up on a wig simulating a thatch of natural hair. He says: "If I know any thing of Politics this is all—Politics & nothing but Politics!!" He clutches a paper: 'Reform in Parliament', and beside him are two papers: 'Petetion agst 486 members' and 'Westminster Meeting'. The next man, on the Chairman's right, is hidden by Owen. Before the Chairman is a paper: 'Majority for Mr Waithmans amendment'. All these figures appear to be careful portraits. Another prominent figure is a black man, in front of Swift, who stands with one foot on the table, one on the bench, shaking his fist at Owen; he says: "I understand Slavery well! my mother was a slave! This would be an improved system of Slavery—& without the solace of Reveal'd Religion & Faith—" From his pockets project books or papers: 'Wilbeforce [sic] on the Slave Trade' and 'New Testament'. Beside him on the bench is a young (?) Quakeress who flinches away from him, shocked or frightened. Behind on left and right are the heads of standing listeners, absorbed and in general dismayed. The profile of a parson is on the extreme right, next it is a lady wearing a fashionable feathered bonnet. A large window topped with carving and festooned drapery fills most of the background wall.
- Production date
Height: 420 millimetres
Width: 345 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
Owen had advertised, at a cost of £4,000, a 'Plan of Amelioration and Reformation without Revolution', for curing distress in 'villages of unity and co-operation' and held two meetings in London, one on 14 Aug., adjourned to 21 Aug., at which he made a declaration against the abuses of all religions, which 'was received with the loudest cheers'. These meetings were preceded by lengthy letters to 'The Times'. Owen's motion for appointing a committee to consider it was negatived by Waithman's amendments, which declared the plan impracticable and the distress to be due to unemployment caused by heavy taxation and poor rates. His sparring with Swift was substantially as represented here. Walker (see No. 11953) 'contended that the destruction of science and mechanism would bring destruction on a country'. Cartwright said the plan was 'politics and nothing but politics'. He opposed Owen for making 'light of the liberties of the people of England, and urged that the people should petition 'for a radical Reform as the only means of reducing pauperism and crime'. He stated that 'no fewer than 486 Members had no right to sit'. Wooler agreed with the objections to the plan: the evils were due to excessive expenditure by the Government, and the want of control over expenditure by the people. The meeting is reported at length, 'Times', 22 Aug., with no mention of the negro. Hone attacked Owen's doctrines in his 'Reformist's Register'. 'Examiner', 1817, pp. 535 f., 541 f.; Owen, 'Life', 1857, pp. 129 ff.; Owen, 'New View of Society', 1927, pp. 170-220; Hackwood, 'William Hone', 1912, p. no.
Reid, No. 691. Cohn, No. 1836. Advertised, price 5s. coloured, in 'Fashion' (see No. 12970) as 'the best caricature since the time of Gillray, and is by J. L. R. Esq. who furnished that Artist with some of his best sketches'.
Additional comment: The 'negro' to whom Dorothy George refered is probably the politically radical Jamaican-born Robert Wedderburn.
- Not on display
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