- Museum number
- Object: The closet
A print in several compartments. In an inset rectangle in the right. upper corner is George III's 'Closet': the king seated at a table with his secret advisers around him. On his right sits Bute, his left hand on the king's shoulder. The Devil clutches the back of Bute's chair, and speaks into his ear through a trumpet; beneath the chair is a head, writhing with serpents, probably representing Discord. Bute says, “Be Bloody, Bold, and Resolute, be Firm - fear nothing”. The king looks round him, his profile is malevolent, stupid and gross; he says, “Sic Volo - I am Firm, hem! who's afraid? eh!” On his left sits Lord Mansfield, in his hand is a scroll, inscribed, “A Code of Laws for America”; he is saying “Kill them or they will Kill you”. Next comes Lord George Germain holding out a paper, “Instructions to Generals Howe, Burgoyne, &c.” He says, “Tho Nature's Germins tumble all together, Evn till Destruction Sicken”. On the table are two papers, one inscribed “A I have closeted Sr James the Cartouch Box Maker”; the other is addressed to “My Lord Mayor of London”. Both appear directed against the Lord Mayor, Sir James Esdaile, [On Michaelmas Day 1778 Esdaile was censured by the Livery for refusing to put to the vote the thanks of the Livery to the members for the city for their consistent opposition to the ministry. 'Ann. Reg.', 1778, p. 204.] a strong supporter of the Court.
Below this rectangle are isolated figures: A man stands, blowing out his brains with a pistol; he says, “Amende Honorable for using General Warrants”; at his feet lies dying a man in the wig and robes of the Lord Chancellor; he says “I was Yorke-shire but honest, but curse the Closet”. He is Charles Yorke, whose remorse at accepting the Chancellorship under pressure from the king in his closet conduced to his sudden death in 1770, widely but wrongly believed to be due to suicide. The standing figure appears also to be intended for Yorke, who as Attorney General had advised that the committal of Wilkes for the libel in No. 45 of the 'North Briton' was legal. On the left is a man dressed as a fool in cap and bells; he is running forward, in his right hand are smoking firebrands, in his left, arrows. He says, “I am firm too, in Folly, and is not this precious Foolery, my masters”. Beneath him is engraved “The Fool casteth Firebrands, Arrows & Death, and sayeth Am not I in Sport?” On the right. is a headless figure in long robes, holding his head in his left arm, and holding out “An hble Address from the Loyal Town of Manchester to Cha[erased] Geo: the III with lives & Fort. Murray &c.” The first of the loyal addresses of the autumn of 1775 came from Manchester, see BMSat 5325, 5471. It ended: “. . . We are ready to support, with our Lives [and] Fortunes, such Measures as your Majesty shall think necessary for the Punishment of Rebellion in any part of your dominions. . .” 'London Gazette', 12-16 Sept. The erasure implies a parallel with the loyal addresses to Charles II on his dissolution of the Oxford Parliament in 1681. See 'Eng. Hist. Rev.' 1930, xlv. p. 552 ff., and cf. 'Parl. Hist.' xix. 620 (22 Jan. 1778).
In the centre of the print are a number of ships: at the top, three ships in full sail are labelled “Quebec Hoy”, probably an allusion to the very unpopular Quebec Act, see BMSat 5228, &c, and cf. BMSat 5286. Below, a small ship labelled “Boston hoy” is followed by a larger ship in full sail, labelled “Weymouth Packet wth 20,000 in Dollrs” This probably indicates one of the successes of the American privateers against British shipping. Below is a large ship at anchor, with furled sails, from which a boat rows to shore; she is labelled “Chelsea Hoy”. Below again, men are being helped ashore from a boat, some have already landed; they are crippled, without arms, with crutches, with a wooden leg, &c, indicating that the fate of the English soldiers is to be maimed Chelsea pensioners. Below again is a small triangular gallows, from which hang three figures.
On the left side of the print, in four divisions, are episodes from the war in America. In the uppermost section, Indians are using scalping knives and tomahawks on prostrate and supplicating persons; in the centre, a young woman “McRae”, kneeling and about to be killed by an Indian, says “O horrid! is this the Marriage Ceremony”. She is Jane McCrea, whose murder horrified both England and America. She was a loyalist and was being escorted by two Indians to her betrothed who was serving with the British forces, but she was killed by one of the escort. [There is some uncertainty as to this, see Belcher, 'First American Civil War' 1911, ii, 295-6] For its effect on opinion see Van Tyne, 'The War of Independence', 1929, pp. 398, 403. Behind (right) a church and some houses inscribed “Esopus” are in flames. The village of Esopus was burnt, after Clinton's successful campaign up the North River in October 1777, by General Vaughan, who having been fired on as he entered the place, burned it with its stores and provisions. See the comment on this in the 'Ann. Reg.' 1777, p. 175*. See also BMSat 5574.
Below in the next compartment more Indian atrocities are depicted. A group of Indians sit round a naked man, bristling with darts, who is being roasted on a spit over a fire. An Indian, standing under a tree-trunk inscribed “The Cedars” (left), holds up a skull; on the right. an Indian with a tomahawk holds up a scalped and bleeding head; other figures sit round the fire, one gnaws a bone. 28 January 1778
Etching and aquatint
- Production date
Height: 221 millimetres
Width: 363 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', V, 1935)
The Cedars (on the Rapids of the St. Lawrence) was the name given to an incident in the American expedition against Canada in 1776. A small American post was surprised by a party of regulars, Canadians and Mohawks, and captured without resistance. Arnold went out from Montreal to attack the captors, but to prevent the Indians from murdering the prisoners, he consented to a compromise for an exchange. ‘Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History’. This satire is thus a gross calumny. It was perhaps suggested by Brackenridge's propagandist ‘Death of General Montgomery at the Siege of Quebec’, 1777, in which the writer apologizes in a note for some ferocious words put into the mouth of Carleton: “I find my conscience pretty much at ease in this matter . . . I have conversed with those who saw the scalps warm from the heads of our countrymen. I have had the relation from their mouths who beheld the fires lighted up, and heard . . . the horrid shrieks and gloomy howlings of the savage tribes in the execution of the poor captives who, according to the threat of Carleton, were burned on an island in the river St. Lawrence after our unfortunate surrender at the Cedars.” Quoted by M. C. Tyler, ‘Literary History of the American Revolution’, ii. 223. Carleton's humanity to the Americans in the Canadian campaign is well known.
Under this is Burgoyne marching at the head of his men who are without arms, their hands tied. He says, “I have led my Rag-o-muffians where they have been Peppered”. He is dressed not in military uniform, but in slashed doublet and cavalier's boots, in his hand is a broadsword whose blade is jagged and worn, inscribed “Physical Impossibility”. His round shield is inscribed “Scale of Talents”; under each arm is a large book, “Maid of the Oaks and Bon Ton &c.”, and “the Devotd Legions, a Poem”. At his feet is the word “Proclamations”. On a hill in the distance is a serried rank of soldiers, on a minute scale, before them stands an officer holding a spear and a large striped American flag; they are Gates, see BMSat 5469, and his Americans, to whom Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga on 17 Oct. 1777.
Burgoyne's dress, &c, appears intended to represent him as a theatrical mountebank; his play 'Maid of the Oaks' was acted in 1774 ('Bon Ton', 1775, is by Garrick). He issued a bombastic proclamation before taking the field in May 1777 which was much ridiculed. For contemporary opinion on the campaign see Van Tyne, ‘War of Independence’, 1929, 436-40. Many of the Opposition in England rejoiced at the catastrophe.
The lowest compartment shows Scottish soldiers and foreign mercenaries in flight, dying and dead. In the foreground (right) a Highland officer is dying; he says, “How hard O Frazer is thy Lot! Was it for this I sought the Court and Danced?” He is Simon Fraser (not to be confused with Simon Fraser of BMSat 5287); he was a brigadier under Burgoyne, and was mortally wounded on 7 Oct. 1777. A fleeing Scottish soldier looks round saying, “Hoot awa Lads, ken ye not that one Arnold is hard at our heels”. All the soldiers have thrown away their arms, one of three Hessians in jack-boots says, “De Devil vil ave mine Maitre, de Carcas Bucher.”
Down the left margin beside the two last designs is inscribed the word “Saratoga”. The supposed artists' names are arranged so that “Bute invt” is under the fleeing Scottish soldiers, “Germaine ext” under the gallows.
Beside “Mansfield Sculp” (under the headless figure holding the Manchester Address) is an axe.
A satire which ascribes tyranny, failure, and savage atrocities to the influence of Bute, Mansfield, and Germain, and to the obstinacy of the king. For Germain's responsibility for failure see Fortescue, ‘Hist. of the British Army’, iii. 242; G. H. Guttridge, 'Lord George Germain in office', ‘American Hist. Rev.’ Oct. 1927. Chatham, on 2 Dec. 1777, called the Americans “Whigs in principle and heroes in conduct” whose affection had been lost “by employing mercenary Germans to butcher them; by spiriting up savages in America to scalp them with a tomahawk” (‘Parl. Hist.’ xix. 477). For the employment of Indians see ‘Hist. MSS. Comm. Dartmouth MSS.’ ii. 1895, pp. xii, 344-5, 447 [Dartmouth wrote to Gage, 2 Aug. 1775: “The steps which you say the rebels have taken for calling in the assistance of the Indians leave no room to hesitate upon the propriety of your pursuing the same measure.” Cf. a letter of Col. Ethan Allen, 24 May 1775, asking Indians for aid against the king's troops. Ibid., p. 310.] For allegations of Indian atrocities see also BMSat 5339, 5473, 5631, 6024. For Saratoga see also BMSat 5469, 5490, 5548, 5857. For 'the Closet' see BMSat 5638.
A French engraving (n.d.) by Godefroy, after Fauvel, ‘Sarratoga’, depicts the surrender of Burgoyne “avec 6040 soldats bien disciplines” to Gates with “les milices Americaines nouvellement tirées de l'Agriculture . . .”.
Beneath is engraved a “Précis” of the campaign with a note on Indian soldiers in Burgoyne's army: “Leurs affreux services refusés par les Américains, furent sollicités par le ministere britannique, qui convint de prix pour chaque chevelure d'infortunes colons qu'ils apporteraient, mais amis comme ennemis devenaient leurs [sic] proie. Le meurtre surtout de la jeune et belle Miss – Mac - Rea remplit tous les cœurs d'horreur . . . elle fut massacrée par ces sauvages le jour de son mariage avec un officier anglais de l'armée de Burgoine”.
No. 4 in ‘Recueil d'Estampes représentant . . . la Guerre qui a procuré l’lndépendance aux Etats unis de l’Amérique’. (Print Department.) ‘Collection de Vinck’, No. 1167.
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