- Museum number
- Object: Evidence to character; -being a portrait of a traitor, by his friends & by himself
Folding pl. (also issued separately) to 'Anti-Jacobin Review', i. 285, illustrating extracts from a pamphlet published by Wright, price 3d. ['Considerable allowance to those who purchase Thousands and Tens of Thousands for distribution.'] A burlesque of the trial of O'Connor at Maidstone (22 May), parts of the court being hidden by the large labels which issue from the mouths of prisoner and witnesses. The presiding judge (Buller) looks down with horror at the witnesses, the other judges are hidden. O'Connor (not caricatured), wearing leg-irons, stands at the bar; his hands are clasped, and he bends forward in profile to the left, making a confession which, though condensed, does not differ substantially from that made by him, McNevin, and Emmet, and published in the Report of the Secret Committee made to the Irish House of Commons on 21 Aug. ('Lond. Chron.', 27 Aug.), see BMSat 9244, &c: 'I confess, that I became an United Irishman in 1796 & a Member of the National Executive, from 1796, to 1798. I knew the offer of French assistance was accepted at a meeting of the Executive in Summer 1796: I accompanied the Agent of the Executive (the late Lord Edward Fitzgerald) through Hamburgh to Switzerland, had an interview with General Hoche (who afterwards had the command of the expedition against Ireland) on which occasion every thing was settled between the parties with a view to the descent [see BMSat 8979]. I knew that in 1797 a Fleet lay in ye Texel with 15000 Troops destined for Ireland I knew of the loan negociating with France for Half a Million for the new Irish Government'. From O'Connor's pocket hangs a paper: 'The Press by O'Connor' [inflammatory organ of the United Irishmen, see BMSat 9186]. Round his neck is a noose of rope held by the hand emerging from clouds of the (invisible) Justice; in her right hand are equally balanced scales.
The witnesses to O'Connor's character are speaking simultaneously. Four stand in the foreground in profile to the right, behind a barrier, looking towards the judge across a table. Fox (right), nearest O'Connor and the spectator, holds the book to his lips, his raised left arm thrust forward in a rhetorical gesture: "I swear that he is perfectly well affected to his Country, - a Man totally without dissimulation - i know his principles are the principles of the Constitution". (Fox said: "I always thought Mr O'Connor to be perfectly well affected to his country . . . attached to the principles and the constitution of this country, upon which the present family sit upon the throne, and to which we owe all our liberties." 'State Trials', xxvii. 41.) From his pocket projects a book: 'Letters to Lord Ed F. M O'Connor &c &c.' (cf. BMSat 9244). Next stands Sheridan, with a sly expression, holding the book, 'Four Evangelists', his hat in his left hand; he testifies: "I know him intimately; - I treated him, & he treated me, with Confidence! - & I Swear, that, I never met with any man, so determined against encouraging French Assistance". The last words resemble those of Sheridan, with the significant omission 'in this country'. Ibid., p. 48. Next is Erskine, kissing the book, with left arm raised oratorically: "His friends, are all MY friends! and I therefore, feel MYSELF intitled upon MY Oath, to say, that he is incapable, in MY judgement, of acting with treachery, & upon MY oath, I never had any reason to think that his principles differed from MY own so help ME god" [cf. BMSat 9246]. Though abbreviated, this is only very slightly burlesqued. Ibid., pp. 38-41. Next (left) is the Duke of Norfolk, kissing the book, his expression and attitude suggesting embarrassment, saying: "I consider him attached to constitutional principles, in the Same way as myself" [cf. BMSat 9168, &c.]. His evidence ended 'I consider him as a gentleman acting warmly in the political line and attached to . . . [ut supra].' Ibid., p. 49. On the extreme left and behind Norfolk is Grattan, saying: "He favour an Invasion of his Country by the French? - no! no! - quite the contrary! - I know his Character". This is the substance of his evidence, except that for 'quite' read 'rather'. Ibid., p. 50. An undifferentiated head in the background says: "He has the Same sentiments as every one of the Opposition". Lord Thanet said this. Ibid., p. 52. Another witness in the background says: "I have always told Lady Suffolk of his extraordinary abilities". Lord Suffolk said: 'I have always told Lady Suffolk, and the rest of my friends . .. [&c. &c.].' Ibid., p. 44. [Lord Holland notes that he 'frequently mentioned trifling domestic circumstances in his speeches in the House of Lords'.] Among a crowd of other heads, chiefly hidden by labels, is one resembling Tierney. Above this phalanx of Opposition witnesses is a crowded gallery. Three counsel (the Attorney-General (Scott), Solicitor-General (Mitford), and (?) Garrow), who sit beneath the judges, are divided from the witnesses by a table covered with papers, &c, one being conspicuous: 'Charges of High Treason against Arthur O'Connor, Oliver Bond Dr McNevin.' 1 October 1798
- Production date
Height: 204 millimetres
Width: 260 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VII, 1942)
The trial of O'Connor, with O'Coigley (see BMSat 9189) and others, at Maidstone is combined with the proceedings in Dublin after the Irish Rebellion, see BMSat 9228, &c. For the confessions see 'Report from the Committee of Secrecy of the House of Commons in Ireland', 21 Aug. 1798, Appendix xxxi. Extracts from the Maidstone Trial and O'Connor's confession were published in damaging juxtaposition in Wright's pamphlet, 'Evidence to Character; or, the Innocent Imposture: being ... [ut supra]'. The introduction concludes: 'It is not often that such Information as this can be obtained for the Public, from the Parties themselves on Oath.' (B.M.L. 8132. df. 2/6.) See Holland, 'Memoirs of the Whig Party', 1852, i. 121-8. For Tierney's discomfiture see 'Lady Holland's Journal', 1908, i. 203. Farington notes, 29 Aug. 1798: 'Opposition knocked up by the confession. ... In fact too much power thrown into the hands of Government owing to the vile and foolish conduct of Opposition.' 'Diary', i. 235. Lord Carlisle wrote (30 Aug.): 'If there is a lower political hell than any we before have witnessed, I think the opposition have found it out for themselves, by their connection with O'Connor and such worthies.' 'Auckland Corr.' iv. 52. The contemptuous dislike shown by Fox to O'Connor in Paris in 1802 is significant. See 'Private Corr. of Lord G. Leveson Gower', i. 360, 365. See also BMSats 9189, 9217, 9227, 9240, 9244, 9249, 9254, 9258, 9262, 9263, 9266, 9341, 9343, 9345, 9369, 9402, 9416, 9434, 9515, 9549.
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 224.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1998 Apr-Aug, Belfast, Ulster Museum, 'Up in Arms'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number