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Association, or public virtue displayed in a contrasted view

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Association, or public virtue displayed in a contrasted view
  • Description

    Several scenes combined in one design. The Associations of various counties to present petitions and form committees to demand reforms are represented in the upper right portion of the plate: A procession of men walks (right to left), their leader holding a standard with the arms of the county inscribed "County of York 30 Decr 1779" (the date of the meeting at which it was agreed to present a petition and prepare a plan for an Association to secure reform). He holds a paper inscribed "Petition" and says, "Virtue & Fortitude shall Guide us". Representatives of the other petitioning and associating counties follow, with the appropriate dates on labels issuing from their mouths: "Middlesex 7 Jan"; "Chester 13 Jan"; "Hertford Jan 17"; "Cumberland 20 Jan"; "Huntingdon, Surrey Sussex Dorset 21 Jan ('Huntingdon' being in large letters, cf. BMSat 5633), Essex & Bedford 24 Jan"; "Gloucester, Somerset & Wilts 26 Jan"; "Norfolk 29 Jan"; "Brecon Feb 9". The last man carries an ensign flag on which is inscribed "London Newcastle upon Tyne Bristol Westminster &c. &c. &c." Beneath the procession is engraved "Immortal Gods! What Honor waits the men who save their Country from impending Ruin." The leader is probably intended for Sir George Savile.
    On the left George III is seated in his closet; a young man stands before him addressing, not the king, but an imaginary audience, saying, "The only Patriot His Power is too Confined". This is perhaps intended for Lord George Gordon's private interview with the king on 27 Jan. 1780; several satires associate the Protestant Petition with the county petitions, see BMSat 5633, 5649, 5680. Outside the door of the royal closet and facing the petitioners is a monster with wings and three heads, breathing fire.
    In the lower right. part of the print Britannia sits on a ruinous stone pedestal which is being further undermined by a female figure with a forked tail and the legs of a satyr; she is applying a lever to its base saying, "And shall not I, Corruption is my name, Undermine the British Constitution". Lord North attacks the pedestal with a pickaxe, saying, "I will assist you Sister in the same Design". Bute, in Highland dress with the Garter ribbon and star, flourishes a broadsword, while he takes from Britannia the staff and cap of Liberty; he says, "Away wi ye to the Deel Where is your Liberty now". Britannia, holding her shield and 'Magna Carta', says to the marching petitioners above her head, "Tis you alone my Friends who can revive my Drooping Hopes & save me from Distraction". Behind Britannia (left) and in a glory of rays stands a man inscribed "Chatham" with outstretched arms, saying "O Cleanse Yon Augean Stable". He points towards the design beneath the king's closet. This represents the House of Commons (left); the Speaker in his chair, members seated on each side of a table. It is seen through two pillars, up one (right) climbs an alligator, round the other is a serpent with a branch of apples in its mouth. Above is inscribed "Ruled by Powerful Influence". A procession of members walks (left to right) from the House up a path leading to the door of the king's closet above. They carry scrolls inscribed "25 000"; "5000"; "£40,000"; "15,000 £10,000, £50 000". One says, "Secure in the Enjoyment of Places Pensions & Emoluments of Office we fear not the Clamour of Yorkshire Clodpoles"; another says, "God help the Rich the Poor can beg". Their leader carries an "Address of Thanks". Beneath this gang of ministerialists a mythological figure leaning against an anchor and a gushing water-conduit (? Neptune) says,

    "Is there not some Chosen Curses,
    Some Hidden Thunder in the Stores of Heaven
    Red with Uncommon Wrath to Blast the Men
    Who build their Greatness on their Country's Ruin"

    A man stands in the foreground holding out a scroll inscribed,

    "List of Grievances
    Public Credit - Weakened Nation
    Debt Increasing Fresh Taxes
    Accumulating Trade & Commer[ce]
    Expireing Independance cast down & the
    Public Treasure Wasted in Corrupting the Morals of the
    People". He is saying, "No New Taxes but a Retrenchment of Public Expences." 15 February 1780 Etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1780
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 255 millimetres
    • Width: 372 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered: "J.S. inv:" and "Published as the Act directs 15 Feby 1780 London Printed for Dan Wilson at N° 20 Portugal Street Lincolns Inn Price Is"
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', V, 1935)
    The county associations and petitions began with a great meeting at York on 30 Dec. 1779. See C. Wyvill, 'Political Papers', 6v., 1794-1802. Smelt, L., 'Account of . . . the Meeting at York . . .' 1780. Walpole, 'Last Journals', 1910, ii. 260-1, 263 ff. Adolphus, 'Hist. of England', 1841, iii. 93 ff. Fitzmaurice, 'Shelburne', 1912, ii. 46 ff. Veitch, 'Genesis of Parliamentary Reform', 1913, chap. III. On 8 Feb. Shelburne's motion for a committee of both Houses, excluding all pensioners and place-men, to inquire into the expenditure of public money, was rejected, and Sir George Savile presented the Yorkshire petition in the House of Commons. Cf. also the debate of 8 May 1781, 'Parl. Hist.' xxii. 138 ff. and Wraxall, 'Memoirs', 1884, ii. 442 f. For Gordon in the closet see Walpole, 'Letters', xi. 135. For the county petitions and the Association movement see also BMSat 5633, 5640, 5645, 5649, 5657, 5665, 5668, 5675, 5693, 5829, 5958. For the evil influence of the king's closet see BMSat 5470.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 5638 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Satires British 1780 Unmounted Roy)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number




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