Collection online

Liberty suspended! with the bulwark of the constitution!

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Liberty suspended! with the bulwark of the constitution!
  • Description

    On a solid platform, the base of a dismantled printing-press, 'BRITISH PRESS', Castlereagh, Eldon, and Ellenborough display to armed ranks of Sinecurists below, the body of Liberty, gagged and bound, hanging from a gibbet which projects to the right from the press, which suggests a guillotine. She holds a document: 'Magna Charta', 'Bill of Rights', 'Habeas Corpus'; her gag is labelled 'Gagging Bill'. A three-legged stool has been kicked from under her feet. Castlereagh, wearing a court suit and Garter robes, stands at the edge of the platform and in front of his colleagues, holding up Liberty's broken staff on which is a 'Cap of Liberty'. He declaims, with an oratorical gesture: "It is better to do this, than "Stand Prostrate" at the feet of Anarchy." Eldon stands impassively, with the Purse of the Great Seal suspended from his neck, holding the mace with its head resting on the ground. With his left hand he supports a large 'Green Bag', grasping its neck; it rests on two cloven hoofs and above the neck are folds representing a grotesque sub-human face. It is inscribed: 'Evidence ags LIBERTY—Spencean's Plan Spa fields Plot An Old Stocking full of Gunpowder [see No. 12868] 3 or 4 rusty fire arms & a few bullets too large to fit the barrels!!' On the left of the platform, separated from the others by the upright printing-press, stands the Archbishop (Manners-Sutton), enclosed by wooden rails, intoning from a large open book: 'Prayers & thanksgiving for the Escape of the Regent from the Madness of the People" 28th Jany last.' He holds a crosier and wears a mitre inscribed 'Canterbury', with a grotesque clerical wig; his mouth is wide open and his eyes turned upwards.
    The audience (half length figures) surround the platform; paunchy civilians, wearing ribbons, gaze up delightedly, the centre figure (in back view) is placarded 'Muster Roll of Gentlemen Sinecurists'. They are surrounded by mounted Life Guards with plumed helmets and drawn swords, at attention, with a banner (left) 'Band of Gentlemen Pensioners'. In the background (right) is a hill beside a road on which a man drives towards the gibbet a plumed hearse inscribed: 'For the Funeral of British Liberty who died near St Stepens [sic]— March 1817—' On the hill sits John Bull weeping, four men in mourning cloaks and scarves stand round him: Cochrane (caricatured) on the extreme right, Cobbett, Hunt (wearing a hunting-cap), and Burdett.
    March 1817
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1817
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 243 millimetres (printed image)
    • Width: 345 millimetres (printed image)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered with title, artist's initials, text within image and publication line: "London Pubd. March 1817 by J Sidebotham No. 1 St. James's St."
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
    A radical print in contrast with No. 12870; a satire on the Report of the Green Bag Committee, see No. 12868, &c., and on the temporary Seditious Meetings Bill (Gagging Act), passed 25 Mar., with the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act (1 Mar.) till the end of the Session (extended to 1 Mar. 1818), in cases of persons committed for treason or suspicion of treason under a warrant of the Secretary of State or six Privy Councillors. The Gagging Act was more clearly directed against the Press by Sidmouth's circular of 27 Mar. See Pellew, 'Sidmouth', iii. 174. Castlereagh's words seem to ridicule his speech of 26 Feb.: 'He would put it to the House, whether on the eve of an insurrection, . . . they wished the executive to sit with arms folded and make no effort to arrest it till it exploded against the state.' 'Parl. Deb.' xxxv. 754. The awkwardness of his phraseology was a favourite theme of his enemies, cf. 'Recipe for Lord Castlereagh's Speeches', including 'Two or three metaphors warring on sense' (cf. No. 12879). 'Morn. Chron.', 16 May 1816 ('New Tory Guide', 1819, p. 63). A form of prayer and thanksgiving for the Regent's escape, see No. 12864, was read on 15 Feb., and was attacked in the 'Examiner' (16 Feb.) as a gross and foolish insult to the nation, with especial reprobation for the phrase 'madness of the people'. For the campaign against sinecurists see No. 12781, &c.; for the two Acts see Nos. 12868, 12874, 12875, 12876, 12879, 13000, 13247.
    Reid, No. 660. Cohn, No. 1318.

    (Supplementary information)
    The date erased.
    Mount includes a slip of paper with the words 'Hab. Corp. Act passed - 4 March' [sic].


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 12871 bibliographic details
    • Cohn 1924 1318 bibliographic details
    • Reid 1871 660 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XIXc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1992 Jun-Nov, Essen, Villa Hugel, 'London 1800-1838'
    2008/9 Sep-Jan, BM, Room 90, Liberty in Political Prints, 1760-1820
    2015 Mar-Sep, London, The British Library, 'Magna Carta'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat).  1817  Hand-coloured etching

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 1817 Hand-coloured etching

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: PPA93365

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help