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The double humbug or the devils imp praying for peace

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The double humbug or the devils imp praying for peace
  • Description

    A design in two compartments, separated by a vertical line. [1] Napoleon stands on the dais in front of a chair of state addressing rows of (burlesqued) Senators and Deputies, who listen with hostility and scepticism; some close their eyes, two take snuff. The Devil, a winged monster, clutches the back of Napoleon's chair, and leans towards him like a gargoyle-bird of prey, inspiring the speech. The dais is supported on crowns of varying patterns. The Emperor is in profile to the left, extending both arms in a propitiatory gesture; he wears plain military uniform with boots. His words are in a large label across the design: "Extracts of Bony-party's Speech, Sunday 19th December 1813. Senators, Counsellors of State, Deputies from the Department [sic] to the Legislative Body. Splendid Victories have raised the Glory of the French Arms during this Campaign, in these weighty Circumstances it was my first thought to call you all around me. I have never been Seduced by Prosperity, I have conceived and executed great Designs for the Prosperity and the Happiness of the World. As a Monarch and a Father, I feel that Peace adds to the security of Thrones and that of Families, I have accepted proposals & the Preliminaries, It is necessary to recruit my Armies by numerous Levies, and an increase of Taxes becomes indispensable. I am satisfied with the Sentiment of my People of Italy, Denmark, Naples, America and the nineteen Swiss Cantons and have acknowledged the Laws which England has in vain sought during four centuries to impose on France—I have ordered discharges of Artillery on my coming and leaving you." This label hides the upper part of two pictures on the wall: a battle-piece (left), and (above Napoleon's head) '20 Flags Presented to the Empress': tiny obsequious figures present the flags, see No. 12111, &c.
    [2] Napoleon, in profile to the right, kneels abjectly before the Allies, presenting to them a collection of crowns, including the Pope's tiara, and a sheaf of flags; these are on the ground with his cocked hat and sword; he keeps one crown tucked under his right arm. The Allies stand menacingly on the right. They are (left to right): John Bull, a fat 'cit' pugnaciously clenching his fists; a morose-looking Spaniard; a Cossack, his right hand on his sabre; an (?) Austrian officer, his sword in his left hand, and on the extreme right a Dutchman in bulky breeches, with a long pipe in his mouth. Other heads are indicated behind. Napoleon's words are in a large label: "Gentlemen Emperors, Kings, Rhenish Confederations &c &c &c Behold unto you a fallen Imposter, who has for many Years been Drunk & intoxicated with Ambition, Arrogance, and Insolence, who has deceived, cheated, and tricked you on many Occasions, who has foolishly and wickedly lost within a twelve Months a Million of brave but deluded. Frenchmen, Who has conceived the great and diabolicol [sic] design of enslaving the world, and has lost all his friends except Yankee Maddison. Now Gentlemen to make amends for my Sins, I sollicit your Pardon and ask for Peace, on your own Terms. Gentlemen, and I will strictly adhere to till x x x x x x You may take all those Crowns back again except the one belonging to the Bourbons. My Empress sends you also back the 20 flags I found in some of the Churches in the course of my flight from Leipzig [see No. 12111, &c.]—As for the Story, Gentlemen, of the Corporal & the blowing up the Bridge [see No. 12108, &c.] you must know twas a mere Humbug to Gull the Lads of Paris." Behind Napoleon is Talleyrand supported on a crutch; he leans forward obsequiously, saying, "What my Master has said is true So help me G—d Amen."
    1 January 1814.
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1814
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 250 millimetres
    • Width: 351 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered with title, text within, artist's name and publishing details: 'Rowlandson del Pubd Jany 1st 1814 by R. Ackermann No 101 Strand'
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
    [1] Napoleon's speech of 19 Dec. is in parts given almost textually, but with important omissions and alterations that constitute misrepresentation and burlesque: after 'splendid victories' . . . 'defections without parallel have rendered those victories useless'. He said not 'I have accepted proposals ...' but 'I have adhered to the preliminary basis ... on my side there is no obstacle to the establishment of peace'. 'I know and partake all the sentiments of the French . . . because there is not one of them who would desire peace at the price of honour. It is with regret that I ask of this generous people new sacrifices. . . .' The chief alteration is after the reference to 'my people of Italy': 'Denmark and Naples, alone, have remained faithful to their alliance with me. The Republic of the United States of America continues with success its war with England. I have recognised the neutrality of the nineteen Swiss cantons [see No. 12123].' 'I have acknowledged' is part of a bellicose passage: 'My people cannot feel that the policy of their Emperor will ever betray the national glory. . . .' He ended with a plea for continued resistance, and against acknowledging 'the laws which England ...' [ut supra]. 'Examiner', 26 Dec. 1813. See Ward's comment (27 Dec.) in 'Letters to Ivy', 1905, p. 225 f. See also Pariset,' Hist. de France contemporaine', iii, 1921, 443-6. The speech is quoted in No. 12222.
    [2] At this date, on the burning question of peace negotiations, the public knew only what could be deduced from Napoleon's speech of 19 Dec. and from the debate of 20 Dec, when Lord Holland asked if the Declaration of the Allied Powers at Frankfurt (1 Dec.) [this, and the documents relating to the Proposals, were clandestinely published in Paris in a bogus number of the 'Moniteur', 'Le Moniteur suppressé, ou le Double Moniteur du 20 janvier 1814' De Vinck, No. 8870 bis.] was authentic, if the British Government was a party to it, if a peace overture had been rejected, or if any overture had been made that was likely to lead to a negotiation. Liverpool confirmed the authenticity of the document (in which it was said: 'the first use which their imperial and royal majesties have made of victory, has been to offer peace to his majesty the Emperor of the French'), saying that the British Government was not a party to it, but refused to answer further questions. Similar questions were asked in the Commons, and on this day Parliament was adjourned to 1 March. 'Parl. Deb.' xxvii. 285 f.; 'Ann. Reg.', 1813, p. 210 f. Actually, the Frankfurt Proposals offering France her 'natural limits', were sent to Napoleon on 9 Nov., on 16 Nov. he made an evasive answer; on 5 Dec. Caulaincourt offered, too late, to accept, and on 28 Dec. Castlereagh left for Allied Headquarters to weld the Alliance. See C. K. Webster, 'The Congress of Vienna', 1934, pp. 10-19, and 'Foreign Policy of Castlereagh', i, 1931, pp. 187 ff.; cf. No. 12206. During the retreat from Moscow Talleyrand began to plot Napoleon's overthrow. Lacour-Gayet, 'Talleyrand', 1930, ii. 314 f.; see also Dard, 'Napoleon and Talleyrand', 1927, pp. 292-4. It is to be noted that Napoleon keeps the French crown. Cf. Nos. 12077, 12107, 12174, 12179, 12240.
    Grego, 'Rowlandson', ii. 271 f. Broadley, i. 348. De Vinck, No. 8873 (publication of the plate announced in the 'Journal de Paris', 19 Apr. 1814).


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 12169 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XVIIIc Unmounted Roy)

  • Subjects

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  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat).  1 January 1814.  Hand-coloured etching


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 1 January 1814. Hand-coloured etching

Reproduced by permission of the artist. © The Trustees of the British Museum

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