The Delegates in Council or Beggars on Horseback (caricature)

A satirical print referring to the Nore mutiny of spring 1797. A group of mutineers meet around a table in a ship’s cabin. Several members of the group brandish pistols; one man on the right holds a blunderbuss; one of the men seated at the table smokes a pipe and another takes chewing tobacco from a box. Standing on the left, Vice-Admiral Charles Buckner faces the mutineers. He stares across the print at the radical orator John Thelwall, who stands on the right filling a glass from a jug inscribed ‘Grog’. From his pocket hangs a paper inscribed ‘Thellwal Lectur[e]’ and a speech bubble above the figure reads ‘Tell him we intend to be Masters, I’ll read him a Lecture’, both details referring to Thelwall’s famous political lecture tours. Under the table, lifting up the tablecloth, is the Whig politician Charles James Fox, admitting ‘Aye, Aye, we are at the bottom of it’. He is surrounded five of his political associates, from left to right: James Maitland, eighth Earl of Lauderdale, who holds a missive inscribed ‘Letter from Sheerness to Ld L---le’; John Horne Tooke; Charles Stanhope, third Earl Stanhope; Charles Grey, second Earl Grey; Richard Brinsley Sheridan. A piece of paper headed ‘Resolutions’ lies on the table. On the wall in the background is a print of Britannia, hanging upside down, and two torn ballads: ‘True Blue an old Song’ and ‘Hearts of Oak are our Ships Jolly Tars are our men We alway are Ready’. The print was produced at the height of the Nore mutiny. In spring 1797, there were a series of major mutinies in the Royal Navy as sailors petitioned the Admiralty to address a range of serious complaints, including low wages (which had not increased since the mid-seventeenth century), poor provisions and inadequate care for the wounded. The first significant outbreak of mutiny took place in the Channel fleet at Spithead, starting on 16 April and coming to a peaceful conclusion on 15 May, after the First Lord of the Admiralty agreed to most of the seamen’s demands and obtained a royal pardon for the mutineers. By this time, mutiny had also broken out at the Nore, where the sailors issued a more extensive list of demands. Vice-Admiral Charles Buckner, who is depicted here, was sent to negotiate with the Nore mutineers but the presence of Thelwall and the Foxite Whigs in this satirical print is the artist’s invention. These political characters are included in order to suggest that the mutinies were the result of external political interference in naval affairs, stirring up unrest among the lower decks. Naval historians now dispute the extent to which radical politicians and groups actively inspired and encouraged the mutineers but this explanation was favoured at the time by the government and loyalist commentators because it enabled them to deny the capacity of the sailors for independent political thought and action, suggesting instead that the seamen had merely been temporarily led astray by radical agitators. The upside-down print of Britannia in the background provides a symbolic commentary on the inversion of the traditional social order during the mutinies, as the sailors took control from the officers. The titles of the two ballads allude to the courage and loyalty that British sailors were supposed to embody but their tattered condition implies that the mutineers have abandoned these ideals. The Nore mutiny was still ongoing when this print was published on 9 June 1797 but it ended four days later on 13 June, after the government cut off the mutineers’ supplies and loyalist seamen recaptured the rebel ships, sometimes using violence. The leaders of the Nore mutiny were then court-martialled and hanged. Hand-coloured. Mounted with PAG8536 and bound in album PAG8512 with prints PAG8513, PAG8647, PAG8649 and PAG8666. (Updated April 2019.)

Object Details

ID: PAG8535
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Fores, S. W.; Cruikshank, Isaac
Date made: 9 Jun 1797
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 260 x 362 mm
Parts: Sailors in Caricature. Rowlandson, Woodward, Cruikshank, Williams, Heath, etc (Album)

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