Monday, 6 November 2017

Cartoon 4. Riot Act and the command to charge

"The Civil Power reads the Riot Act. & gives the word of Command" by John Paget.

The fourth cartoon in the series shows Thomas Arnold emerging from the giant boot - representing the Duke of Wellington, who was in overall control of the defence of London on the day of the great Chartist meeting on Kennington Common.

On the left of the sketch, Arnold, one of nine police magistrates who embodied the Civil Power on the day and had command of a military detachment (in this case the Royal Horse Artillery), reads the Riot Act ordering protestors to disperse. And on the right, he gives the word to charge - while simultaneously disappearing down inside the boot.

A letter written by Arnold in June of that year (now in the National Archives - HO/45/2410/Part 1) noted that he had met the leading Chartist Peter McDouall some time after 1pm on 10 April and advised him that the proposed meeting "was illegal was illegal and would be prevented" (cited by David Goodway in London Chartism 1838-1848.

In the event, it is unlikely that Arnold ever issued the command. Most of the crowd dispersed peacefully, and those who attempted to cross the Thames were confronted by police officers rather than the artillery.

Drawn by Arnold's friend and fellow barrister John Paget, the cartoon is approximately 24cm by 18cm.

While the finished version is in pen and ink, there are lighter pencil marks below where Paget sketched out a rough version first. 

The sketch is still glued to the page of an old album, where it has probably been preserved since not long after it was drawn. The reverse of the same page holds cartoon 5, and that page in turn is attached along one edge to the page holding cartoons 2 and 3.

This is the fourth of five blog posts (plus an overview) showing a series of contemporary cartoons from 1848.

Overview and introduction
Cartoon 1. 
Cartoon 2. 
Cartoon 3.
Cartoon 4. 

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