Monday, 6 November 2017

Magistrates and cavalrymen - newly discovered cartoons depict policing of 10 April 1848

I keep a close eye on eBay for anything to do with Chartism. So when a series of five original and contemporary cartoons dealing with the events of 10 April 1848 came up recently, I could hardly contain my excitement.

The cartoons, which I acquired without a second’s thought, show Thomas James Arnold, who as police magistrate on duty on the day of the Kennington Common rally, provided civilian oversight and control of at least part of the military presence – in this case the Royal Horse Artillery.

I have published a blog post on each of the cartoons separately so that the illustrations can be seen properly.

But here I want to talk through the sequence and what they show.

The first cartoon, headed 10 April 1848, depicts Arnold in a giant Wellington boot and holding a truncheon marked SC (special constable). The image of a giant boot first appeared in a famous cartoon of 1827, when it stood in for the Iron Duke.

Wellington had, of course, been recalled from retirement in 1848 to oversee the security of the capital, deploying troops and thousands of special constables in advance of the Chartist rally which was to proceed a march on Parliament and the presentation of the last great petition.

The second shows Arnold being presented by an officer to ranks of cavalry soldiers. It is titled The Blues are placed at the disposal of the civil power. The Blues were the Royal Horse Artillery.

The third, captioned The civil power expounds the law of riots, routs and unlawful as[sembly] (the final letters are cut off), shows Arnold (again in a boot) explaining legal matters to a clearly baffled cavalry officer.

The fourth, The civil power reads the Riot Act… & gives the word of command, shows Arnold shouting the word “Charge!” as he disappears head first into the giant boot.

The fifth and final cartoon depicts Arnold seated at a table of cavalry officers, champagne glass in hand, and is captioned, The civil power is [word unclear] an honorary member of the Blues and approves of the Champagne.

Where do the cartoons come from?

None of the five cartoons is signed and Arnold is not named in them. But it is possible to be confident in the artist and the subject.

1842 cartoon by JohnPaget
All five come from a Victorian album, which has recently been broken up for sale. An earlier cartoon, dating to 1842, which I also have, came from the same album, is clearly in the same hand, and provides a great deal of useful information. A picture of the letter appears right.

This earlier cartoon appears within a letter sent by John Paget to a barrister by the name of Holland at Harcourt Buildings in London – one of the Inns of Court.

John Paget (1811-1898) was himself a barrister, police magistrate and writer. As a young man, he had supported the Reform Act of 1832 and became a founder member of the Reform Club in 1836.

Professionally, he entered the Middle Temple in 1835 and was called to the bar three years later. Subsequently he became a police magistrate at Thames police court from 1864 and later at the Hammersmith and Wandworth courts.

Paget was apparently a contributor to Blackwoods Magazine from 1860 to 1888, and in 1874 authored Paradoxes and Puzzles, which included accounts of sensational crimes.

By a great piece of luck, this earlier cartoon also depicts Thomas James Arnold, and names him in the text.

Arnold (1804-1877) had been called to the bar in 1829 and appointed a magistrate at Worship Street police court in 1847. He later transferred to the Westminster court in 1851. Arnold too was an author, writing legal manuals and translations of classical literature.

Sequence of the cartoons

The five cartoons concerning the events of 10 April 1848 form not just a set but, it seems to me, a story. While the first is more of a title page, the others do represent a sequence through from the time Arnold is introduced to the Blues to the celebrations at the successful conclusion of the day.

I can be sure of the order of the cartoons as they are all still glued to the pages of the album in which they have sat for the past century and a half.

I have yet to do any real research on the cartoons and would appreciate any thoughts or pointers.

It does, however, look to me as though the senior officer who appears several times (I think in the second, third and fifth cartoons) may well be the same man and would presumably be identifiable from military records and the uniform he is wearing.

If I find out more, I shall post it here…

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