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James Gillray Gallery: 1779 - 1788

 
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The V_____ Committe framing a Report

 

Wright & Evans Description | British Museum Description

   
 
 


Engraving from the 1851 Bohn edition
Originally Published August 12, 1782
13 3/8"w x 9 3/4"h

               
 
 

Wright and Evans Description (More ...)

10 THE V___ COMMITTEE FRAMING A REPORT..
August 12th, 1782.

" Not Atkinson with stronger terror started,
(Somewhat afraid, perchance, of being carted),
When Justice, a sly dame, one day thought fit
To pay her serious compliments to Kit,
Ask'd him a few short questions about corn,
And whisper'd, she believed he was forsworn;
Then hinted, that he probably would find,
That, though she sometimes winked, she was not blind."

PETER PJNOAR.

 

Not pillories, obeying Law's stern voice,'
                            Can more rejoice
To hold Kit Atkinson's two ears."

IBID.

On the conviction of Christopher Atkinson, Member of Parliament for Heydon, Yorkshire, of peculation in his office of Corn-factor to the Victualling Board. A Committee of the House of Commons, on which were many of his own friends, was appointed to examine into the charges against him. The portraits of the members of this Committee are given in Gillray's plate. The next year Atkinson was brought to trial in the Court of King's Bench for perjury, found guilty, and was in consequence expelled the House of Commons, December 4, 1784. He appealed to the House of Lords against his sentence, but it was confirmed with the concurrence of all the Judges, July 1, 1785; and in the same year, on the 25th of November, he was pilloried in Mark Lane.

This is the most highly finished of Gillray's early prints, and is very rare. The following verses, published to accompany it, are transcribed from an unique impression in the possession of Mr. George Pores, (son of the publisher). The figures in the plate, no doubt, refer to a key, of which, however, no trace is now to be found. No. 7 is probably Bamer Gascoyne, junr. His house at Barking had two fronts, and was called Bifrons. He was a particular friend of Atkinson's.

 

 

THE COMMITTEE.

A NEW SONG OF THE YEAR 1782.

1.

All you who would guess at the word call'd Committee,
Attend to my song, and I warrant I'll fit you;
But of what you shall hear pray don't speak like a mouse,
As it happeu'd, indeed, in the P********T (Parliament) House.

Derry down, &c.

2.

It happen'd, I won't pretend how long ago,
One A******N (Atkinson) would his INTEGRITY shew ;
When publicly charged by the FRIENDS OF THE NATION,
Of having been guilty of deep PECULATION

Derry down, &c.

3.

" I'm as guiltless," says he, ,as the child that's unborn,
Of o'ercharging their malt, their oats, pease, or their corn;
Though corn altogether, no doubt, they may be,
I agreed with the V*********G (Victualling) and had but my FEE."

Derry down, &c.

4.

As the man spoke so fairly, what more could he done
Than appoint a COMMITTEE to bring the case on?
But who could have thought that this SCANDALOUS ELF
Would have sat on this very Committee HIMSELF ?

Derry down, &c.

5.

W***B***D (Whitbread?) in the chair, attending all the rest,
B**G**NE (Burgoyne') in a sensible speech them address'd;
When, somehow or other, old BAM, AIR (Eyre), and K**KE
(Kirke),
Conceiv'd that the whole was a poor piece of work.

Derry down, &c.

6.

Bias bullied the evidence - 'tis plain for hire,
Assisted therein by his staunch LAWYER, AIR ;
Yet in private they said - and 'tis certainly true, -
His cause was so BAD, they could ne'er bring him THROUGH.

Derry down, &c.

7.

For burning his books, and his oath too denying,
We all must agree, was a new mode of lying;
His LIGHTERMAN, too, was in wickedness ripe,
When he said, with his BOOKS that he LIGHTED HIS PIPE.

Derry down, &c.

8.

Though TWITCHER appointed him unto that place,
He was discharg'd from it with SHAME and DISGRAcE.
Take warning, my friends, by his MERITED FALL,
Lest you lose a Plenty by grasping at all.

Derry down, &c.

9

For so was the Bog in the fable betray'd,
Who let go the substance to snap at the shade;
At his loss, like a dog, he long may have repin'd,
Unpitied by all HONEST MEN in their mind.

Derry down, &c.

10.

Then here's to SIT PHILIP, (my friends, push it round),
And all the Committee who HONEST were found;
May each worthy member still stick to his tenet,
While A******N trembles at the name of one B*NN*TT (Bennett.)

Derry down, &c.

 
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British Museum Description by M. Dorothy George (More ...)

6021 THE V- [VICTUALLING] COMMITTEE FRAMING A REPORT.
Pubd according to Act of Parliament Augt 12th 1782 by C. Atkinson and sold in Mark Lane!!! — "let the gall'd Jade wince!".

Members of a parliamentary committee seated round all oblong table; two tiers of raised seats are on the farther side of the table, in the centre of the upper tier sits the chairman, immediately below him the clerk of the committee is 'framing' the Report.

This is the Committee appointed to examine the conduct nominally of the Navy Victualling Board, actually that of Christopher Atkinson, a corn factor of Mark Lane, MY. for Heydon, employed by the Board to purchase malt, &c. on commission, who was accused of cheating by overcharges and false accounts. He had been attacked by letters in the General Advertiser, at first anonymously, and then from Oct. 1780 by one Bennett. In Feb. 1781 he was dismissed by the Board, in the same month he brought an action for libel against Bennett. He did not produce his books to the Board as requested and in the winter of 1781-2 burned them. The Committee sat from 7 Mar. 1782 to 25 June 1782 and examined members of the Victualling Board.

The persons in the print are portraits, and are indicated by numbers, but any explanatory notes there may have been are missing. With the print was issued a New Song of which there is a MS. copy.

The Chairman (1.) (Samuel Whitbread) is saying, This is certainly the first instance (fan accused Man sitting as Judge on his own Cause and requires particular attention. The clerk (2) is writing; he says, The Man who ventured to hold forth such Malpractices, has rendered his Country service. A man (3) standing on the r. of the Chairman, who from the Song appears to he Montague Burgoyne of the Victualling Office, is saying, His whole defence rests on the proof of his Partners & Clerk, & such Evidence should be cautiously trusted, they being interested. No 4, on the l. of the Chairman, evidently one of the seven Commissioners of the Victualling Office, is saying, He has behaved so well to as that we must endeavour to bring hint through, but the burning his hooks is the greatest preventative. No 5, seated on the r. of the clerk, is saying, Such infamous overcharges besides 35oo£ a year, deserves the severest punishment. No. 6, on the clerk's r., says, holding down his head, We must be tender, we may he in the same situation at a future time, then this will appear as a precedent. No. 7, on the r. of the middle tier, has two faces, one in profile to the I., the other to the r. One says, He has much Money, that is what I deal in. I must be tender; the other says, I must carry appearances against him to please the Public. Probably Barnher Gascoyne, junior, the two faces being an allusion to his house Bifrons at Barking, which had two fronts ... see infra the words spoken by No. 14. The next four are seated on the farther side of the table, immediately under the two upper tiers of seats: No. 8 (l.) says, clasping his hands and raising his eyes, Oh heavens, what can we expect of the Man who burns his Books & denies his Affidavit? (That is, in his libel action against Bennett, where he swore that he charged no more for his purchases for the Victualling Board than the prices he paid.) His neighbour (9) is saying, The great overcharge on the 250:I Malt at Plymouth, should not escape our notice. No. so turns to his neighbour on the r. saying, You must instruct me for his Interest, I have a refreshing Fee for You. No. 11 answers him, This damn'd Affidavit entirely oversets as! — But still we can't leave him; he is pointing to a paper which he holds in front of him inscribed, Kings Bench ... C.A., representing the affidavit in question.

No. 12, evidently Atkinson himself, is standing up at the r. end of the table, in profile to the l., his hand on his breast, looking towards the clerk; he says, Upon my Honor & Reputation notwithstanding the Charges against me, I served them with Industry and Sometimes with Integrity. The next two: are seated at the r. end of the table, both iiprofile to the l. No. 13 (next Atkinson) says, pointing to No. 11, The getting him upon the Committee was a noble stroke, we can now leave out the Evidence that affects him, as we have a Majority. The man next him, without a number, sits with a book on the table in front of him inscribed Letter, Scourge, if Bennett, C. A., evidently containing the Press attacks on Atkinson. He is saying, Suppressing Evidence so material to the Enquiry & deliver'd by such unimpeachable Characters, must deserve Censure.

The next six sit, r. to l., on the nearer side of the table facing the chairman. No. 14, with a pen in his hand and papers in front of him, is saying,The Quibbles used by Bam [Bamber Gascoyne] are intended to tire out the Committee. No. 15, evidently one of the Commissioners of the Victualling
Office, says, The letter we gave him was intended to do him honour, & should have contented him after detection. No. 16 says, The overcharges did not affect us, & I wish the Fellow, damn'd that first made them public, I feel the loss of presents. No. 17 says to No. 16, A very decent account of overcharge in which he bo' of one Person; he is holding in his hand a paper inscribed Flour 1300 at r, 826 at 2. 300(?) at 9, 10, 11 ... No. 18 says, turning to No. 19, We did not dismiss or accuse him till an instance was clearly traced out & proved of his not having done Justice to the Crown. No. 19 answers, We thought him to be our confidential Servant. Nos. 20 and 21 sit at the l. end of the table; 20 says, This Burning Books seems to be a concerted plan. between his Lighterman & himself, to prevent detection, as every other Person in the Trade preserve theirs.

In October 1782 Atkinson was indicted for perjury, as a result of the inquiries of the Victualling Committee. He was eventually tried and found guilty in the King's Bench before Mansfield on 15 July 1783. He was expelled from the House of Commons 4 Dec. 1784 and afterwards stood in the pillory, 25 Nov. 1785. This print appears to amalgamate the proceedings of the Commissioners of the Victualling Office with those of the Parliamentary Committee whose names are given in the Commons' Journal, vol. 38, pp. 871-2, 895, 1000. Nos. 3, 14, 15, 16, 18 and 19 are evidently Commissioners of the Victualling Board; these were Jonas Hanway, A. Chorley, Joah Bates, James Kirke, John Slade, William Lance, and Montague Burgoyne. The print is further explained by the song, 'The V——— Committee. A new song of the year 1782': in this 'Bam' (Bamber Gascoyne), 'Air' (Anthony Eyre, M.P. for Borough Bridge, or Francis Eyre, M.P. for Great Grimsby), and K**ke (James Kirke) are accused of shielding Atkinson. 'Sir Philip' (Jennings Clerke) is praised for his honesty. The affair produced a considerable literature in the years 1784-5 ...

   
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