Print, The Closet

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  • After Work: Earl of Bute, Lord George Germain; Engraver: Earl of Mansfield
  • London, England
  • January 28, 1778
  • Black and White Line Engraving
  • 1960-60

The lower margin reads: "Germaine Ex.t/ Publish'd as the Act directs Jan.y 1778, by I Williams N.o 39 Fleet Street./ Mansfield sculp.t"

Composed of many small scenes, "The Closet" is a complex satire on the future of the American Revolution. The scene is set in the upper right box where George III and his ministers are seated around a table discussing the colonial situation. Goaded by the Devil, Bute urges bold and resolute action. George, seated next to him, assures the group that he will be firm. Holding a code of laws for the colonies before they kill him. Lord George Germain clutched papers that contain instructions for the British commanders in the colonies.

At the bottom right is a group of four figures that have not previously appeared in the satires in this volume. The man with a gun at his head and the prone figure represent Charles Yorke before and after his death. Under much duress Yorke accepted appointment as Lord Chancellor and died almost immediately thereafter, leading to speculation that he had committed suicide. To Yorke's left is the figure of a fool who declares himself firmly for folly, convinced that the present government's policy is foolery. To Yorke's right, a headless figure holds his head in his arm. In his other hand is an address of loyalty to the king from Manchester, one of the first towns to support George's colonial policies. The figure's condition suggests that threats were made to obtain such allegiance.

In the center are ships representing three naval engagements. The top, "Quebec Hoy." symbolizes the problems created by the unpopular Quebec Act. The two American privateers in the middle have cut off British shipping from the colonies. At the bottom, a group of wounded men are putting ashore from the "Chelsea Hoy." One of the first Revolutionary War incidents had occurred in May 1775, when a British vessel in the Mystic River at Chelsea, Massachusetts, was captured by colonial militia under generals John Stark and Israel Putnam.

The four boxes on the left depict four prewar incidents. At the top is the scalping murder of Jane McCrea by an Indian is shown. Loyalist Jane was on her way to her wedding under Indian escort when one of them turned and killed her. Her death incensed both the English, who were helpless to discipline the Indian without incurring further trouble with his tribe, and the Americans, who used Jane's murder for propaganda purposes.

Additional Indian atrocities are shown in the second box. While not actually ordered by the English, some of the abuses may have been encouraged by them. In 1776, The Cedars, an American post on the St. Lawrence, surrendered to an invading party of Canadian regulars and Mohawks, after they agreed to protect prisoners. Despite assurances, a number of Americans in the fort were brutally killed.

The third box shows Burgoyne's retreat following the battle at Saratoga. Dressed in doublet and cavalier boots instead of a uniform, Burgoyne leads a group of shackled soldiers away from the American troops stationed on the hill.

In the last box, wounded Scottish soldiers who had formed part of Burgoyne's army flee the battle scene in disarray.

The maker of this work has added another satiric touch. By including in the publication line the names of the politicians he suggests that they must take full responsibility for its content.

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