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Related Papers and Links

Mark Knights, Was Samuel Pepys Corrupt?

Mark Philp, Public Ethics and Political Judgment (2014)

Mark Philp, The Seven Principles: What they say and what they mean (2017)

Political Caricatures

Contention over the use of public office grew dramatically in the 18th Century in Britain, although reform was a very long process. One result was the development of a range of sophisticated depictions of corruption scandals using caricatures. Here are some examples of the many hundreds of prints printed on the theme.

Loaves and Fishes: 1783

A satire showing past and present ministries grasping for the 'loaves and fishes' on offer. In the bottom right, Edmund Burke is shown with two dogs who represent pay office clerks, each with a sum above them: they are Powell and Bembridge who had been dismissed for misconduct in office but were reinstated by Burke, who had become Paymaster General. Bembridge was subsequently prosecuted and his case forms the legal definition, still used, for misconduct in public office.


© Trustees of the British Museum

1768 - To the Worshipful Mayor....

the caricature depicts a corrupt official and candidate at an election with a bribed/drunk/dead voter


© Trustees of the British Museum

1788-95: Impeachment Ticket

A caricature from the impeachment of Warren Hastings for corruption in India during his time as Governor General there. It is presented in the form of a mock ticket for entry to the trial of Hastings, held in Parliament. It was the longest-lasting trial in Parliamentary history (1788-95).


© Trustees of the British Museum

1809 Mrs Clarke's Petticoat

This represents Mary Clarke, mistress to the duke of York (George III's son), who was found to have taken money in return for influencing appointments to offices.


© Trustees of the British Museum

Burdett and Corruption 1819

An image of 1819 showing the reformer Sir Francis Burdett between the monster of corruption on the right and the 'Genius of Honour' who has a 'sound Mind'; 'An Eye ever watchful to the Welfare of his fellow Citizens.'; 'A Tongue that never belied a good Heart'. On his shoulder: 'A Shoulder that never shrinks in trouble'. A placard across his chest: 'An Upright Breast and an Honest Heart'. On his paunch: 'A Lover of Peace and Plenty A Plain Liver'. His pocket: 'Pocket ever open to the Necessities of his Fellow Creatures'. Knee: 'A Knee to Religion'. Leg: 'Legs ever steady in his Country Cause'. In his right hand, inscribed 'Hand of Justice', he holds a paper: 'A Staunch Supporter of the Bill of Rights An Advocate for a Fair Representation of the People An Enemy to Bribery and Corruption'.


© Trustees of the British Museum