On this day in 1697 William Hogarth was born. Hogarth's father opened a coffee-house in London but the venture was unsuccessful and in 1707 he was confined to Fleet Prison for debt. Hogarth was released five years later during an amnesty.
When Hogarth was sixteen he was apprenticed to Ellis Gamble, a silverplate engraver. By 1720 Hogarth had own business engraving book plates and painting portraits. Around this time Hogarth met the artist, Sir James Thornhill. Impressed by his history paintings, Hogarth made regular visits to Thornhill's free art academy in Covent Garden.
The two men became close friends and Hogarth eventually married Thornhill's daughter, Jane. During the 1720s Hogarth worked for the printseller, Philip Overton. Hogarth also started to produce political satires. In 1726 Hogarth published The Punishments of Lemuel Gulliver, a satire on the prime minister, Robert Walpole.
Hogarth also painted pictures that told a moral story. The first of these, The Harlot's Progress (1732), shows the downfall of a country girl at the hands of people living in London. Other examples of this approach included The Rake's Progress (1733-35) and Industry and Idleness (1747).
By the 1730s Hogarth was an established artist but he suffered from printsellers who used his work without paying royalties. In 1735 Hogarth manages to persuade his friends in Parliament to pass the Engravers' Copyright Act. Later that year, Hogarth established St. Martin's Lane Academy, a guild for professional artists and a school for young artists.
After a period painting portraits of the rich and famous, Hogarth returned in 1751 to producing prints of everyday life. Prints such as Beer Street, Gin Lane and the Four Stages of Cruelty were extremely popular and sold in large numbers.
In The Election Hogarth produced four pictures that illustrated the Oxfordshire parliamentary election of 1754. Taken together, the four paintings show the evolving sequence of events during election day. The first three paintings, Election Entertainment, Canvassing for Votes and The Polling provides details of the type of corruption that took place in 18th century elections. In the final painting, Chairing the Member the winning Tory candidate's supporters celebrate his victory.
On this day in 1735 Granville Sharp was born. In 1765 Sharp was living with his brother, a surgeon in Wapping. One day Jonathan Strong, a black man, arrived at the house. Strong was a slave who had been so badly beaten by his master, David Lisle, that he was close to death. Sharp took Strong to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, where he had to spend four months recovering from his injuries. Strong told Sharp how Lisle, had brought him to England from Barbados. Lisle had apparently been dissatisfied with Strong's services and after beating him with his pistol, had thrown him onto the streets.
After Jonathan Strong had regained his health, David Lisle paid two men to recapture him. When Sharp heard the news he took Lisle to court claiming that as Strong was in England he was no longer a slave. However, it was not until 1768 that the courts ruled in Strong's favour. The case received national publicity and Sharp was able to use this in his campaign against slavery.
Hugh Thomas, the author of The Slave Trade (1997) has pointed out: "Sharp put this matter further to the test in the case of the slave Thomas Lewis, who, belonging to a West Indian planter, escaped in Chelsea. When he was recaptured, and shipped to begin the journey to Jamaica, Sharp served the captain on his boat with a writ of habeas corpus. The case came before Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who put to the jury the question whether the master had established his claim to the slave as his property. If they decided affirmatively, he would rule whether such a property could persist in England. The jury decided that the master had not established his claim. So the main question was left unsettled. Lord Mansfield said, rather curiously, that he hoped that the question whether slaves could be forcibly shipped back to the plantations would never be discussed."
In 1769 Sharp published A Representation of the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery. Soon afterwards he began to correspond and collaborate with the Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet and the Philadelphia abolitionist Benjamin Rush. He also took up the cases of other slaves such as James Somersett, and convinced the courts that "as soon as any slave sets foot upon English territory, he becomes free."
Granville Sharp developed radical political opinions about other issues as well. He argued in favour of parliamentary reform and an increase in the low wages paid to farm labourers. Sharp also supported the American colonists against the British government and as a result, had to resign from the civil service in 1776.
In April 1780 John Cartwright helped establish the Society for Constitutional Information. Granville Sharp joined the organisation. Other members included John Horne Tooke, John Thelwall, Granville Sharp, Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Gales and William Smith. It was an organisation of social reformers, many of whom were drawn from the rational dissenting community, dedicated to publishing political tracts aimed at educating fellow citizens on their lost ancient liberties. It promoted the work of Tom Paine and other campaigners for parliamentary reform. Sharp's biographer, Grayson Ditchfield, has pointed out that "Sharp corresponded with Christopher Wyvill, John Jebb, and other reformers; he wrote strongly against triennial parliaments as an insufficient measure; and he supported the legislative independence of the Irish parliament. In the belief that the ancient constitution represented people rather than property, and as an alternative to the universal suffrage for which he was not an enthusiast, Sharp advocated a revival of the Anglo-Saxon system of frankpledge. It would involve a system of administration from tithing courts to parliament, which would secure the involvement in government, and the preservation of the rights, of an active citizenry."
On this day in 1826 Joseph Arch, the son of a farm labourer, was born. After attending school for three years Joseph started work at the age of nine as a bird scarer on a local farm. Over the next few years he developed the skills of hedging, ditching and mowing.
On 3rd February, 1847, Arch married Mary Anne Mills, the daughter of a carpenter. A year later Arch became a Primitive Methodist lay preacher. In many of his sermons he dealt with the financial problems of farm labourers. He developed a reputation as a radical and in 1872 he was approached by a group of men who sought his help in forming a farm workers' union. Arch agreed to their request and during the next few months members increased rapidly. On 29th May, 1872, the National Agricultural Labourers' Union was established and Joseph Arch was elected as its full-time President. Within two years the union had over 86,000 members, over one-tenth of the farm work force in Britain.
The Canadian government invited Joseph Arch to visit its country in 1873 where he examined the suitability of the country for British emigration. Arch was impressed with what he saw and during the next few years the union helped over 40,000 farm labourers and their families to emigrate to Canada and Australia.
As well as trying to improve his members' pay and conditions, Arch also campaigned for the extension of the franchise. William Gladstone, the leader of the Liberal Government, was sympathetic to these demands and this resulted in the passing of he 1884 Parliamentary Reform Act.
In the 1885 General Election, Joseph Arch was elected as the Liberal Party MP for North-West Norfolk. Arch, the first agricultural labourer to be a member of the House of Commons. In 1893 Arch was appointed as a member of the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor. Arch retired from Parliament before the 1900 General Election.
On this day in 1836 May Grant got married, in Kingston to Edwin Horatio Seacole, but she was soon widowed. According to her biographer, Alan Palmer: "With her sister, Louisa, she ran the family boarding-house for several years, supervising its reconstruction after Kingston's great fire in 1843. She nursed cases of cholera and yellow fever in Jamaica and at Las Cruces in Panama where, for more than two years, she helped her brother manage a hotel. On returning to Jamaica she was briefly nursing superintendent at Up-Park military camp."
In 1850 Kingston was hit by a cholera epidemic. Mary Seacole, used herbal medicines and other remedies including lead acetate and mercury chloride. She also dealt with a yellow fever outbreak in Jamaica. Her fame as a medical practitioner grew and she was soon carrying out operations on people suffering from knife and gunshot wounds.
Mary loved travelling and as a young woman visited the Bahamas, Haiti and Cuba. In these countries she collected details of how people used local plants and herbs to treat the sick. On one trip to Panama she helped treat people during another cholera epidemic. Mary carried out an autopsy on one victim and was therefore able to learn even more about the way the disease attacked the body.
In 1853 Russia invaded Turkey. Britain and France, concerned about the growing power of Russia, went to Turkey's aid. This conflict became known as the Crimean War. Soon after British soldiers arrived in Turkey, they began going down with cholera and malaria. Within a few weeks an estimated 8,000 men were suffering from these two diseases. At the time, disease was a far greater threat to soldiers than was the enemy. In the Crimean War, of the 21,000 soldiers who died, only 3,000 died from injuries received in battle.
Mary Seacole travelled to London to offer her services to the British Army. There was considerable prejudice against women's involvement in medicine and her offer was rejected. When The Times publicised the fact that a large number of British soldiers were dying of cholera there was a public outcry, and the government was forced to change its mind. Florence Nightingale, who had little practical experience of cholera, was chosen to take a team of thirty-nine nurses to treat the sick soldiers.
Mary Seacole's application to join Florence Nightingale's team was rejected. Mary, who had become a successful business woman in Jamaica, decided to travel to the Crimea at her own expense. She visited Florence Nightingale at her hospital at Scutari. Unwilling to accept defeat, Mary started up a business called the British Hotel but others referred to as “Mrs Seacole’s hut” a few miles from the battlefront. Here she sold food and drink to the British officers and a canteen for the soldiers.
Alan Palmer has argued: "Her independent status ensured a freedom of movement denied the formal nursing service; by June she was a familiar figure at the battle-front, riding forward with two mules in attendance, one carrying medicaments and the other food and wine. She brought medical comfort to the maimed and dying after the assault on the Redan, in which a quarter of the British force was killed or wounded, and she tended Italian, French, and Russian casualties at the Chernaya two months later."
Lady Alicia Blackwood wrote in A Narrative of Personal Experiences and Impressions during a Residence on the Bosphorous throughout the Crimean War (1881): "She (Mary Seacole) had, during the time of battle, and in the time of fearful distress, personally spared no pains and no exertion to visit the field of woe, and minister with her own hands such things as she could comfort, or alleviate the sufferings of those around her; freely giving to su
William H. Russell, wrote in The Times: "In the hour of their illness, these men have found a kind and successful physician, a Mrs Seacole. She is from Kingston (Jamaica) and she doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battlefield to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow's blessing." However, Lynn MacDonald points out: "The medical treatment she gave to soldiers is easily exaggerated - her patients were all relatively healthy walk-ins. The most serious cases went to the general hospitals, the less serious to the regimental hospitals."
Whereas Florence Nightingale and her nurses were based in a hospital several miles from the front, Mary Seacole treated her patients on the battlefield. On several occasions she was found treating wounded soldiers from both sides while the battle was still going on. However, most of her time on battle days went to selling food and drink to officers and spectators.
After the war ended in 1856 Mary Seacole returned to England where she opened a canteen at Aldershot, a venture that failed through lack of funds. By November she was bankrupt. She was encouraged to write an autobiography, published by Blackwood in July 1857 as the Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole. It sold well and lived in some comfort during her final years. Mary Seacole died of apoplexy in London on 14th May, 1881.
On 31st December 2012, Guy Walters reported in The Daily Mail: "The £500,000 memorial - larger than the statue of Florence Nightingale near Pall Mall - will show Seacole marching out to the battlefield, a medical bag over her shoulder, a row of medals proudly pinned to her chest. There's just one problem: historians around the world are growing increasingly uneasy about the statue, amid claims the adulation of Seacole has gone too far. They claim her achievements have been hugely oversold for political reasons, and out of a commendable - but in this case misguided - desire to create positive black role models. Now Seacole is at the centre of a new controversy with the news that the story of her life will no longer be taught to thousands of pupils. Westminster Education Secretary Michael Gove has decreed that instead they will learn about traditional figures such as Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill."
Walters quoted Lynn MacDonald, a history professor and world expert on Florence Nightingale, who feels Seacole is being promoted at the expense of Nightingale. "Nightingale was the pioneer nurse, not Mary Seacole. It's fine to have a statue to whoever you want, but Seacole was not a pioneer nurse, she didn't call herself a nurse, she didn't practise nursing, and she had no association with St Thomas's or any other hospital."
Imran Kahn, an executive member of Conservative Muslim Forum and a former Conservative councillor, argued in New Statesman on 5th January, 2013: "According to newspaper reports, Mary Seacole is to be dropped from the national curriculum so history teachers can concentrate on Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell. Tellingly, teachers themselves have not been coming forward to offer support for this move. The idea that schools must silence black voices so teachers can talk about Churchill, Cromwell or Nelson is one that barely merits serious argument. But bearing in mind that the abolition of slavery occurred during the lifetime of Mary Seacole in 1840, and the gigantic military presence in the British West Indies – 93 infantry regiments serving between 1793 and 1815 – not to mention her own crucial role, Seacole is ideally placed to mark out hugely significant historical events. Michael Gove must trust teachers to decide what is in the best interests of children, instead of air-brushing black people out of history. There is no question that historical black role models such as Seacole give children of all races important tools in overcoming racist assumptions about black and Asian peoples’ contribution to Britain. Knowing about black history educates all of us, promotes respect and helps to inculcate shared multicultural values."
Opponents of the idea of removing Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum started an online petition: "The Government is proposing to remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. We are opposed to this and wish to see Mary Seacole retained so that current and future generations can appreciate this important historical person. Her role in the Crimea War fully justifies Mary Seacole's status as a Victorian figure taught in schools today. She was a national heroine on her return to Britain and a crowd of 80,000 attended a four day fundraising benefit in her honour in 1857. Her inclusion on the National Curriculum came as a result of a tireless campaigning to recognise someone who had become a forgotten figure in modern times. Her proposed removal can only be attributed to a recent backlash against Mary Seacole as a symbol of 'political correctness' by Right-wing media and commentators. To remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum is tantamount to rewriting history to fit a worldview hostile to Britain's historical diversity.... Mary Seacole the only Black figure to feature in the National Curriculum not connected to civil rights or enslavement and removing someone who was voted by the public the Greatest Black Briton sends out the wrong signals. We should be taught more Black history not less."
The petition was signed by 35,000 people and The Independent reported on 7th February, 2013: "The 'greatest black Briton' Mary Seacole is to remain on the National Curriculum after an apparent U-turn by Education Secretary Michael Gove, The Independent has learned. The move represents a major victory for campaigners, who opposed his plans to drop her. The reprieve was granted under pressure from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, as well as Operation Black Vote which set up a petition signed by more than 35,000 people. On the old Curriculum, Mary Seacole - who cared for soldiers during the Crimean War – appeared in the annex as suggested as someone primary school teachers could use in their classrooms to illustrate Victorian Britain. In the new document, her story is even more central. Seacole, one of the first and most prominent black figures in British history, appears alongside Florence Nightingale and Annie Besant as a figure high school pupils should cover in order to learn about."
On this day in 1865 Major Henry Wirz, is executed for war crimes. On the outbreak of the American Civil War Wirz joined the Confederate Army. A sergeant in the Louisiana Volunteers, Wirz was badly wounded at the battle at Fair Oaks (May, 1862) and lost the use of his right arm. Unable to continue in active service, Wirz became a clerk at Libby Prison in Richmond. His commanding officer, Brigadier General John Henry Winder, was impressed by Wirz and he was soon promoted to the rank of major.
During the summer of 1863 an agreement under which Union and Confederate captives were exchanged, came to an end. There was now a rapid increase in the number of prisoners and so it was decided to build Andersonville Prison in Georgia. In April, 1864 Winder appointed Wirz as commandant of this new prison camp.
By August, 1864, there were 32,000 Union Army prisoners in Andersonville. The Confederate authorities did not provide enough food for the prison and men began to die of starvation. The water became polluted and disease was a constant problem. Of the 49,485 prisoners who entered the camp, nearly 13,000 died from disease and malnutrition.
When the Union Army arrived in Andersonville in May, 1865, photographs of the prisoners were taken and the following month they appeared in Harper's Weekly. The photographs caused considerable anger and calls were made for the people responsible to be punished for these crimes. It was eventually decided to charge General Robert Lee, James Seddon, the Secretary of War, and several other Confederate generals and politicians with "conspiring to injure the health and destroy the lives of United States soldiers held as prisoners by the Confederate States".
In August, 1865 President Andrew Johnson ordered that the charges against the Confederate generals and politicians should be dropped. However, he did give his approval for Wirz to be charged with "wanton cruelty". Wirz appeared before a military commission headed by Major General Lew Wallace on 21st August, 1865. During the trial a letter from Wirz was presented that showed that he had complained to his superiors about the shortage of food being provided for the prisoners. However, former inmates at Andersonville testified that Wirz inspected the prison every day and often warned that if any man escaped he would "starve every damn Yankee for it." When Wirz fell ill during the trial Wallace forced to attend and was brought into court on a stretcher.
Wirz was found guilty on 6th November and sentenced to death. He was taken to Washington to be executed in the same yard where those involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln had died. Alexander Gardner, the famous photographer, was invited to record the event.
The execution took place on the 10th November. The gallows were surrounded by Union Army soldiers who throughout the procedure chanted "Wirz, remember, Andersonville." Accompanied by a Catholic priest, Wirz refused to make a last minute confession, claiming he was not guilty of committing any crime.
Major Russell read the death warrant and then told Wirz he "deplored this duty."Wirz replied that: "I know what orders are, Major. And I am being hanged for obeying them." After a black hood was placed over his head, and the noose adjusted, a spring was touched and the trap door opened. However, the drop failed to break his neck and it took him two minutes to die. During this time the soldiers continued to chant: "Wirz, remember, Andersonville."
On this day in 1880 Jacob Epstein, was born. In 1914 Epstein became associated with a new movement called Vorticism. The leader of this group was Percy Wyndham Lewis. In his journal, Blast, Lewis attacked the sentimentality of 19th century art and emphasized the value of violence, energy and the machine. In the visual arts Vorticism was expressed in abstract compositions of bold lines, sharp angles and planes. Others associated with this movement included Christopher Nevinson, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, William Roberts, David Bomberg and Edward Wadsworth. It has been argued that his most experimental work, Rock Drill (1914) reflects "the embodiment of the vorticist passion for dynamism and of their virile aesthetic."
Epstein's friends campaigned for him to become a government war artist during the First World War. This idea was rejected by the authorities and in 1917 he was conscripted and became a private in the Jewish 38th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He was discharged in 1918 without leaving England, having suffered a mental breakdown.
The Risen Christ, produced as a result of his experiences in the war caused problems when it was exhibited in 1920. Epstein considered the figure to be an anti-war statement and declared that he would ideally like it to be remodelled and made hundreds of feet high as a "mighty symbolic warning to all lands." John Galsworthy remarked after visiting the exhibition that: "I can never forgive Mr. Epstein for his representation of Our Lord."
On this day in 1886 Arnold Zweig was born in Germany. On the outbreak of the First World War Zweig joined the German Army and served at Verdun and at the German Army Headquarters on the Eastern Front. Influenced by Under Fire by Henri Barbusse, Zweig wrote the novel, The Case of Sergeant Grisha (1928). Based on an actual case, the story concerns a Russian sergeant who is caught, tried and executed as a German deserter.
An opponent of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, Zweig was co-editor of the anti-fascist magazine, World Stage . Exiled by the Nazis in 1934, he continued to publish novels including Education Before Verdun (1935), The Crowning of a King (1937) and The Axe of Wandsbek (1947).
Zweig returned to Germany after the Second World War and served as president of the German Academy of the Arts (1950-53) and won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1959. Arnold Zweig died in East Berlin on 26th November 1968.
On this day in 1936 Wyndham Robinson published a cartoon expressing a fear of communism. Wyndham Robinson, the son of a journalist, was born in London in 1883. He studied at the Lambeth Art School and the Chelsea School of Art. He intended to become a fashion artist but after seeing the work of Will Dyson he decided to become a cartoonist.
On the outbreak of the First World War he joined the Artists Rifles. The regiment largely consisted of painters, sculptors, engravers, musicians, architects and actors. Some of the artists who joined the regiment in 1914 included Edgell Rickword, Charles Jagger, Wilfred Owen, Bert Thomas, R. C. Sherriff, Edward Thomas, Paul Nash, John Nash, John Lavery, Alfred Leete, Frank Dobson, Eric Blore and Eugene Bennett.
Robinson was transferred to the Royal Field Artillery and served on the Western Front, attaining the rank of captain. After the Armistice Robinson spent a year in Germany with the Army of Occupation. He then moved to Southern Rhodesia where he became a tobacco-farmer. In 1928 he returned to cartooning and worked for The Cape Times.
In 1932 Robinson was appointed as the political cartoonist for The Morning Post. During the Great Depression he became a strong critic of the government of Ramsay MacDonald. In one cartoon published on 31st July 1933, Robinson's compared MacDonald's inactivity with that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He also portrayed Stanley Baldwin as disinterested in the subject.
According to Martin Walker, the author of Daily Sketches: A Cartoon History of Twentieth Century Britain (1978): "Wyndham Robinson, one of the most talented cartoonists to emerge in the 1930s... made the valid point that such Depression-beating energy could be mobilised quite as effectively by that other great democracy, the US, under Roosevelt and the New Deal. By comparison, MacDonald is an old woman."
Wyndham Robinson believed that there was a strong danger that the unemployed would be attracted to the policies of the Communist Party of Great Britain. This was reflected in the cartoon, The End of the Trail, published in The Morning Post on 10th November, 1936. The following year he joined the The Daily Telegraph. He also had his work published in Punch Magazine, London Opinion and The Tatler.