4 of 12 portraits of Thomas Paine
by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey
hand-coloured etching, published 23 May 1791
14 in. x 9 7/8 in. (355 mm x 250 mm) plate size; 14 1/2 in. x 10 3/8 in. (367 mm x 262 mm) paper size
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Events of 1791back to top
Current affairsThomas Paine publishes his inflammatory and widely read Rights of Man in response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France of the previous year. The work advocates radical revolution and prompts a trial for seditious libel that takes place in his absence.
The Catholic Relief Act is passed, repealing the most severe penal laws.
Art and scienceAstronomer William Herschel discovers Uranus.
Robert Burns publishes Tam O'Shanter, combining the Scottish vernacular with the formal traditions of classical English poetry and exploring radical ideas of freedom.
The Observer newspaper is founded.
The Ordnance Survey is set up to prepare detailed maps of the country.
InternationalMozart composes The Magic Flute.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man establishes liberal freedoms in France
The French Constitution is passed by the National Assembly.
Louis XVI flees Paris with his family but is captured at Varennes.
William Pitt declares Britain will remain neutral in any war against France.