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'The political-banditti assailing the saviour of India'

13 of 47 portraits of Warren Hastings

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'The political-banditti assailing the saviour of India'

by James Gillray, published by William Holland
hand-coloured etching, published 11 May 1786
12 3/8 in. x 16 5/8 in. (313 mm x 421 mm) plate size; 13 3/8 in. x 17 3/8 in. (339 mm x 441 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D1360

Sittersback to top

Artistsback to top

  • James Gillray (1756-1815), Caricaturist. Artist associated with 881 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
  • William Holland (active 1782-1802), Book and printseller. Artist associated with 12 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The impeachment of Warren Hastings, Governor General of India (1773-1784), was the subject of many caricatures over the seven years of his trial. In 1786 Edmund Burke, one of the three banditti of this print, moved to impeach Warren Hastings on charges of corruption, maladministration and extortion. For Burke, Hastings came to symbolise British abuses in India. His speeches and writings characterised him as power-mad, driven by greed, a man intent on plundering the continent: 'He is a captain general of iniquity - thief - tyrant - robber - cheat - sharper - swindler. We call him these names, and are sorry that the English language does not afford terms adequate to the enormity of his offences.' Here Gillray barely caricatures Hastings, seating him on a camel, besieged by the figures of Fox, Burke and North. Burke is grotesquely thin and wears the Jesuit biretta by which Gillray signalled his ongoing support for the emancipation of Irish Catholics. Hastings was ultimately acquitted but his impeachment, which lasted from 1788 to 1795, was the longest political trial in history and brought the defendant to financial ruin in the process.

Placesback to top

Events of 1786back to top

Current affairs

Philosopher and politician Edmund Burke instigates impeachment proceedings against Warren Hastings, former Governor-General of Bengal after concerns about the moral standards of the British in India are raised.
Prime Minister William Pitt appoints commissioners for the reduction of the national debt and establishes a sinking fund of £1 million a year.
Government approves the establishment of a penal colony at Botany Bay.

Art and science

Robert Burns publishes Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect bringing him immediate success across the country.
Engraver and publisher John Boydell initiates plans for his Shakespeare Gallery in an effort to establish a school of British history painting.
Merchant David Dale establishes New Lanark in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, as a model cotton milling community.


General Charles Cornwallis succeeds Warren Hastings as Governor-General in India.
Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Marriage of Figaro premieres in Vienna.
Francisco Goya is appointed court painter to the Spanish king Charles III.

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