AMERICAN REVOLUTION - WILSON, Benjamin (1721-1788).
[London: 18 March 1766]. Engraving, on laid paper. Sheet size: 11 1/2 x 18 inches. Trimmed to the platemark.
Rare first edition, first issue of the most famous satirical print relating to the dreaded Stamp Act, printed on the day of its repeal.
"One of the most famous and popular of the political satires commenting on the Stamp Act is this one ... An instant success, it became one of the most copied satires of the period" (Dolmetsch). This example a rare early impression issued prior to the numerous piracies which ensued (see below).
Set on the bank of the Thames, with warehouses and goods awaiting shipment to America in the background, George Grenville carries a small coffin representing the Act toward a vault adorned with two skulls. Other mourners include caricatures of the leading proponents of the tax. At the lead is William Scott or Anti-Sejanus, who reads from a sermon while a dog pees on his leg. Scott is followed by Solicitor-General Wedderburn and Attorney General Fletcher Norton, carrying flags that display the vote against the repeal; then Grenville, Lord Bute, Lord Temple, Lord Halifax, and Lord Sandwich. The three ships in the background, to be loaded with the goods for America, are named Conway, Rockingham and Grafton after the leading members of Parliament responsible for the act's repeal.
Wilson detailed the publication of this print in his autobiography (published by the Walpole Society, LXXIV 2012, p.200): "This print I published within ten minutes after the Act was repealed. I had but four days to sell it in; because on the fifth there appeared two pirated editions which sold for half the price. Nevertheless in those four days, I sold about 2,000 at a shilling apiece; I was informed by persons of credit that there were sold of the pirated copies above sixteen thousand..." The piracies are readily identified by the presence of text below the image, as well as being reduced in size. See the British Museum catalogue for detailed differences between the present example and the later issues.
The present example is one of very few known proof states, before lettering of the second line of the title (i.e. "or the Funeral of Miss Ame-Stamp"). According to the British Museum online catalogue, the same proof state is the only original (i.e. non-pirated) version which the British Museum holds, attesting to the rarity of Wilson's original.
BM Satire 4140; Dolmetsch, Rebellion and Reconciliation: Satirical Prints on the Revolution at Williamsburg, pp.38-39; Cresswell 623.