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Framed engraved entrance ticket for the trial of Warren Hastings.

1793 Stock Code: 132089
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An engraved ticket to attend the trial of Warren Hastings, in a 1793 sitting. Warren Hastings was the head of the Supreme Council of Bengal, and consequently the de facto Governor-General of India, from 1774 to 1785. In 1787 he was accused of corruption and embezzlement, and began an impeachment trial under the House of Lords in Westminster Hall that would last from 1788 to 1795, with Richard Sheridan and Edmund Burke leading the prosecution. The trial, without doubt the most significant political trial in British history, was also a significant moment in the imperial project, instigating a very public debate about British India, the morality of British rule, and the country's imperial future.

Hastings' trial, at least in its early stages, was a major social event, with most of London high society turning out in attendance; Edward Gibbon and Joshua Reynolds watched alongside the Queen and the Prince of Wales. As Hastings's biographer records, "there was an enormous demand for tickets of admission to the Hall, and it is said that as much as 50 pounds was offered for a single ticket" (Charles Lawrence, The Private Life of Warren Hastings, 1905, p. 104). The tickets became such well-known objects that James Gillray produced two caricatures of them. However, as the trial dragged on over multiple years and endless sittings, public interest diminished, and by 1793, the date of this ticket, much of the glamour had gone. At last, in 1795, in somewhat of a damp squib, Hastings was overwhelmingly acquitted.

With so many sittings, there are numerous different examples of tickets. Many are plain, and the manuscript additions on this example are unusual and notable: the date of session (1793) and the ticket number (265) are noted, alongside the name of the bearer, and the signature of the issuer. The bearer is named as the London merchant William Vaughan (1752-1850); between 1793 and 1800 Vaughan circulated numerous tracts calling for the docks of London to be renovated, which he gathered and published in his memoir in 1839.

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Engraved permit printed in blue with armorial device and motto, lettered "For the Trial of Warren Hastings Esq: Permit the Bearer to Pass and Repass. (Not Transferable.)", manuscript addition of session, ticket number, bearer and issuer; framed against a marbled paper background in an early 20th-century glazed wooden frame, printed musical waste used as backing on reverse, metal picture hook on top. Engraving size 7.5 x 11.5 cm; frame size 15 x 18.5 cm.


In very good condition.


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