'Richard Parker President of the Delegates in the late Mutiny in his Majesty's Fleet at the Nore For which he sufferd Death on board the Sandwich the 30th of June 1797' RMG PY5441
'Richard Parker President of the Delegates in the late Mutiny in his Majesty's Fleet at the Nore For which he sufferd Death on board the Sandwich the 30th of June 1797'
Richard Parker, as the caption states, was the leader of the naval mutiny at the Nore in May and June 1797. Following swiftly on from the major, and seemingly entirely unanticipated, mutiny of the fleet at Spithead, the Nore mutiny presented a potentially disastrous crisis to the government at a very difficult time in the war against France. The anxiety was compounded by the widespread belief that the mutiny was caused by radical democratic and republican lower-deck elements in the Navy. Certainly, due to the increasing demand for manpower, a greater proportion of unskilled landsmen, Irishmen and potential radicals had been absorbed into the lower deck, and some of the sailors were members of the Corresponding Societies. The use of methods such as the ‘round-robin’ petition also indicated the mutineers’ familiarity and presumably sympathy with methods adopted by American and French revolutionaries. However, it is unclear to what extent such political sympathies extended through the lower-deck population: the grievances of the majority were directed principally against poor pay and conditions.
The crisis was averted when, after lengthy negotiations, the first ships broke away from the mutiny on 9 June, after which its leaders rapidly capitulated. Parker was court-martialled and hanged on his ship, the ‘Sandwich’, on 30 June, ‘for having been the Principal in a most daring Mutiny on board several of his Majesty’s Ships at the Nore, & which created a dreadful alarm through the whole Nation’. The political message of this print is underscored by the fact that Parker is shown twice, heroically posed in dress reminiscent of French Revolutionary style in the foreground, but pointing with his sword to a hanged body (presumably his own) on the yardarm behind, as a warning to other possible lower-deck subversives. The print can therefore be regarded a visual equivalent of the, often repentant, gallows speeches rushed out in popular editions at this time after the public executions of notorious criminals.