The lawyers are descending on Westminster Hall on the first day of the term (January 1817). William Garrow, as Attorney General would be prominent in this group, an observation pointed out by M. Dorothy George, in her Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum‘, 1949). As Attorney General, Garrow was the chief prosecutor for the Crown. Geoffrey Robertson QC pointed out, by this time Garrow had gone “over to the dark side” – a prosecutor, no longer the innovative defender of human rights. However, some historians have been gentle with Garrow on this regard. Upon his retirement the Legal Observer commented on his performance as Attorney General:
‘Convinced, by long experience and observation, of the dangerous effects of failure in proceedings of this nature (state prosecutions), caution and deliberation seem to have characterized his resolutions, and to have dictated the advice he was called upon to offer to the government upon such subjects. Hence it may be seen that, although during his official responsibility the number of state prosecutions were few in comparison with those instituted by some of his predecessors, rarely can there be found an instance in which an acquittal added to the evil intended to be suppressed, and, by bringing the law itself into odium and contempt, encouraged a repetition of the offence. Well may it therefore, …be remarked, that in this respect at least, Sir William Garrow’s discreet and vigilant exercise of the powers entrusted to him as a public law officer, entitles him to no mean commendation.’
All images © The British Museum – no reproduction without permission.
2 Replies to “William Garrow in the British Museum”
I did not see any mention of the 1789: The Old Bailey Advocate bringing off a thief.
It is one of my favourites, and I have always rather assumed it depicts Garrow: http://tinyurl.com/37sxzv6
“Hi Tim. Your observation is a good one. “The Old Bailey Advocate bringing off a thief” must be included in the collection of images on Garrow in the British Museum collection. As you say, It is almost certainly Garrow, although M. Doprothy George, in her “Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum” identifies the figure as someone else… But as you well know, in 1789 in the Old Bailey, it was Garrow that fits the title. We strongly recommend that viewers go to http://tinyurl.com/37sxzv6 to view this image. And we greatly appreciate your efforts in your work with the Old Bailey Proceedings Online project. Please add all the additional comments you wish to the Garrow Society site.”