The South Sea Scheme

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The South Sea Scheme
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William Hogarth

The South Sea Scheme.

London, Baldwin Craddock & Joy 1822

Copper engraving

265 x 330mm


A final state of Hogarth’s satire on dishonest speculation and the great South Sea Bubble scandal of 1720. On the left is the base of the Monument, with the inscription altered to read This Monument was erected in memory of the Destruction of the City by the South Sea in 1720. two wolves now replace the dragon at the base of the pillar. On the right are the statues of Gog and Magog symbolising the Guildhall, while in the distance is the Dome of St. Paul’s and in the centre a merry-go-round surmounted by a goat and the placard Who’l Ride. In the centre Honesty is being broken on a spiked wheel and whipped by Villainy, on the left three clergymen a Catholic a Protestant and a Jew gamble in the corner, while all sorts of charlatans openly ply their trades. The financial ‘system’ of the Scotsman John Law, aimed at paying the French National Debt and thus establishing France as a modern economic state had the effect of producing a wild enthusiasm for speculation on both sides of the Channel. While French speculation in the Mississipi Company was at least based on ownership of the Louisiana Territory, the British South Seas Company’s basis was nothing more substantial than trade routes in South America already held by the Spanish and vague rumours of gold mines in Peru. The feverish mania for speculation and daft ‘get rich quick’ schemes (extracting butter from beechnuts ! oil from radishes ! &c. &c.) mounted, involving even the Royal Family. However, in August 1720 the bubble inevitably burst and public money, ancestral estates and life savings alike disappeared. Paulson 43 final state