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Sir Francis Burdett - An Early 19th Century Gilt Brass Snuff Box
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Sir Francis Burdett - An Early 19th Century Gilt Brass Snuff Box

£475

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Of circular form, the sides decorated with Greek key pattern. The top with Greek key pattern border encircling a relief portrait bust of the baronet and reformist politician, Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844). Signed beneath the bust, ‘M&P’ for the sculptor Nathaniel Merchant, R.A. (1739-1816) and Lewis Pingo, engraver at the Royal Mint (1743-1830). The reverse bearing the inscription 'The man / who / dare be honest / in / the worst / of / times' surrounded by a wreah of oak and laurel and a border of Greek key design.

Belonging to a group of gilt brass Regency snuff boxes featuring George III, Nelson, Pitt, and Fox, this example celebrates the remarkable Sir Francis Burdett. A prominent opponent of Pitt the younger, he witnessed the early days of the French Revolution first hand, and became a ceaseless agitator for reform and an opponent of corruption in Parliament. In 1810 he questioned the imprisonment of a leading radical by the House of Commons and tried to effect his release. The House of Commons voted this action a breach of privilege, and the speaker issued a warrant for Burdett's arrest. The charge was libelling the House of Commons. Barring himself in his house for two days, he defied the authorities, while a mob gathered in his defence. Burdett's colleague, the Royal Navy officer and hot-headed radical Thomas Cochrane, offered assistance, but, realizing that Cochrane intended to use military tactics during this civil and political affair, Burdett declined. At length the house was entered, and under an escort of soldiers he was conveyed to the Tower of London. Released when parliament was in recess, he caused his supporters much disappointment by returning to Westminster by water, and so avoiding a demonstration in his honour. 

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