Sir John Fielding judges a case of arson while surrounded by personifications of perverted justice. Engraving, 1771.

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In the centre, the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding hears the case of a woman accused of arson. His blindfold does not cover his eyes. Above him a woman representing justice, with a blindfold over only one eye, holds a pair of scales loaded with money in one hand and an enormous pair of scissors in the other. On the right sits a Secretary of State also with one eye blindfolded (i.e. not impartial). On the other side sits a headless Secretary of State. An old woman bound in chains gesticulates at Fielding saying 'No more than your Worships have. I'm a poor honest woman, my betters know more of the fire than I', to which Fielding retorts 'I see plainly you are guilty you have a hanging look'. The one-eyed secretary confirms 'Somebody must be hang'd for this right or wrong, to quiet the mob and save our credit'. The fire referred to occurred on 27 July 1770 in Portsmouth dockyard. It was believed that it was deliberately started, and in this print it is implied by someone within the administration although it was not known at this date who the culprit was. The headless secretary is believed (by F.G. Stephens in the British Museum catalogue) to be Lord Rochford, and the one-eyed secretary possibly the Earl of Suffolk Fielding was blind apparently from birth. He inherited his brother Henry's role of police magistrate at Bow Street on the latter's death in 1754. This print refers to corruption within the legal system

Physical description

1 print : engraving ; platemark 15.1 x 10.6 cm

Work type


The blind justice, & the secretaries one eye & no head examining the old woman and little girl, about the fireing Portsmouth dockyard



  • [England]


  • [publisher not identified]


  • [1771]


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Sir John Fielding judges a case of arson while surrounded by personifications of perverted justice. Engraving, 1771.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY


Credit: Wellcome Collection

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