Ten surgeons discussing the cause of death of George Clarke, who died in riots at an election at Brentford in 1768. Line engraving, 1769.
- [27 February 1769]
Where to find it
About this work
George Clarke was bludgeoned on the head in riots at an election in Brentford, Middlesex, on 8 December 1768, and died on 14 December 1768. The Irish chairmen of the election, called Laurence Balfe and Edward McQuirk, were tried for murder, having incited the riots, but were cleared as a result of the conclusion by a committee of the Company of Surgeons that his death could have been caused by fever instead by the blow to his head
"February 27  ... The masters, wardens, and examiners of the surgeons company met at their hall in the Old Bailey, and gave it as their opinion, that the blow given by M'Quirk to Mr Clark at Brentford was not the cause of his death. See p. 135."--The gentleman's magazine, March 1769, p. 161, where the verbatim testimony of another surgeon, Mr Foot, coming to the opposite conclusion, is also printed
The ten surgeons who examined the case are named in The gentleman's magazine: Mr Benjamin Cowell; William Bromfield, Esq.; Mr Stafford Crane; John Ranby, Esq.; Caesar Hawkins, Esq.; David Middleton, Esq.; Mr Christopher Fullager; Mr Robert Young; Mr Percival Pott; Mr Robert Adair (Medico-Chirurgus, 'Authentic memorials relative to the pardon of Edward M'Quirk', The gentleman's magazine, March 1769, p. 135-138). In the print the chairman of the surgeons holds a bag of money. The print implies that the surgeons had been bribed to arrive at a decision that Clarke had died not as a result of a blow on the head but from a fever
The surgeon acting as chairman of the group raises a bag of money and says "This convinces me that Cl-k did not dye of the wound he receiv'd at Br-d". He points to a sheet of paper inscribed with their verdict: "It does not appear to us that he died [from the blow]". The surgeons on the left say "Gold is good evidence and carries great weight"; "Another such bag would convince me that Cl-k never receiv'd any blow"; "By my saul his head was too thick to be broken or he would ne'er ha gang'd to Br-d". The man on the far right says "Devil burn me but that same surgeon was a blockhead; how should a Foot be able to judge of the head?" Three of the surgeons hold canes of the kind often associated with physicians