The Word on the Street
home | background | illustrations | distribution | highlights | search & browse | resources | contact us

Broadside entitled 'Horrid Confession of John Kean'

Commentary

Following on from the title, the report continues: 'The Cotton Spinner, who was lately sent off from this City for Botany Bay, and which was read in the House of Commons on Friday night last, giving the names and descriptions of the persons who employed him to shoot John Graham, and who gave him the pistols and shot. Also, the names of several respectable Manufacturers who were to have been assassinated, for which he was to receive 100.' The sheet was published in 1825 by William Carse of Glasgow.

This fascinating broadside offers its audience a glimpse into a murky underworld of politics, organised labour and political assassination. John Kean, a former cotton spinner, was publicly whipped and then transported to Australia for life, following his attempt to shoot John Graham. In short, Kean was a hitman, who had agreed to shoot several Manufacturers for 100 - about 4,500 in today's terms. Although the National Library of Scotland's collection contains broadsides regarding this sad tale, frustratingly, the whole story is not given. Jigsawing together the evidence, it appears that a recent Act of Parliament passed by Joseph Hume had affected the livelihoods of cotton spinners, and that they were taking direct action to resolve the issue.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

previous pageprevious          
Date of publication: 1825   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.73(080)
Broadside entitled 'Horrid Confession of John Kean'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland