- Museum number
- Object: No. II, Blessings of Britain- or- swarm of tax gatherers.
A companion plate to No. 12862. British households are represented by large straw bee-hives; these are assailed by tax-collectors and their satellites who run through the air in a swarm. One hive is in the foreground (right), the two next are in the middle distance, with a line of little hives in the distance, curving to the left margin. John Bull, ragged but chubby, stands defiantly on the step of his hive, defending it with a stake shaped like a rough pitchfork and inscribed 'Prop of Reform'; with this he prods the foremost collector, who drops book and pen in dismay. Behind him in the doorway is his wife, brandishing a poker, while three ragged and terrified small children cluster round the door. Other tax-gatherers assail the upper part of the hive; one has made a hole in the straw and puts in his hand; he has already seized honey. Another man departs with chunks of honeycomb, but his coat-tails are clutched by a man who leans from a hole in the hive. Another collector runs through the air, laden with spoil. More of the swarm are still advancing, holding pen and book or paper. One, holding up a constable's staff, holds out a 'Warrant [of] Distress . . John Bull' [scarcely legible]; another has a huge book inscribed 'Poor's Rate'. Other books are inscribed 'Kings Tax' and 'Assess'd Taxes'. One man holds out a paper inscribed 'Snatch Broker & Sworn Appraiser'. The men recede in perspective towards the upper left corner of the design, from which the swarm is descending upon the hives. A tax-gatherer enters the door of the second hive, while another stands on the upper part nailing on it a placard: 'Kings Taxes'. In the foreground (right) beside the hive a broken cord drops from a clothes-prop weighted down with tattered garments. On the left is a smoking manure-heap inscribed 'Ministrial Dung-hill'; on this lies a paper, 'Prope[rty] Tax' [now removed, see No. 12750, &c.], and from it grow toadstools inscribed 'Place, Pension', and 'Sinecure'. After the title:
'"All with united force combine to Drive,"
"The lazy Drones from the laborious Hive." Virgil'
Above the design: 'Quarter Day.'
Plate numbered 389.
- Production date
Height: 252 millimetres
Width: 353 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
A satire on heavy taxation and the distress of 1816 (see No. 12779, &c.). which greatly increased the burden of poor rates: John Bull's only defence is Reform. The chief topics at numerous meetings in England and Ireland were Reform of Parliament, i.e. manhood suffrage and annual parliaments, and retrenchment, especially the abolition of sinecures and pensions, cf. No. 12781, and the reduction of army expenditure, cf. No. 12756.
Also a worn impression (coloured) with imprint removed, and the serial number altered to 195.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number