Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/208

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
136
ENGLISH CARICATURISTS.

The consequences of this measure were not such as were expected either by its promoters or opposers. Former importations, or more probably the effect of two abundant harvests, combined with the greatly extended cultivation of grain, produced a gradual and steady reduction in prices; so that instead of approaching the limits at which alone importation was allowable by the Act, it sunk to a level below that of several years past. The farmers, who were labouring under exorbitant rents in addition to other increased expenses, were general sufferers, and the landlords found it necessary in many instances to make great abatements in their dues. In the result many leases were voided and farms left without tenants.

To this most unpopular measure a satire, published by Fores on the 3rd of March, 1815, has reference. It is entitled, The Blessings of Peace, or the Curse of the Corn Bill, a very rough affair, etched by George (as it appears to me) from the design of an amateur whose hand may be recognised in more than one of his caricatures. A foreign vessel is approaching our shores laden with best wheat at 50s. a quarter. A figure with a star on his breast, emblematical of course of the aristocratic influence which was supposed to have dictated the unpopular corn law, forbids the sailors to land it: "We won't have it," he says, "at any price. We are determined to keep up our own to 80s., and if the poor can't buy at that price, why, they must starve. We love money too well to lower our rents again, tho' the income tax is taken off." His sentiments are re-echoed by companions belonging to the same class as himself. A farmer and his starving family, however, come forward. "No, no, masters," he remonstrates; "I'll not starve, but quit my native country, where the poor are crushed by those they labour to support, and retire to one more hospitable, and where threats of the rich do not interpose to defeat the providence of God!" Behind the starving family is a warehouse absolutely bursting with sacks of grain at 80s. "By gar!" says the foreign captain, "if they won't have [the wheat] at all, we must throw it overboard," which they accordingly are depicted as doing. The subject is followed up by a still more slovenly affair by the artist himself, bearing the title of The Scale of Justice Reversed,