A Great Stream from a Petty Fountain; or John Bull swamped in a Flood of Taxes

James Gillray British
Publisher Hannah Humphrey British

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A master of political satire, Gillray here uses watery metaphors to comment on new taxes proposed by the "Ministry of all the Talents," a coalition formed after the unexpected death of primeminister William Pitt, the Younger in January 1806. To raise revenue to fund the extended war with France, they hoped to increase income taxes and erase many exemptions, all embodied here as a flood that origininates from the mouth of Lord Henry Petty, then falls in stages into an "Unfathomable Sea of Taxation." Cormorants with human heads and beaks, and pelican-like pouches swarm to eat the fish (representing funds produced by the taxes), while John Bull, who embodies the nation's tax payers, has been thrown from his small boat and lost hold of an oar labeled "William Pitt." Each of the human-headed birds relates to an associate of the new ministry.

A Great Stream from a Petty Fountain; or John Bull swamped in a Flood of Taxes, James Gillray (British, London 1756–1815 London), Hand-colored etching

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