5 March 1806. Broad Bottoms Suckling
It is not the task of satirists to be kind to their subjects and to the Grenvilles and their political associates, James Gillray was never kind.
William Pitt died at half past four on the morning of January 23, 1806. William Wyndham Grenville was Pitt’s natural successor and King George III commanded that he form a government. It was not an easy process. As Grenville attempted to draw together something approaching a coalition government of national unity, he found he had too many politicians jostling for the limited number of posts, while others would not join him.
On 11 February 1806, the Ministry of All the Talents began its short and troubled attempt to govern a deeply divided Britain which was still at war with France. James Fox led the government from the House of Commons and prime minister Lord Grenville led in the House of Lords.
The ministry immediately became a target of Gillray’s acerbic etching pen. Not entirely without reason, Gillray believed that many politicians of the day, especially the Grenvilles, were in politics for personal and financial gain. He shared the suspicion of the majority of the public harboured about the new government’s catholic leanings. And he believed the growing burden of taxation was sucking working people dry to finance the ambitions and line the pockets of government.
Three weeks after the new government began work, Hannah Humphrey published James Gillray’s satire on the Ministry of All the Talents—“More Pigs than Teats”. It portrays 29 identifiable politicians rushing to suckle John Bull’s sow. Sidmouth, Grenville, Fox and Spencer are already sucking while others scramble for a teat. At the left edge latecomers are rushing to join the government and some do not succeed. Gillray subtitled the work “The new Litter of hungry Grunters sucking John Bull’s old Sow to death”. Grunters is probably an allusion to the Grenvilles, three of whom were in the cabinet.
In an age where photography had not been invented and newspapers were yet to carry illustrations, cartoons like these carried an additional importance in putting a face to a name. One of Gillray’s great skills was portraying faces. He of course exaggerated facial features, sometimes grossly, but his caricatures are instantly recognisable. On the image below, I identify the politicians. The rear end of the Duke of Clarence, which is supporting Charles Fox, is identified by the British Museum.
The Ministry of All the Talents fell on 25 March 1807, after just one year and 42 days.
My detailed analysis: More Pigs Than Teats Identified