The Brazen Image of Pitt

Charles Williams (1797-1830), The Brazen Image Erected on a Pedestal Wrought by Himself, 1802. Hand-colored etching. Published by S W Fores, London. Graphic Arts (GAX) Rowlandson Collection. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.

This caricature shows a statue of William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806), a British politician who, at the age of twenty-four, became the youngest Prime Minister of England. The yellow Pitt stands on a pedestal whose base reads: Increase of National debt 250-000-000. The stone under the statue says: Sic itur ad astra (thus you shall go to the stars), Income Tax. Smaller blocks are inscribed: Horse Duty, Tax on Beer, Tax on Malt, Additional House Tax, Additional Window Tax, Hat Duty, and so on. Pitt holds papers in his right hand marked ‘Budget” and at his left is a rudder decorated with a dolphin.

To the left of the statue stands Charles James Fox (1749-1806), a prominent British Whig statesman and the arch-rival of Pitt. With him is the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) who was also a Member of Parliament aligned with the British Whig Party. Fox says: “That Brass countenance of his never shone with more conspicuous confidence, one would think he was in the very [?] of proposing a new Tax.” Sheridan says: “There’s a Monument of Integrity, his Works not only follow, but support him, Nebuchadnazzars Brazen Image was nothing to it, Nor his people half so Idolatrous.”

The opposite pair is John Bull (the personification of England) and his wife Hibernia. He says: “Odzooks there’s the dear Image - , the promoter of our Union, and I suppose that there Writing there, is the account of all his wonderfull Works”. She says: “Why Mr Bull I thought he was the greatest Man we ever had, but its all Bodder, why by St Patrick, Mr OBrien (the Irish Giant) [i.e. Patrick Cotter] would make Six of him.”