Political mathematicians

James Gillray (1757-1815), Political Mathematicians, Shaking the Broad Bottom’d Hemispheres, 1807. Hand colored etching. Graphic Arts GA 2006.01534. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.

When the British Whig Charles James Fox died in 1806, he left a rather large hole to be filled in the British government. In this print, Gillray shows members of the new Ministry of all the Talents (known as the Broad-bottoms) literally inside Fox’s enormous breeches, gorging on fish and loaves of bread. The ghost of Fox is shown at the bottom left, partially emerging from his grave, saying, “O save my Breeches, Heav’n.”

At the center of the scene is James Paull, who lost the 1806 Westminster election, sitting cross legged as the fulcrum in a political tug of war. On one side is the radical Sir Francis Burdett and his friends, while on the left are the Pittites pulling in the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, on the far top right Napoleon carefully watches these events with his spyglass, ready to take advantage of domestic unrest. He says: “Oh! by Gar! if I could but once put My Foot upon the leaver! - I’d give their Broad-bottoms a Shake with a Vengeance!!!”

At the very top, Gillray has inscribed the words: To that last Hope of the Country, - the New Opposition, this Representative of Charley’s Old Breeches in Danger, is Respectfully submitted. 9 January 1807.