The Satirical Prints of James Gillray

July 22nd, 2009

James Gillray (1756-1815) was the pre-eminent caricaturist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and is considered by many to be the father of the political cartoon. His colorful political and social satires were wildly popular in his own time for their cruel and scurrilous content, which was often directed at George III, his family, and other leading political figures. Just as popular were his military caricatures of Napoleon and both French and British forces during the Napoleonic Wars.

James Gillray, sometimes spelled Gilray (13 August 1757 – 1 June 1815), was a British caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810.

He was born in Chelsea. His father, a native of Lanark, had served as a soldier, losing an arm at the Battle of Fontenoy, and was admitted, first as an inmate, and afterwards as an outdoor pensioner, at Chelsea Hospital. Gillray commenced life by learning letter-engraving, at which he soon became an adept. This employment, however, proving irksome, he wandered about for a time with a company of strolling players. After a very checkered experience he returned to London and was admitted a student in the Royal Academy, supporting himself by engraving, and probably issuing a considerable number of caricatures under fictitious names. His caricatures are almost all in etching, some also with aquatint, and a few using stipple technique. None can correctly be described as engravings, although this term is often loosely or ignorantly used of them. Hogarth’s works were the delight and study of his early years. Paddy on Horseback, which appeared in 1779, is the first caricature which is certainly his. Two caricatures on Rodney’s naval victory, issued in 1782, were among the first of the memorable series of his political sketches.

Gillray is still revered as one of the most influential political caricaturists of all time, and among the leading cartoonists on the political stage in the United Kingdom today, both Steve Bell and Martin Rowson acknowledge him as probably the most influential of all their predecessors in that particular arena.

The look of the Vogon race in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film were in part inspired by Gillray’s work.
There is a good account of Gillray in Wright’s History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art (1865).


The prints of James Gillray come from a time when Britain was a very different place. It was a nation of tough, independent minded people, freedom loving and enjoying, with a love of free speech to the extent that the caricatures of James Gillray, that ‘attacked’ anyone he liked (or rather disliked), from the King down, were widely circulated and much admired. It was a time of reason, of true scientists exploring and improving life; when the true spirit of Britain was out in the open, working in the world for the good (mostly).

What is Britain like now?

It is a country where not only are the citizens disarmed, and where they cannot even send a shooting team to compete anywhere, but they cannot even use their own language for fear of reprisals from a group of unaccountable aparatchicks, leeches and social engineers. The new ‘hate speech’ laws have turned Britain into a place where even in private, you cannot say what you think without fear of losing your job.

Schoolboy ‘bullies’ are now hauled into court for speaking words. Whatever you might think about the way children should behave in a school, it is totally insane that the headmaster of a school should not be able to discipline and expel a bad pupil who breaks school rules, and that an actual court case was brought against the pupil in that last link.

Which brings us on to the Badman report saga, which is becoming more absurd by the day.

DCSF have refused to release the Submissions to the Elective Home Education Review, citing that its author is being ‘harassed and vilified” on the internets.

All of the Home Educators commenting on this independently and quite naturally come to the same conclusion; they have been hurt by this report, which equates their parenting to a form of abuse. It is THEY who have been vilified:

M Stafford left an annotation (19 July 2009)

So telling the general public in purposely twisted press releases that home education is a cover for abuse and servitude is not vilifying and harassing.

Graham Badman has produced a poor and dishonest report, misused statistics and compared apples and pears in order to produce a predecided result.

The DCSF needs to be open and transparent about this information, that is what would be in the public interest instead of trying to hide the duplicity involved in this report.


Emma Hornby left an annotation (20 July 2009)

I think Mr Badman should be looking long and hard at his conscience.

He is being heavily criticized for a piece of work which, it gradually emerges, is substandard in many respects. It went beyond the explicit terms of the brief, and the terms on which he consulted the public, and the recommendations follow neither from the brief nor from the data, so far as that can be verified. The use of stats is embarrassing. He has misrepresented the submission of the CofE and at least one selectively-quoted HEer, as well as, it emerges, working from notes of meetings with people who are not prepared to sign off those notes as an accurate record of the conversation.

There are two possible courses of action for Mr Badman here. One is to reject the criticisms, instead seeing himself as vilified and harassed (and this course becomes harder to sustain with every fresh revelation, to be honest), and the second is to say “mea culpa”, withdraw his report and either rewrite it more honestly and competently, or return the fee and let the DCSF commission someone else to complete the task.

I do not intend either to harass or vilify Mr Badman here. But his report and his conduct are both vulnerable to justified criticism, and the sooner he appreciates that, the sooner he will be able to begin restoring his reputation.

Those are just two of the many comments swirling around the internets. The fact of the matter is that this report, if it had been done with any kind of academic rigor, would be able to withstand any scrutiny. And another FOIA requester, Harold Davis, puts it very plainly, that there is no justification whatsoever for these submissions to be withheld:


You refer to vilification and harassment. Vilification means presenting as vile, and while it may often be uncondonable, it is not a criminal offence, and politicians and other public servants are vilified in numerous publications every day. As you are doubtless aware, many have been vilified in respect of expenses claims they have made. Indeed, when such information has been released, many in the population have very quickly formed or agreed with the view that the makers of such claims are “vile”. That is all part and parcel of the holding of public officials to account. Such a course of events does not in itself constitute the breaking of any law or the commission of any civil wrong. When vilification goes too far, surely the correct course of action is a civil suit for defamation or an application for a court order against the individuals responsible, not the use, without the prior launch of any such suit or the application for any such order (I presume you would have referred to these if they had happened), of s38 of the Freedom of Information Act.

If you would maintain that the risk of vilification is so great as to endanger Mr Badman’s health, this of course raises the question of what information you might hold that, if released, would give grist to the mill of the unidentified vilifiers. Section 38 is not meant to be invoked to protect individuals against the effects of the disclosure, for example, of actions by them which, if disclosed, would JUSTIFIABLY affect their reputations in a negative direction. This is so even if other individuals are already speculating in public that such information may exist, to the “distress” of the individual concerned. Of course there is a risk test, but the test, in my submission, is much stronger than the Department appears to believe. The assumption should be in favour of disclosure.


Home Ed Forums

Now this is an interesting situation. They do not want to release these documents, clearly because their release will fatally compromise this report, and destroy the reputations of everyone involved in its manufacture. It would not take a great leap of imagination to speculate that all the submissions have said the same thing that the CofE said; that there is no need for a change in the law, and that the status quo is more than adequate.

If they do go to court over this ‘vilification and harassment’, then during the discovery process the opposition will certainly demand everything submitted to this report to be released and entered into the public record, since they are material in determining whether or not what everyone is saying about the report is true or not, and whether the ‘vilification’ was justified or unjustified.

That is what is called being between a rock and a hard place.

This report, as we said before, should never have been written. Had it never been written and the conclusions of the 2007 consultations taken on board as the final word, Britain would still be the best place to Home Educate, and no one would have had to waste their time knocking down this utter rubbish. Now we have the very real prospect of families being disrupted as they either fight this insanity or flee the country to more rational freedom loving countries.

What sort of country can produce a report like this, where the submissions that fed it are made secret on the most weak and irrational of pretexts, the report being clearly biased, ill informed and wrong, which subsequently be accepted unchallenged and unquestioned to make new law? I would guess that reasonable people who know what Britain used to be like would not say that Britain is that sort of country. Secret contributions to false reports used to make bad law are the sort of thing you used to expect and get in the Soviet Union, not a ‘free society’ or ‘free country’ like Britain.

The Home Educating parents that are mounting a vigorous defence of themselves are demonstrating that they are head and shoulders above the crowd. These are the parents who are going to unleash a generation of Britons who are of the same quality and strength of character that we know the British used to have in the days of James Gillray. Even now, some of these Home Educated children are writing letters to complain that they do not want to be disturbed in any way, taking the authorities up on the claptrap that the voices of children are to be heard, only to be patted on the head and patronized.

Those tactics might work with a child, but they are clearly not working with the parents of these children.

Apart from the nauseating patting on the head, the people who are refusing to release the submissions are allowing themselves to be sucked into the black hole that this report has become. Clearly they are not being advised correctly, or are being given orders to suppress this information. If they have been advised to withhold this information, they need to say who it is that gave them this advice or these orders in order to separate and insulate themselves from these incorrect decisions; clearly the people who are the public interface for answering these requests are not applying the law correctly, and this could come back to damage them as this report is destroyed and discredited, as they will have acted improperly by invoking rules that should not have been invoked to try and stop the report being exposed. The first people that will be sacrificed as scape goats are these low level aparatchicks who are, in every instance, expendable. All the people who were responsible for this debacle have already secured new jobs for themselves or will never be discarded from their high level positions; they might get shuffled around, but they will not be brought down. It is the underlings, the messengers who are being ordered to act improperly who will get the chop.

If I were any of the people behind any of this I would now declare that this has been a monumental error in judgement. They failed to understand the true nature of Home Education, and this caused them to ask for a report with a pre-determined outcome that they should not have commissioned. They misjudged the parents who Home Educate who are clearly amongst the most intelligent, creative, capable, resourceful, dogged and passionate people in the UK (actually, they are REAL PEOPLE of the type that made Britain Great). These Home Educators have demonstrated that they are able to act in concert when necessary. This is highly effective in both Home Educating and in refuting and repulsing attacks, as has been amply demonstrated by the spectacular results reflected in the children of Home Educators, and the state’s pathetic response to being put under a high powered microscope controlled by Home Educators.

Many Home Educators are working on this problem from every conceivable angle. They are not going to rest until this report is totally exposed for what it is, and it is thrown out in its entirety. They have been forced to do this in order to protect their families from the outrageous, unjustifiable and absurd recommendations of this report.

It is patently absurd that the staff of a department and the people associated with it can discriminate against and call an entire group of people unfit parents and accuse them of being child abusers, who must allow their children to be separated from them for arbitrary, humiliating and deeply suspicious inspections during a home invasion; only to withdraw into their dirty little shells when those very same offended and injured parents defend themselves vigorously by requesting the facts and using all their skills to expose the villains.

But then again, this is just about what we expect from these people who are The Cancer That Is Killing Britain.

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