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A letter to the Prince Regent…

July 31, 2009
A Voluptuary under the horrors of digestion by James Gillray

A Voluptuary under the horrors of digestion by James Gillray

To His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.


ONE of the meanest of your subjects, lacking the presentation of the Lord-in-Waiting, introduces himself to the Regent of Britain with no other pretension than that of being an Englishman, jealous of his native rights and incensed at his country’s wrongs. In justification of this unsolicited ungranted intrusion, I have to urge the importance of the subject on which I treat, and to which I solicit your Royal Highness’ most gracious attention.

Your acknowledged readiness to encourage merit, of however confined a nature, your paramount duty as a rational being, to listen to the voice of truth, and, above all, your obligation as a Prince, to attend to the dictates of humanity, in the cause of an oppressed people, calling you their Sovereign; all these claims, Sir, concur in assuring me that you will pardon my boldness, nor deem this burst of loyalty unworthy of your serious perusal.

Without considering whether the principles of Pitt or Fox be more conducive to the interests of the British nation, without investigation the propriety of your conduct in retaining in your councils the ministers of your aged and affectionate parent, – our venerable and afflicted Sovereign, the father of his people! – or, questioning the motives that actuated our King in the dismissal of Fox and change of the political system; yet, Sir, I cannot forbear remarking on the result of the exertions of the present ministry.

Have they bettered the condition of the people or maintained (I will not say increased) the high superiority of Great Britain in the scale of nations? To this, alas! I am compelled to answer negatively. It is true, indeed, the achievements of Wellington blazoned our name, as a people, for a time, but what advantages have we derived from this temporary lustre? Had not an oriental day preceded this night of nights, we should not so severely have felt this awful transition! Our national vessel (commercially speaking) was A1 in this important scale; she is now reduced to the necessity of putting into dock for repairs, and whether she is to be rendered sea-worthy and again fit for active service, it is the duty of the master to decide. The people are willing to man her (without impressment,) but they refuse to serve under those officers who have endangered their very existence, as a nation, have rendered nugatory the energetic examples of their ancestors, and whom the nation declare unworthy of their confidence!

In unconstitutional possession of a Letter of Marque, they have acted upon it as a Lettre de Cachet, have abused its purposes by misapplying its power, and degraded the national flag by bribing into their individual cause foes to the people ! – traitors to mankind !

Again, Sir, have their councils produced any’ beneficial results in the internal policy of your dominions ?

This, too, however painful the necessity, duty compels me to deny. Indeed the extensive (I had almost said universal) pauperism of a once affluent people, proclaims aloud the damning truth that ENGLAND IS DEGRADED ABROAD – IMPOVERISHED AT HOME ! All – all, resulting from the incapacity of ministers to prevent, their inability to remove, and incompetency to better, the present alarming state of affairs, which these, their glaring insufficiencies, have entailed upon the country; thereby sullying the character of a people who profess the cause of humanity, and proclaim themselves the advocates of universal freedom!!!

What! (it may well be asked,) do they profess humanity, who, by means of hired spies and perjured informers, seek to plunge the innocent in unmerited infamy as a screen to their iniquity and guilt ?

“Oh fie, fie on’t ! tis an un-weeded garden
That grows to seed; things gross and rank in nature
Possess it merely !”

Do they advocate universal freedom who would enslave the land that gave them birth, and enthral even you, Sir, their princely master, in the bondage of their guilt? Surely your Royal Highness must now be convinced you have been fatally deceived in the moral and political pretensions of a set of men, who legally responsible for the conduct of their Sovereign, are utterly unable to exculpate themselves from a labyrinth of errors, of falsehood, and of crime!

The precepts of religion and morality have been violated, – the sanctuaries of truth and justice defiled, – innocence criminated, – guilt idolized, – the laws of God, – the duties of man, – the interests of the prince and the people set at nought, – and all by whom? why, by those very ministers who would fain persuade your Royal Highness that the country is in a state of rebellion against the legitimacy of the House of Brunswick.

No! it is against themselves the nation is incensed, against those men whose measures have driven the people to a pitch of madness and despair. It is not towards you, Sir, they entertain resentment, but towards those, who forming your cabinet and composing your councils, have infringed on the rights of Englishmen and violated the duties of men ! It is not the governor they would remove but the government ! and if (on the brink of destruction) they should rebel, be assured, Sir, it would be a rebellion against the administration and not against the prince ! But it is to your Royal Highness they look for a redress of their grievances, and on you they anxiously rely for the performance of the sacred functions of your high office. Do not, Sir, as you value the throne of your ancestors, do not, Sir, I entreat you, disappoint the sanguine expectations, lest your oppressed subjects, roused to a degree of frenzy, should commit acts subversive of order and fatal to legitimacy ! ! !

The ministers who charge the people with rebellion are themselves the vilest traitors to their Prince. They it is who would plunge the nation into an abyss of ruin. They it is who have subverted the constitution and desolated the kingdom with ministerial guilt and legalized wickedness. They it is whom the people have so often – so vainly petitioned to remove. Yet these men (I blush while I call them so) still form the administration of Great Britain ! ! !

I am not the advocate of despotism, nor of the Spencean System, neither am I of the fanatic Mr. Owen’s phantom plan of creating a paradise on earth, of subduing the passions inherent in our nature, and of reconciling us, even Englishmen, to a state of vassalage, of bondage, and of slavery; BUT I AM AN ADVOCATE, and enthusiastic advocate, of our native rights, of a due representation of the British people in the British House of Commons, the restoration of the Habeas Corpus, the inviolate preservation of our Magna Carta, and last (not least) I consider my Sovereign as immaculate, whilst he fulfils the Coronation-vow, and maintains the liberty of his British subjects, and their right of being legally and fully represented in Parliament ! ! !

Such, Sir, are the principles that have dictated this Poem. Its avowed, its openly declared object, is, the downfall of corruption, and the re-establishment of the envied, and almost lost, liberty of the people, who have acknowledged you their head, and to whom then anxiously look for the fulfilment of what appears to them both your Royal Highness’ INTEREST and DUTY.

With due submission and respect allow me to subscribe myself,
Your Royal Highness’
Most obedient
Very humble Subject

29th September 1817

One Comment leave one →
  1. James Acland permalink*
    July 31, 2009 5:47 pm

    This dedication was the cause of my first brush with those in power. For within a day of its release to the public I was brutally taken from my fathers house and thrown into Gaol. It is true to say that our family dogs had better treatment than I. For two days was held in fear of my life with threats from those of my captures that scared my mind in a way that from that time on I pledged to almighty God that wherever injustice is met I will use any talents in my possession to put them right. It was during the solitary and reflecting time that dissolution brings that made me think of a history lesson many years earlier at Alfred House. It was on my release (without charge) that I was told of my dismissal as a junior shipping agent and so turned through the books in my fathers house to again find the texts that so pricked my mind.

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