The Age of George III

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The Stratagem, alias The French Bug-a-bo, or John Bull turned Scrub

Pitt and income tax

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This cartoon by was published by SW Fores on 1 January 1799.

ScheduleThe French Wars began in 1793 for Britain and by 1799, Pitt had been compelled to make further calls on the long-suffering British taxpayer. In 1797, he invented income tax, to complement other taxes which had been levied, initially to balance the budget and subsequently to raise money to fight the French.

In this caricature the Premier holds beneath his arm a huge monster with shark-like jaws; the collar round its neck is inscribed La Grande Nation, another method of personifying Napoleon. He says to John Bull," If you don't come down with your Income Tax, I'll let him loose". John Bull looks back at Pitt in blank dismay; he holds forth two money-bags labelled respectively "10 per cent on Income" and "Remaining fruits of industry." John Bull replies " Oh, spare my life and take all I have."

On the wall is a Schedule of Farmer John's Income and Expenditure. Out of £200, after paying the taxes only £24 remains available for the support of John Bull, his wife and seven children

The surprising thing, in view of the traditional British reaction to new taxes, is that income tax was accepted without still more bitter opposition. This was partly due to the discredit of the Opposition.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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