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The Wise Men of Gotham and Their Goose

Library of Congress. Mezzotint.

Pubd. 16th Feby 1776 by W. Humphrey Gerrard Street Soho

This scene satirizes the North ministry's treatment of the American colonies. Lord Bute, in highland dress, with sword raised, is about to cut the head off a fat goose "who laid each day an egg of gold" - the American colonies.

The bird has a small chain round its neck.

 

At least nine ministers, some in elaborate wigs - one is seated, the rest are standing - surround a covered table upon which is stretched the goose.

A corpulant bishop leans back in an armchair watching intently: he is probably Markham, Archbishop of York.

 

In the foreground, a dog hoists its leg to urinate on the map of North America.

Behind them, another grinning minister, or possibly a servant, hoists a basket full of golden eggs, and on the floor, a torn potato sack, labelled "TAX PO." spills out more eggs.

On the back wall, an elaborate frame topped by the crown holds the painting of the sleeping British lion.

The image is unique because of its text in the two upper corners:

In Gotham once the Story goes
A lot of Wise-acres arose
Skill'd in the great Politic Wheel
Could pound a Magpie, drown an Eel,
With many Things of worthy Note
At present much too long to quote,
Their district was both far and wide
Which not a little swelld their Pride
But above all that they possess'd
Was a fine Goose, by all confess'd,
A Rara Avis to behold
Who laid each Day an Egg of Gold
This made them grow immensely rich
Gave them an avaritious Itch,
The Case belongs to many more
They not contented with their Store
Would Methods vague and strange pursue
To make the Harmless Bird lay Two,
This Glorious purpose to obtain
About her Neck they put a Chain,
And more their Folly to compleat
They Stampt upon her Wings and Feet,
But this had no Effect at all,
Yet made her struggle, flutter, squall,
And do what every Goose would do
That had her Liberty in view,
When one of more distinguis'd Note
Cry'd D__n her, let us Cut her Throat,
They did, but not an Egg was found
But Blood come pouring from ye Wound.

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