The Library, in partnership with the People's History Museum, has acquired material as part of a project, Voting for Change, funded with the aid of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The material is designed to shed light on struggle and progress towards democracy in Britain.
Two volumes of cartoons by Francis Carruthers Gould have been purchased with this funding and added to stock. These deal with the General Elections of 1895 and 1900 - elections which took place at a time when the two established Parties were having to adjust to the need to appeal to working class male voters as a result of the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884. Even after these reforms, about 40% of men and all women lacked the vote.
Cartoons were beginning to feature prominently in political campaigning. The preface to the volume for the 'Khaki Campaign' of 1900 asserts: "At no previous General Election have political cartoons been used so freely, both as leaflets and posters, than during the one just concluded. The fact that both sides have made so large a use of pictorial attacks, arguments and appeals, shows that the picture has come to have a practical value in political warfare."
Gould was a pioneer in this field in spite of the fact that he was not a professional artist. He had showed an aptitude for caricature as a boy and developed this for the amusement of colleagues in the London Stock Exchange. He then put his talents to the service of the Liberal Party, and helped to edit Liberal journals including Westminster Gazette and Picture Politics, in which many of his cartoons first appeared.
From Gould's point of view, the 1895 and 1900 elections had unsatisfactory outcomes. Both resulted in coalition governments led by the Conservative Lord Salisbury in alliance with the Liberal Unionists, whose leader, Joseph Chamberlain, was one of the most frequent targets of Gould's satire and the subject of some of his most memorable images. In 1884 it would have seemed impossible to envisage a coalition involving the deeply conservative Salisbury and Chamberlain, the radical former Mayor of Birmingham, proponent of 'gas and water socialism'.
Gould's attacks reveal the compromises he thought Chamberlain had made in becoming a Minister(Colonial Secretary) in the Salisbury government. In the cartoon 'Juggler Joe and his vanishing programme' of 1895, Chamberlain holds up a list of the progressive causes he had been identified with; Salisbury says "I'm not going to swallow all that" and Chamberlain whispers "I'll manage all the vanishing business".
The 1900 election took place against the backdrop of the Boer War, and Chamberlain had become an attack dog against those Liberal 'doves' who were accused of being pro-Boer. 'Pasting them over' shows Chamberlain's social programme and old age pensions pledges covered over by the slogan 'Vote Khaki'.
The emergence of an Independent Labour Party is reflected in the 1895 volume. 'The Attitude of the Independent Labour Party' depicts Keir Hardie, with the implicit message that the ILP may be depressing the Liberal vote in some areas. Hardie also appears in 'The Great Comet of 1895'. Unlike the Liberal grandees who are standing gazing at the Tory/Liberal Unionist comet, Hardie is staring into the middle distance, hands in pockets and pipe in mouth.
The Library's Voting for Change Gould purchase has also led to a recent kind donation to us of the 1909-1911 volumes of Picture Politics, edited and illustrated by Gould. The Liberals had come into power at the end of 1905 with a landslide victory, and, thanks to a tacit agreement between Liberal and Labour, a substantial contingent of Labour politicians were also in the Commons. These volumes show new struggles for democratisation including the fight for payment of MPs and, above all, the conflict between an elected Government, with a programme of progressive legislation, against the permanent Tory majority in the House of Lords. 'A Consequential Nightmare' of June 1911 illustrates the theme.
Gould remained a staunch Free Trade Liberal and does not display any obvious alarm at the emergence of the Labour Party. In his view the Liberal Government was a radical one. In the March 1910 volume he pours scorn on the Conservatives for choosing working men candidates only for unwinnable seats.
Gould also published prolifically in book form. Among his works are political satires referencing 'Alice in Wonderland' and the Chronicles of Froissart.
He deserves to be known not just for his often striking cartoons but as a shrewd observer of Parliamentary life. In the November 1909 volume of Picture Politics he describes Lord Salisbury in Parliament: "The attitude was suggestive of tiredness; a 'Weary Titan' was, I believe, a phrase used more than once by descriptive writers. His voice sounded weary too, for all its clarity; and his caustic shafts of polished sarcasm were breathed rather than flung". Gould had the skill to convey such an image and, during his long career, he depicted many others with similar perceptiveness.
John Percy, Library trustee and volunteer