Skip to main content

The Reformers' Attack on the Old Rotten Tree – or the Foul Nests of the Cormorants in Danger

The immediate cause of the end of Wellington's administration in November 1830 was his declaration in the Lords that he would refuse any measure of parliamentary reform. He had misjudged the mood of the public, which backed extensive reform proposals, including the abolition of the rotten boroughs in which rich candidates bribed the few actual voters.

The popularity of reform led to a large number of cartoons lampooning its opponents. This rare example is printed on a silk handkerchief. Wellington, in a blue coat, props up the ‘Rotten Borough System' along with future Prime Minister Robert Peel, who has his back to the tree trunk. On the other side, Lord Grey can be seen with his ministers, who are dislodging the cormorants whose nests bear the names of rotten boroughs.