Thursday, 10 August 2017

Swinish Multitude

In 1789 Edmund Burke published his treatise about the French Revolution in which he used the phrase "The Swinish Multitude" to describe the French citizens fighting for democracy and in na attempt to to persuade British workers away from their growing demand for democracy at home.

Thomas Paine issued his pamphlet in response to Burke's volume. It became an immediate best seller and was quickly banned by the authorities. The cartoon above shows a London barber being quizzed by Burke for changing the sign on his banner shop to CITIZEN SHAVER to the SWINISH MULTITUDE. This was considered a form of treason.

The same year the following Broadside Ballad was being sold on the streets to an appreciative citizenry

Wholsome Advice to the Swinish Multitude (1795)

Original song first published in 1784

A New Song. Tune—Mind, hussy, what you do.

You lower class of human race, you working part I mean,
How dare you so audacious be to read the works of Pain,
The Rights of Man—that cursed book—which such confusion brings,
You'd better learn the art of war, and fight for George our King.

But you must delve in politics, how dare you thus intrude,
Full well you do deserve the name of swinish multitude.

There's the laborer and mechanic too, the cobler in his stall,
Forsooth must read the Rights of Man, and Common Sense and all!
For shame, I desire ye wretched crew don't be such meddling fools,
But be contented in your sphere, and mind King Charles's rules.

But you must delve, etc.

He says you've rights like other men, and you do him believe,
But if you will attention give, I'll soon you undeceive,
I'll soon convince you what's your rights, if you're not quite insane,
I will in spite of that miscreant, that incendiary, Tom Pain.

Who has fill'd your head with politics, etc.

If you had your right you'd punish'd be for daring to complain,
Much more to read pernicious books, and I will tell you plain,
It is your right to slave and drudge, deny it if you can,
And thankful be to our good King, you have the name of man.

But you must delve, etc.

Altho' our good and gracious King so condescending is,
To grant to you, ye base-born crew, a privilege like this;
Because a trifling tax you pay, you murmur and complain,
Don't he protect you from the French?—yes—or else you would be slain.

But you must delve, etc.

He's the Defender of the Faith—most sacred is his name,
Pray did not he proclaim a fast?—your faces hide for shame,
Was it for sins that he had done?—no—surely no such thing,
To fast and pray for a whole day—Lord, what a gracious King.

But you must delve, etc.

Altho' its from our gracious king that all these blessings flow,
Altho' you sing you need no king, because Pain told you so;
But Reformation's all your cry—and if you keep this rout,
Then you shall have the rights of swine—that's a ring within your snout.

But you must delve, etc.

I pray be wise, and don't despise this kind advice of mine,
Your name regain, and not retain the filthy name of swine;
Let Government do what they please, then you'll be free from harm,
For when a Constitution's pure—what needs there for reform.

     So no more delve in politics, no longer thus intrude,
     And not incur that filthy name of Swinish Multitude.

Dated 1795 in an early annotation. The title is taken from Burke's 'learning will be caste into the mire, and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude' in his Reflections on the French Revolution (1790). The 'Common Sense' in Stanza 2 was the title of a pamphlet of Tom Paine (1776).

The young poet Shelley wrote his play Oedipus Tyrannus in 1820 and included in his dramatic personae "a chorus of the Swinish Multitude"

A Broadside from the Bodleian Library collection is a lampoon purporting to be Burke's Response


Tune–“Derry down down, &c.”

YE base SWINISH herd, in the Stye of Taxation,
What would ye be after, disturbing the Nation ?
Gove over your grunting–be off to your Stye,
Nor dare you to look out if a KING passes by.
              Get ye down, down–keep ye down !
Do you know what a KING is ?–By Patrick I’ll tell you—
He has power in his pocket to buy you and sell you ;
To make you all soldiers, or keep you at work–
To hang you, and cure you for Ham and Salt Pork !
                                                      Get ye down &c.
To be sure I have said, but I spoke it abrupt,
That the State is DEFECTIVE, and also CORRUPT ;
But remember I told you with Caution to peep,
For Swine at a Distance ’tis needful to keep.
                                                     Get ye down &c.
The State, it is true, has grown fat upon SWINE,
And the Church’s weak Stomach on TYTHE PIG can dine ;
But neither, ye know, when they roast at the Fire,
Have a right to find Fault with the Cook, or enquire.
                                                     Get ye down &c.
And now for the SUN, or the LIGHT OF THE DAY,
It doth not belong to a PITT you will say ;
I tell you be silent, and cease all your Jars,
Or he’ll charge you a Farthing a piece for the STARS.
                                                     Get ye down &c.
What know ye of Commons, of Kings, or of Lords,
Be contented with that–and no more of your rout,
Or a new proclamation shall muzzle tour SNOUT.
                                                     Get ye down &c.
Here’s myself and HIS DARKNESS, and Harry DOND–Ass ;
SCOTCH, ENGLISH, and IRISH, with Fronts made of Brass ;
A cord platted three-fold will stand a good pull,
Against SAWNEY, and PATRICK, and old JONNY BULL.
                                                     Get ye down &c.
Th conclude then–no more about Man and his Rights,
TOM PAINE and a rabble of Liberty Lights ;
That you are State SWINE, if you ever forget,
Well throw you alive into th’ horrible PITT !
              Get ye down, down–keep ye down !

The combination of cartoon, verse and music with rowdy demonstrations shows a rights claiming aspect of the times that would more than a century later to be given the name "carnivalesque" by the Russian scholar and linguist Bakhtin. It presents in sum a great example of the dialogic of the crowd puncturing and lampooning the wooden rhetoric of the high and mighty.

E.P. Thompson cites a Sheffield newspaper report of a working class procession of five or six thousand in 1792:

A caricature painting representing Britannia – Burke riding on a swine – and a figure, the upper part of which was the likeness of a Scotch Secretary (Henry Dundas, Home Secretary) and the lower part that of an Ass … the pole of liberty lying broken on the ground, inscribed bed “Truth is Libel” – the Sun breaking from behind a Cloud, and the Angel of Peace, with one dropping the ‘Right of Man’, and extending the other to raise up Britannia…

Here is something unusual – pitmen, keelson, cloth-dressers, cutlers: not only the weavers and Labourers of Wapping and Spitalfields, whose colourful and rowdy demonstrations had often come out in support of Wilkes, but working men in villages and towns country claiming general rights for themselves. It was this –and not the French Terror  – which threw the propertied classes into panic.

Thompson, E. P. (1968). The making of the English working class. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin. pp.113-114.

Collier – Costumes of Yorkshire 1814

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