The Great Vermin Catcher of Great Britain
The Great Vermin Catcher of Great Britain, or The Old Trap New-Baited is a confronting ‘treasure’, an antisemitic cartoon from the collection of the Jewish Museum London, dating from 1754. The cartoon is a political print showing a common public response to England’s deeply unpopular Jewish Naturalisation Act of 1753. This piece of legislation, known as the ‘Jew Bill’, allowed Jews to become naturalised by application to Parliament. It passed the Lords without much opposition, but was heavily protested by Tories once it was brought to the House of Commons. Despite this, the Whigs, who had a policy of general religious toleration, managed to get the bill passed and it received royal assent. This was followed by a massive public outburst of antisemitism, of which this cartoon is part. The Bill was repealed in the next sitting of Parliament, in 1754.
In the anonymous work, Jews are shown as tiny dark-faced long-nosed men on horseback, chasing speech bubble ‘baits’ uttering things like ‘I will get repaid’, or ‘ I may be wanted’ that lead them towards a great open hall, where a giant wigged gentleman sets the baits on fishing hooks sent down the chimney: “All vermin may be caught tho’ differently,” he tells us.
Hidden Treasures: Celebrating the documents, photos and artefacts in British archives that tell the story of Jews in Britain