Punch, XV (April 3, 1869):135

Disendowment and Disarmament

he rise of Irish violence and Catholic conversion in the nineteenth century challenged England's conception of itself as a sensible, Anglican state. The Fenians, a secret Irish terrorist organization, carried out disruptive activities throughout England, Ireland, and even in Canada where revolutionaries raided the country's border. The Liberal majority in Parliament passed a number of reforms aimed to pacify Ireland. The Irish Church Bill was one such example. It disendowed the Protestant Irish Church, forcing it to compete for funds against the more popular Irish Catholic Church. This bill represented a loss of political and religious control in Ireland and a retreat from the mission to convert Ireland to a Protestant state. It was also seen as a victory for the Catholic Church, who was already gaining popularity in England.

In Disendowment and Disarmament, Punch makes a clear connection between the Irish and Catholics as "others," who are physical aliens to the English. The illustration portrays a priest and a Fenian commenting on the passage of the Irish Church Bill. Their conversation reveals the British hope that the Bill will hinder Fenian violence at the unfortunate cost of encouraging the Irish Catholic church. The two men are drawn in a striking manner.

Physiologically, they have narrower facial angles than the eighty degrees typically used to render English men and women. Victorian cartoonists were trained to follow the standards of human form established by the eighteenth century Dutch illustrator, Pieter Camper [See: phrenology (ASW)] Camper believed in the Classical model of perfection for the human skull based on the 90 degree intersection between the line drawn from the lips to the brow and the nose to the ear. The protruding brow and upper lip of the Fenian and priest exemplify their de-evolved state. There is, however, a distinction between the priest and the Fenian. The non-violent clergyman carries an umbrella and stands respectably with his feet together. His facial angles are less extreme than the Fenian. The terrorist is lower on the evolutionary scale than the priest. The Fenian looks like an erect ape. His posture conveys arrested development. His head leans forward, his stance is awkward and his gun points dangerously outward. These characteristics of Catholics and Irish as "behind," are echoed throughout Punch and reflect English perception of both groups.

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[Victorian initial "T" by Harlan Wallach ©copyright 1994.]