(click image to enlarge)
'Sir Willliam Harcourt's Ground-Game Bill (commonly called the 'Hares and Rabbits Bill') had at last been permitted to pass the Lords, but only after much mutilation. – September, 1880'
On 27 May 1880, the Liberal Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt (1827-1904), had introduced into the Commons the first reading of a bill ‘for the better protection of land against injury to crops from hares and rabbits’. By the time it became the Ground Game Act on 7 September, it had been much weakened – as is indicated by the caption to the present cartoon. However, Disraeli had actually encouraged the Conservative members of the House of Lords to accept it, and reserve their strength for more important issues.
Tenniel represents Harcourt as an urban street seller of hare and rabbit skins, such sellers and buyers being a common sight on the streets of Victorian London, and described by Henry Mayhew in his London Labour and the London Poor (1851). Disraeli is dressed as a countryman, suggesting greater first-hand experience of leporids.