An article from the British Library:
The French Revolution was in full swing in the 1790s, and the British establishment was deeply concerned about radical ideas taking hold at home – those expressed in Thomas Paine’s fervent Rights of Man of 1791, for example.
Supporters of the revolutionary ideal were labelled Jacobins, and included prominent poets such as William Blake, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. With such skilled writers on their side, the Jacobins were threatening to control the media agenda – until Foreign Office Minister George Canning formed this weekly newspaper in 1797.
Canning’s poem ‘The Friend of Humanity and the Knife Grinder’ mocks Southey’s style, while the drawing ‘The Republican rattlesnake fascinating the Bedford squirrel’ portrays the revolutionaries as devious reptiles. The illustrations are by the prolific James Gillray, one of the great social and political satirists of the age, known for his savaging of George III. Obtaining the services of Gillray for his publication was something of a coup for Canning, who later served briefly as Prime Minister.
The Anti-Jacobin was only published for a year, but – thanks to its mix of factual information, humour and clever lampoons of revolutionary writing – was a powerful PR tool for the government. This reprint, a century later, shows its lasting effect. Even the poets eventually became establishment figures themselves: Southey ended up as Poet Laureate.
See also Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin