This satirical cartoon shows the British Secretary of State inspecting and applauding the newly created Metropolitan Police Force of London. His words reveal the sense of suspicion felt by the public towards the police at this time, particularly by the working classes. 'My lads,' he says, 'you are always justified in breaking the heads of the public when you consider it absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the public peace … for, according to the law, they have no business in your way'. The cartoon’s title refers to the police as ‘the raw lobsters’. Raw lobsters are blue and only turn red when boiled: the suggestion being that the police in their blue coats were only ‘hot water’ away from becoming the red-coated army.
Prior to 1829, law enforcement in Britain was largely carried out on a parish-by-parish basis by unpaid constables. The first paid constables appeared with the establishment of the Marine Police in 1798. In matters of extreme civil disorder, the army was called in to support the local forces. As the urban population of Britain continued to grow in the early part of the 19th century, it became clear that voluntary forces were insufficient for such a large population. Home Secretary Robert Peel suggested a paid civilian force, answerable to the public, that would unify various parish forces. This idea was brought into being by the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. By 1830, there were 3,200 paid police in London.