Political Cartoons of the American Revolution
I love political cartoons! But I have to admit that the first time I saw them from the Revolutionary War Era I didn’t have any idea what they meant. Once I started to figure them out I realized they were brilliant and started a collection.
Here are some of my favorites!
The Tory’s Day of Judgement
This is a big favorite on the Revolutionary War Tour. It shows the New York Sons of Liberty hanging a Loyalist, or Tory, up by the seat of his pants on the Liberty Pole. But that’s not all.
Remember, New York was once a Dutch colony, New Netherland. The English took it by military force in 1664. The Dutch stayed after the takeover. They joined up with the Scots (Presbyterians and rivals of the Church of England), and together they became a constant thorn in the side of the English. So let’s take a look at the cartoon again.
In the back row, we see the Dutch, wearing their comically depicted Dutch hats, raising cups of rum. In the front, the Scots, so drunk they can no longer stand upright. On the pole hangs an innocent Englishman, victimized by the lowlifes of the town.
The American Rattle Snake, 1782
Many of you would recognize the old “Join or Die” drawn by Ben Franklin or the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag. Here’s another use of the snake.
This depicts the final defeat of the British in 1781. The snake has the British Army surrounded.
The snake says “Two British Armies I have thus Burgoyned, And Room for More I’ve Got Behind” This References the defeat of British Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777, a strategic loss for the British.
The bottom left caption says “Britons Within the Yankeean Plains, Mind how ye March and Trench” warning the remaining forces to be careful in their movements.
The bottom right caption says “The Serpent in the Congress Reigns As well as in the French” The Devil is behind the rebellion in America and let’s not forget the French!
On the snake’s rattle a sign says “An Apartment to lett for Military Gentlemen” who are now out of work.
The Patriotick Barber of New York or the Captain in the Suds, 1775
This print depicts an event in NYC that happened October 1774 when Jacob Vredenburgh, a barber and well-known New York Son of Liberty (right), refused to shave Captain John Crozer after finding out he was a military officer.
Notice that Crozer is half shaved, with his wig still off as he’s being kicked out of the shop! The baber, his assistant and their friends outside all have ugly, demonic faces. On the shelf in the back of the shop are wig boxes bearing the names of the leaders of the NY Sons of Liberty, Alexander McDougall, and John Lamb, as well as boxes piled up in the front where we can see Isaac Sears.
On the back wall is the “Speech of Lord Chatham,” William Pitt, whose portrait hangs next to it. Pitt was opposed to the Parliament’s treatment of the colonies and a big favorite in NYC. On the right hangs the “Articles of Association” which created the rebel NY government. (I’m not sure who is in the other portrait.)
The caption says “Then Patriot grand, maintain thy Stand,/ And whilst thou sav’st Americ’s Land,/ Preserve the Golden Rule;–/ Forbid the Captains there to roam,/ Half shave them first; then send ’em home,/ Objects of ridicule.”
The British Lion engaging Four Powers, 1780
The Lion, on the right, represents England, facing off against his enemies during the Revolutionary War, who teamed up to help America. He tells them “You shall all have an old English drubbing to make you quiet.” In other words, I will beat you all!
On the top, a Spaniel “I will have Gibraltar that I may be king of all Spain.”
Next down is a Chicken, “I will have my title from you and be called King of France.”
The Snake: “I will have America and be Independent.”
The Pug Dog (Holland): “I will be jack of all sides as I have always been.” (Commenting on the Dutch claims to be neutral but really supporting America during the war.)
The Conference between the Brothers HOW to get Rich
You didn’t think anti-war sentiment is new, did you? Well, here’s a cartoon showing the two British commanders, General Willam and Admiral Richard How pondering a way to profit on the war. Advising them is the devil! (By the way, this is an anti-war cartoon from England, done by opponents of the ongoing war in America.)
On the right: “Brother HOW poor we are. HOW shall we get RICH”
On the left: “I don’t know HOW HOW we can”
The Devil: “HOW HOW continue the War”
In the background is a poor farmer growing cabbage.
Get this blog, Behind the HiSTORY, directly in your mailbox!
Click here to sign up.