The War of 1812


Digital image via Library of Congress.

William Charles, A Scene on the Frontiers. Philadelphia, 1812. Political Cartoons Collection.

Prompted by the August 1812 massacre at Chicago, this cartoon satirizes the British practice of paying bounties to Native American allies for American scalps during the war.

Denounces British and Indian depredations on Am frontier during War of 1812, alluding to practice of offering bounties for AM scalps. Prompted by August 1812 massacre at Chicago and purchase of scalps by British Col. Henry Proctor

Left: British officer receives bloody scalp from Native American. Native American carries purse labeled “Reward for Sixteen Scalps” as well as a knife and tomahawk with the initials “G.R.” [Georgius Rex, or King George]. Officer announces, “Bring me the Scalps and the King our master will reward you.” A sack labeled “Secret Service Money” hangs from officer’s coat button.

Right: A Native American scalps a fallen soldier.

Background: Two Native Americans and two British soldiers dance around campfire.


Arise Columbia’s Sons and forward press,

Your Country’s wrongs call loudly for redress;

The Savage Indian with his Scaling knife,

Or Tomahawk may seek to take your life;

By bravery aw’d they’ll in a deadful Fright,

Shrink back for Refuge to the Woods in Flight;

Their British leaders then will quickly shake,

And for those wrongs shall restitution make.

Digital image via Library of Congress.

William Charles, John Bull Making a New Batch of Ships. Philadelphia, 1814. Political Cartoons Collection.

This cartoon revels in British naval losses on the Great Lakes in 1813 and 1814. In particular, the image references the British losses at Lake Erie to Oliver Hazard Perry; at Lake Champlain to Thomas MacDonough; and the defeat of the Stranger to the Yankee Fox. The scene is allegedly based on Thomas Rowlandson’s 1798 satire, High Fun for John Bull or the Republicans Put to Their last Shift.

Shows John Bull (King George III) feeding a tray of ships into a bread oven. Two Englishmen stand ready with additional trays while a Frenchman waits to the left, holding a trough of “French Dough.” 

John Bull: “Ay! What…Brother Jonathan taken another whole fleet on the Lakes—Must work away—Work away & send some more or He’ll have Canada next.”

Frenchman: “Begar Mounseer Bull. Me no like dis new Alliance—Dere be one Yankey Man da call Mac Do-enough Take your Ships by de whole Fleet—You better try get him for I never get Do-enough made at dis rate!!!”

Englishman: “Here are more Guns for the Lake service. If ever they do but get there—I hear the last you sent were waylaid by a sly Yankey Fox and the ship being a Stranger, he has taken her in.”

Second Englishman: “I tell you what Master Bull—You had better keep both your Ships and Guns at home—If you send all you’ve got to the Lakes, it will only make fun for the Yankeys to take them”

Digital image via Library of Congress.

William Charles, Democracy Against the Unnatural Union. Philadelphia, 1817. Political Cartoons Collection.

This cartoon depicts the 1817 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race between William Findlay and Joseph Heister. It may very well be Charles’s last. After this cartoon, he appears to have devoted himself to publishing toy-books and producing the occasional engraving for Matthew Carey.

Findlay, for whom Charles has sympathies, is shown carried toward governor’s chair by a crowd of voters who stand around a platform to left. From various members of the crowd arise the words “voice of the people,” “the man of our Choice,” “Chosen with open doors,” “no bribery of Corruption,” “let me impress it on your minds who was nominated by 113 delegates of true Republican principles,” “I will record the deed,” and “True Democracy.” Findlay says, “How easy do I ascend.”

On the right, another crowd assembles to raise a platform made of bundles of Federalist newspapers (the Aurora and U.S. Gazette) and “Shingles bought at 10 pounds and paid for at 8 pounds.” That platforms supports the planks “Federalism,” “Old Schoolism” and “1364 Dollars.” Teetering atop those planks perches Heister, holding a paper “Serious Reflections,” exclaiming, “Mercy on me—What foundation I stand upon!!!”

Remarks from below:

“I would Vote for Old Nick provided I could get a good Office”

“I am thinking to myself how foolish we shall if we do not succeed”

“We must have recourse to all kinds of Stratagem or we cannot succeed”

“I do not much relish this Union But Conscience [sic] Avaunt.”

Digital image via Library Company of Philadelphia.

Bonus: A Case of Infectious Fever. Philadelphia, 1820. Political Cartoons Collection.

This etching lampoons the New York Board of Health’s handling of the 1820 yellow fever epidemic. It draws inspiration from August 1820 newspaper accounts of “John C. Williams,” a drunk who falsely claimed to be from Philadelphia and who was misdiagnosed with the fever.

Depicts several doctors and officials from the Board, with handkerchiefs over their mouths, discussing the condition of the bed-ridden Williams who vomits into a bucket and exclaims, “drunk, drunk, oh lord.” The African American housekeeper holds states that he is drunk from “de toast and toddy.” Nevertheless, various doctors, including prominent physicians Felix Pascalis, Samuel Latham Mitchill, and President of the Board, David Hosack, discuss his symptoms (“black vomit,” “delerium,” “a red nose,” and “difficulty of speech”) as evidence of “yellow fever.” New York Post editor William Coleman and Marine Hospital physician Joseph Bayley discuss sending him to quarantine.