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The Horse America, Throwing His Master - 1779 Cartoon

The Horse America, Throwing His Master - 1779 Cartoon (Illustration) Visual Arts Famous Historical Events Law and Politics Social Studies Civil Rights American History American Revolution

This cartoon, by an unknown artist, demonstrates how Colonial Americans viewed their mother country. They wanted Britain "off their back" and out of the colonies completely.

The print - "The Horse America, Throwing His Master" - depicts a horse (named "America") throwing his rider (King George III).  It was initially published in London (Westminster) by William White on August 1, 1779.  

What is King George III holding in his right hand?  It appears to be:

...a whip made of swords, axes, and bayonets ... (Freedom:  A History of US, by Joy Hakim, page 18.)

Others have described the King as a "hapless rider" who's lost control of his mount (i.e., his colony):

King George III is depicted as a hapless rider losing control of his mount.  The "Horse America" looks full of flight and is not taking kindly to the bayonets, swords and hatchets with which the king is trying to subdue it.  (New York 1776: The Continentals' First Battle, by David Smith and Graham Turner, page 8.)

According to Bruce Lancaster, in his book The American Revolution, this cartoon responds to General Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga:

This British cartoon, entitled "The Horse America throwing his Master," comments on Burgoyne's defeat and the subsequent American alliance with France.  News of the surrender of 5,000 crack British and German troops gave impetus to a momentous decision.  Louis XVI officially recognized the new republic and, on February 6, 1778, signed a treaty pledging full military support to the United States.  (The American Revolution, by Bruce Lancaster, page 222.)

The British Museum views this as King George III about to fall, head first, off his mount:

A horse snorting violently, its head down and hind legs in the air; his rider, George III, has lost his seat and is about to fall head downwards. In his hand is a scourge to each lash of which is attached either a sword, sabre, bayonet, scalping-knife, or axe; he wears the ribbon and star of the Garter. Behind (r.), a French officer walks (r. to left.) towards the horse, carrying a large fleur-de-lys flag over his right. shoulder.

How would you interpret this political cartoon?

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 14, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Nov 04, 2016


Media Credits

"The Horse America, Throwing His Master" - image online, courtesy the Library of Congress.

 

Westminster, William White, August 1, 1779. To Form a More Perfect Union: An Introduction to the Congressional Documents, Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789.

 

The Library of Congress provides the following information about the print:

Title: The horse America, throwing his master

Date Created/Published:  Westminster : Pubd. by Wm. White, 1779 Aug. 1.

 Medium: 1 print: etching.

Summary: Print shows a horse "America" throwing its rider, George III.

Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-5286 (color film copy transparency); LC-USZ62-1521 (b&w film copy neg.)

The print was also published in:

 

The American Revolution in Drawings and Prints; A checklist of 1765-1790 graphics in the Library of Congress / Compiled by Donald H. Cresswell, with a foreword by Sinclair H. Hitchings. Washington : [For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.], 1975, no. 749.

And:

Catalogue of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum.  Division I, political and personal satires, v. 5, no. 5549

 

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