[Most likely Philadelphia, but possibly London. 1836]. Lithograph, sheet size: 15 3/4 x 17 3/4 inches. Six small closed tears along left edge, all of them one- half inch or less, far from the image and below the mat line. A fresh, clear, dark impression. Near fine. Matted. Item #WRCAM37507
An impressive and handsome lithographic print, forcefully illustrating the differences between the strong, wealthy, and secure United States and the corrupt, bankrupt, and fearful French monarchy in the 1830s. The image shows President Andrew Jackson and a group of six Americans standing on the left, facing King Louis Philippe, and six Frenchmen standing on the right, the two parties separated by a narrow strip of water symbolizing the Atlantic Ocean. Jackson holds in his hand the treaty of July 4, 1831, made between the United States and France to settle the issue of outstanding debts (in the amount of some twenty-five million francs) caused by French depredations during the Napoleonic Wars. The French were to pay over a number of years, but soon pled poverty and balked on their payments. This is symbolized in the illustration by an overturned treasure chest on the French side, with no money in it, but with unpaid bills spilling out, including those for the army and the civil list. Louis Philippe holds in his hand a slip of paper reading: "fortunate speculation 25 millions." By contrast, the chest on the American side is filled with bags of money, showing the great government surpluses available at the time. The American treasure chest has an image of the U.S. Capitol on its lid and is surrounded by books, including a biography of Washington and another listing great American military victories. The Americans are shown as confident and prosperous, and include a young sailor waving his cap, and a plainly dressed citizen holding a rifle and bayonet. The Frenchmen, by contrast, look fearful and apprehensive, and one of them is a sailor being impressed into service. Three French ships are seen in the background, facing off against three American ships, including the Constitution ("Old Ironsides") and the New Orleans. This evokes the determination of Jackson to settle the issue by force if necessary, and the fact that naval conflict over the French non-payment was a very real possibility. The caption notes that in "monarchical governments" resources must be "wrung from the people's hands," whereas in a republic citizens willingly sacrifice their blood and fortune for their country. The lack of an imprint has led some to put forth London as the place of production for this print. A delightful lithograph, evocatively demonstrating growing American power and prosperity during the "Era of Good Feelings," especially in contrast with a decrepit, monarchical Europe. REILLY, AMERICAN POLITICAL PRINTS 1836-2. NEVINS & WEITENKAMPF, A CENTURY OF POLITICAL CARTOONS, pp.46-47. WEITENKAMPF, POLITICAL CARICATURE IN THE UNITED STATES, p.42.