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William Goddard Publishes One of the Earliest American Political Cartoons (1772)
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This very early woodcut political cartoon lampoons loyalist “Americanus” (Joseph Galloway). The caption reads, “Americanus, heavy laden, with the 5 Mile Stone on his Back, trampling on the Goddess Liberty, the Bill of Rights, and Pennsylvania Charter, on his Way to Bucks County Electionbegging Relief from his Burthen.” In the woodcut itself, a devil whispers in Americanus’ ear: “Don’t flinch my Dear Galloway, I’ll support you.

[WILLIAM GODDARD]. Newspaper. “Americanus” political cartoon in The Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser, September 19, 1772. Vol. 6, No. 36, pp. 145-148. Philadelphia: William Goddard. 4 pp., 9¾ x 16 in.

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Only one cartoon appeared earlier in a newspaper, Benjamin Franklin’s “Join, or Die” snake cartoon which appeared in only one issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. This cartoon is the next known to be published in a newspaper, though others appeared in broadsheet format. This cartoon is much more complicated than “Join, or Die,” even employing word balloons.

Historical Background

In 1766, New Jersey royal governor William Franklin (bastard son of Benjamin Franklin), wealthy Quaker merchant Thomas Wharton, and Joseph Galloway formed a partnership to publish the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser with William Goddard as editor and manager. Publication began in January 1767, with Wharton and Galloway as silent partners. Goddard clashed with Wharton and Galloway over the publication of John Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” and the silent partners defaulted on their share of the debts. Goddard ended up in debtor’s prison.

On April 2, 1772, a “Chester County Man” sent a threatening letter to Joseph Galloway demanding the loan of £50 for a year with directions to leave it behind the five-mile stone on the road from Philadelphia to Chester. Galloway offered a reward of £50 for the discovery of the author, and acting Governor Richard Penn (1735-1811) offered an additional £100 for the same purpose. Someone accused William Goddard of sending the letter, and he was arrested but released on bail; with no evidence, he was never indicted.

This visual attack on Galloway’s character is accompanied by a satirical speech by Americanus with notes by the publisher William Goddard. “The Substance of the foregoing modest Address,” Goddard wrote, “without a Signature, was handed about, with the Approbation of Americanus and his Junto, previous to a former Election, in order, if possible, to throw a Mantle over his many atrocious Misdeeds, by bespattering my Character with Insinuations of an alarming Nature.” He continued, “This miserable Man, (who is now travelling to and fro, in the Country, imposing on the credulous, and begging Votes, as he did for the Speaker’s Chair, in order to patch a ruined Reputation) hath been fairly convicted of betraying and reviling his Country....

Although Galloway won reelection from Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, where he owned an estate, mechanics and small merchants in Philadelphia, prompted by William Goddard’s editorial assaults, ousted two other conservatives often associated with Galloway. Goddard, himself a candidate to represent Philadelphia, was defeated. By 1773, Goddard had moved to Baltimore, where he began publishing a new newspaper, The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser.

In an unfortunately mutilated letter to Benjamin Franklin in London, written soon after the election, Galloway wrote in part, “Our annual Election is now over, and I am again returnd to a Seat in the House, but whether with or against my Inclination I really cannot inform you. The Opposition I met with was the only Matter which gave Rise to a Wish to be elected, while my [health,] which has been long wasting in the Public Service, added to the [impossibility?] I find of pleasing an envious and discontented People by [torn] Endeavors to serve them, with an Abundance of un[torn] operated on the other side to render me [torn] situation, I gave my self no Trouble [torn] that all the reputable Part of the [torn] Election. The feeble Opposition [torn] giving me dayly [torn] State [rest of page missing] sending Men of Property and Character to the Legislative Council, and left it to be managed by the very Dregs of the People. To convince you of this I need only mention that Goddard wanted but a few Votes to constitute him a Representative for the County of Philadelphia.”[1]

Joseph Galloway (1731-1803) was born in Maryland and became a well-respected attorney and a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly from 1756 to 1774, the last eight years as speaker. For much of his career, he was a close ally of Benjamin Franklin. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, where his proposal to compromise with Great Britain and avoid revolution was rejected by only one vote. In response, Galloway left the Congress and the Assembly. In the winter of 1777, Galloway joined British General William Howe and accompanied him during Howe’s capture of Philadelphia. Galloway headed the civil government during the British occupation but fled to Great Britain in 1778. That year, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania convicted him of high treason and confiscated his estates.

William Goddard (1740-1817) was born in Connecticut and served as an apprentice printer. He founded several newspapers during his lifetime, including the Pennsylvania Chronicle in 1767 in partnership with Benjamin Franklin. To avoid the abuse of the authority of the Crown Post in Philadelphia, Goddard used private carriers, but the local Crown postmaster intercepted mail to Goddard from other cities and towns, depriving him of their information. The Crown Post also imposed a heavy tax on newspaper delivery, eventually forcing the Pennsylvania Chronicle out of business in 1773. In defiance of the Crown Post, Goddard established the Constitutional Post as an alternative, which played a key role in Franklin’s ideas about a new postal system for the colonies.

Additional Content

This issue of The Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser also includes a two-column letter to the editor by “Philadelphus” denouncing Galloway (p1/c1-2); news from London (p2/c1-2); reports from Charleston, South Carolina of an Indian attack on settlers bound for Mississippi, the price of recently imported slaves, and upcoming Assembly elections (p2/c2); and two letters regarding the upcoming election from “A Countryman” and “A Farmer” in Bucks County, clearly aimed at Galloway (p4/c1).

[1] Joseph Galloway to Benjamin Franklin, October 12, 1772, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA.