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“Johnny Bull and the Alexandrians” War of 1812 Cartoon Ridiculing Alexandria’s Surrender without a Fight
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Push on Jack, the yankeys are not all so Cowardly as these Fellows here. let’s make the best of our time.

This cartoon mocks the citizens of Alexandria, who easily capitulated to a small British fleet in August 1814. As part of the terms of surrender, John Bull, dressed as a sailor with a sword in one hand and “Terms of Capitulation” in the other, confiscates their property.

Williams Charles’ images were based loosely on Thomas Rowlandson’s 1798 satire, “High Fun for John Bull or the Republicans Put to Their last Shift.”

[WAR OF 1812]. WILLIAM CHARLES. Print. Johnny Bull and the Alexandrians, satirical engraved aquatint cartoon. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [October, 1814]. 1 p., 13 x 9 in.

Inventory #25449       Price: $3,750

Transcript

[Johnny Bull:] I must have all your Flour---All your Tobacco---All your Provisions---All your ships---All your Merchandize---Every thing except your Porter and Perry keep them out of my sight, I’ve had enough of them already.---

[Two frightened Alexandrians, kneeling, on left:] Pray Mr Bull don’t be too hard with us--- you know we were always friendly, even in time of your Embargo!

[British Soldier:] Push on Jack, the yankeys are not all so cowardly as these Fellows here. Let’s make the best of your time.---

[Jack:] Huzza Boys!!! More Rum more Tobacco!---

Historical Background

The British declared a blockade of the American coast early in the War of 1812, but most of the fighting took place along the American-Canadian border. In mid-1814, the British shifted their attention southward with an expeditionary force sent into Chesapeake Bay. Led by Major General Robert Ross (1766-1814) and Admiral Alexander Cochrane (1758-1832), the British forces captured and burned many government buildings in Washington, D.C. on August 24.

Three days later, Gordon’s naval expedition opened fire on Fort Washington, eight miles below the capital and the last line of defense before Alexandria. The Americans abandoned the fort after spiking its guns. As the British were removing gunpowder, a massive explosion shook the town of Alexandria.

On Sunday, August 28, the mayor of Alexandria asked Gordon for terms of surrender. Because it was Sunday, Gordon told the mayor to return and he would bring up his squadron on Monday. Facing 128 guns of the British squadron, to avoid the destruction of the town, the mayor and Common Council surrendered on August 29. They agreed to turn over all merchant ships and their cargoes. The British acquired twenty-two merchant ships and vast quantities of supplies, including flour, cotton, tobacco, wines, and cigars. After a short occupation, Gordon’s force returned down the Potomac, somewhat slowed by now heavily-laden ships that ran aground and by harassing fire from American militia batteries on the heights above the river. Gordon rejoined the main British fleet in the Chesapeake on September 9.

William Charles (1776-1820) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and trained in England. He spent his early career in Edinburgh and London and arrived in the United States around 1806. He became a publisher and engraver in line, stipple, and aquatint and was active in New York and Philadelphia in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. He published works of adult fiction and children’s books, some of which included his engravings. He is best known for his caricatures, most of which address events from the War of 1812. He produced at least fifteen, most tweaking Great Britain for its defeats by Americans. Charles’ political cartoons “aroused more public interest than any produced in America before.”


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