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Cartoon Criticizing the King

  • Political Cartoon Criticizing the King, May 1, 1775
Published in London, this print expressed the opposition to George III and his policies that led his North American colonies to war with Great Britain.
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« Return to Disagreement and Disillusion

Political Cartoon Criticizing the King, May 1, 1775

This political cartoon appeared in the Westminster Magazine, published in London, on May 1, 1775. George III, the king of Great Britain, and William Murray, baron Mansfield, the chief justice of the Court of King's Bench, are shown riding together in an open carriage pulled by two horses labeled “pride” and “obstinacy.” They are trampling two documents lying on the ground, the Magna Carta and the constitution and are about to ride into an abyss that represents war with the American colonies. By the time that war between Great Britain and the North American colonies became a possibility, the king was being criticized in England for overreaching his powers and the judge was condemned for allowing judicial punishment of critics of the king's ministers. As this cartoon indicates, the colonists' assertion of their rights within the kingdom and domestic political turmoil in England brought the nature of the British constitution and the relationship between the king and Parliament into public debate.

Some influential members of Parliament opposed the measures that Parliament had adopted to tax and restrain the colonies. Those politicians argued that, as English subjects, the colonists should not be taxed as long as they were not permitted to vote for representatives to the House of Commons. Taxation without representation in Parliament violated their rights as Englishmen, the opponents to the king believed. Hence, in this cartoon, the carriage tramples the documents that give Englishmen the right to representation and that limit the monarch's powers.

For Educators

Questions

1. What documents are shown in the cartoon? What action is shown?

2. What are the names of the horses? What do these words mean?

Further Discussion

1. Why are George III and Lord Mansfield shown riding over the Magna Carta and the constitution? What political statement was the cartoonist making?

2. Based on the provisions of the Magna Carta and the British constitution, did the British government have the right to tax colonists even though they were not represented in Parliament?

3. What motivated George III? Was it really “pride” and “obstinacy” as the cartoonist accuses? What other course of action might he have pursued that would have avoided an armed conflict with the American colonies?

Links

Library of Congress Bibliographic Information-Cartoon Criticizing the King

Suggested Reading

Lloyd, Alan. The King Who Lost America: A Portrait of the Life and Times of George III. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.