The Old Print Shop

The Hartford Convention or Leap no Leap.

  • ARTIST: William Charles

  • MEDIUM: Etching,

    DATE: undated, c.1814

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 8 3/4 x 1311/16" (22.2 x 34.7 cm) plus margins.

  • DESCRIPTION: The Hartford Convention or Leap no Leap is a political caricature by the artist William Charles regarding the secret meetings that were held by New England Federalists in Hartford in December of 1814. The Hartford Convention, as it came to be known, met during the War of 1812 in reaction to the rise to power of the rival Republican Party and their policies. During his time as president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson had passed the Embargo Act of 1807 that prohibited trade with Great Britain in response to that nation’s and France’s assaults on US ships during the Napoleonic Wars. This embargo greatly affected the maritime commerce in New England, then heavily dependent on shipbuilding and international trade. When the conflict escalated and the then-current president, James Madison, declared war on Britain in 1812, it served as a further catalyst to unite the Northern Federalists who had voted against the war. William Charles’ illustration satirizes the more radical minority among the New England Federalists who spoke of secession from the United States as a solution. The upper left-hand corner of the illustration depicts a man, representing Massachusetts, pulling Rhode Island and Connecticut towards the edge of a cliff and asking them to make the “leap” of seceding from the Union. The Rhode Island figure laments, “Poor little I, what will become of me? this leap is of a frightful size—I sink into despondency.” Likewise, Connecticut protests, “I cannot Brother Mass; let me pray and fast some time longer—little Rhode will jump the first,” while Massachusetts urges, “What a dangerous leap!!! but we must jump Brother Conn.” The lower left-hand corner depicts King George III of England enticing the New England states with economic incentives: “O’tis my Yankey boys! jump in my fine fellows; plenty molasses and Codfish; plenty of goods to Smuggle; Honours, titles and Nobility into the bargain_”<br><br> William Charles (1776-1820) Scottish born author, artist and engraver who is best know for his political caricatures. Charles had published political caricatures in Edinburgh and London before immigrating to America. He worked extensively in New York and Philadelphia from about 1806 until his death. Charles published adult fiction and children’s books, some including his own engravings, but he is best known for caricatures, many lampooning events of the War of 1812. Stauffer lists over 15 such images, a few such as Johnny Bull and the Alexandrians and The Hartford Convention lampooning American military incompetence or sectional differences, but most tweaking Great Britain for its various defeats at American hands. According to Murell, Charles and a business partner at one time planned to issue these monthly in sets of four, but abandoned the project due to lack of subscribers. For all that, Murell asserts that Charles’ political cartoons “arouse[d] more public interest than any produced in America before.”


  • CONDITION: Fair to good condition. Narrow top and side margins. Some chipping along sheet edges. Original color. Drum mounted.

  • REFERENCE: Murrell "American Graphic Humor" #83.; Stauffer "American Engravers" #313; OCLC #62107505.