The Old Print Shop

Democracy - against the - Unnatural Union. : Trial Octr. 14th 1817.

  • ARTIST: William Charles

  • MEDIUM: Etching,

    DATE: 1817

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 12 9/16 x 9 1/8" (31.9 x 23.2 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: Inscribed in plate "Designed and executed by one who has neither place nor pension." <BR><BR> A satire on the 1817 Pennsylvania Gubernatorial race between William Findlay and Joseph Heister. The artist clearly favors the former and charges corruption in Heister's campaign. Findlay appears to float toward the Governor's chair, carried aloft by the voices of a crowd of voters standing around a rostrum on the left. From members of the crowd come the words: "voice of the people," "the man of our Choice," "Chosen with open doors," "no bribery or Corruption," "let me impress it on your minds who was nominated by 113 delegates of true Republican principles," "I will record the deed," and "True Democracy." Findlay says, "How easy do I ascend." <br> <br> On the right another crowd is assembled. Several men hold up a platform made of bundles of the Aurora and U. S. Gazette newspapers and "Shingles bought at 10 pounds and paid for at 8 pounds," which in turn supports planks labeled "Federalism," "Old Schoolism" and "1364 Dollars." On top stands candidate Heister, holding a paper entitled "Serious Reflections . . . " and saying "Mercy on me-What a foundation I stand upon!!!" Various people below say: "I would Vote for Old Nick provided I could get a good Office," "I am thinking to myself how foolish we shall look if we do not Succeed," "We must have recourse to all kinds of Strategem or we cannot succeed," and "I do not much relish this Union But Concience [sic] Avaunt." An eagle with an olive branch and lightning bolts in its talons appears in the sky below the chair.<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: Good condition, mild toning, trimmed to the outer neat line. Damp stain in the lower right.

  • REFERENCE: Murrell, " History of American Graphic Humor" #88.