1774 Henry Dawkins Satirical Cartoon Map of New England after Boston Tea Party

Liberty Triumphant; or The Downfall of Oppression. - Main View

1774 Henry Dawkins Satirical Cartoon Map of New England after Boston Tea Party


Early American Political Satire: In the wake of the Boston Tea Party.


Liberty Triumphant; or The Downfall of Oppression.
  1774 (undated)     10.5 x 13.5 in (26.67 x 34.29 cm)


An iconic 1774 American political cartoon by Henry Dawkins lampooning the Tax Act and the Boston Tea Party. This is likely the most important political cartoon issued in the lead-up to the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783). It was published after the Tea Party but before the Intolerable Acts. The image is innovative in its use of cartographic imagery, larger-than-life representations of key political figures, and use of allegory. Moreover, it stands out for its remarkable encapsulation of the complex pre-Revolution political environment.
Describing the Cartoon
Joan D. Dolmetsch, in Rebellion and Reconciliation (page thirty-one) provides a useful introduction to the piece:
The action takes place on a map, with the coast of North America to the right, and England to the left. In the upper left a crestfallen Britannia tells the genius of Britain, a winged figure with a spear, that she is distressed by the conduct of her degenerate sons, the colonies. Just below her are two groups, the one to the right representing the chained ministers led by the all-powerful Lord North, dominated by the Devil. To the left are East India Company merchants who complain that the American treatment of their goods, particularly the destruction of the tea at Boston and the general refusal of their goods by other colonies, is ruinous to them.

On the other shore Indian Princess America, armed with bow and arrow and supported by her braves, protects the country. Below her a group of Tories lament the loss of their income and political influence as a result of the boycott of English goods. Top right the Goddess of Liberty, holding her pole and liberty cap, and the winged figure of Fame discuss the ardor of Liberty’s brave sons, the colonies.
The political imagery overlays a vague map illustrating New England and the Atlantic. The map is oriented to the west, with North America in the upper right. Coverage embraces roughly from Delaware Bay to Boston, with New York, Long Island, Cape Cod, and Boston recognizable - thus covering the financial heart of British America. The north shore of Massachusetts Bay is massively exaggerated to accommodate the political imagery in the lower right. The Atlantic Ocean occupies the center, and England is at the bottom left, with the Thames River labeled - if curiously flowing into the Atlantic. East India Company ships of trade carry goods from New York and Philadelphia.
Historical Context - The Boston Tea Party
By early 1773, the British East India Company (EIC) was in dire financial straits, partially due to competition from the Dutch, and partially due to poor governance. Many of its directors were political appointees with little aptitude for business making them capable of mismanaging even a monopoly. Its investor rolls nonetheless consisted of the upper crust of British society, including various lords and members of Parliament. In order to shore up the EIC and protect their own finances, guided by Lord Frederick North and inspired by the earlier political maneuvers of John Stuart (Lord Bute), Parliament passed the May 10, 1773 Tea Act.

The Tea Act was reasonable from a purely business perspective. It allowed the EIC, which already had a monopoly on tea, to sell directly to the colonists without the necessity of a middleman. This theoretically meant that the tea could reach the consumer at a lower price. Except, the Tea Act also included an additional mandatory tax, which in the end raised the price. The colonial populace, already frustrated by the Stamp Act (1766), the Townshend Acts (1767), and the Boston Massacre (1770) responded with widespread protest, particularly in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. They considered the Tea Tax, combined with the monopoly already established by the Townshend Acts, a forced taxation unbefitting their status as British citizens or, as it became known, 'Taxation without Representation'.

In Boston, the protest took the form of the December 16, 1773 Boston Tea Party - somewhat illustrated here. In that event, a group of patriots known as the Sons of Liberty, dressed as Mohawk Indians, raided EIC ships, dumping 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The British considered it an act of treason, escalating already high tensions, which culminated in the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783). In the words of John Adams,
This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity in this last Effort of the Patriots that I greatly admire. This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, so intrepid, and so inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences and so lasting, that I cannot but consider it as an Epocha in History.- John Adams, December 17, 1773
American as an American Indian Woman
It is not by chance that the Sons of Liberty dressed as Mohawk Indians to commit the Boston Tea Party, nor is it chance that an American Indian princess is chosen to represent the colonies in general. America was allegorized as such throughout the 18th century and indeed, the roots of this tradition can be traced to the early 16th century revised Ptolemaic cartography of Martin Waldseemüller's Cosmographiae. Moreover, while often at odds with indigenous Americans, most colonials idealized the 'American Indian' as a 'noble savage' resistant to tyranny and always in pursuit of liberty. This concept is underscored here with the caption, 'The Sons of Liberty represented by the Natives of America, in their Savage Garb'.
Publication History and Census
This image was a separate issue political cartoon. There is no evidence it was intended for magazine publication, rather, it was distributed as a broadsheet in colonial clubs and bars to help foment revolutionary sentiment. It is undated and unsigned, but it is generally attributed to Henry Dawkins, a colorful character who operated on the edges of the law. It was issued after the Boston Tea Party, but before the retaliatory 1774 Intolerable Acts. Like much of Dawkins' other work, the image is crudely executed, suggesting a combination of engraving and etching (note the blunted lines). It is nonetheless bold in concept, and novel in its use of cartographic imagery superimposed with larger-than-life representations of key figures.

All examples are today scarce and most exhibit considerable restoration. We note examples at the American Antiquarian Society, Brown University, the University of Michigan's Clements Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Library of Congress, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.


Henry Dawkins (fl. c. 1753 - 1786) was a silversmith, engraver, political activist, and counterfeiter active in New York and Philadelphia the second half of the 18th century. Dawkins was born in England, likely London, and trained there as a silversmith. He emigrated to New York around 1751, immediately establishing himself as an engraver - note his work on the bookplate of John Burnett. In 1755, he advertised that, after working under instrument maker Anthony Lamb, he was establishing his own decorative engraving firm. This must not have worked out, because in 1757, we find him once again in Philadelphia, this time working under the engraver James Turner. Later in the same year, he opened his own Philadelphia shop, which he ran for some fifteen years. He issued engravings for Sir William Johnson, Francis Hopkinson, Princeton, the Pennsylvania Hospital, and the American Philosophical Society. The quality of his work varied dramatically from exceptional to haphazard, suggesting he may have had apprentices whose work he claimed (as was common). On the eve of the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783) he was back in New York. In 1774, he is credited with the unsigned but significant satirical broadsheet Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression, one of the few such to survive the war. Shortly thereafter, in 1776, he moved to Long Island where he planned to set up a counterfeit currency operation. This floundered almost immediately when his paper supplier and partner Israel Youngs was arrested - shortly followed by Dawkins himself. In prison, Dawkins became despondent and petitioned the Provincial Congress of New York for his own execution due to the intolerable prison conditions. Also, during his time in prison, he became more involved with Revolutionary activity and overheard a British plan to blow up Kings Bridge, isolating Manhattan and thus trapping George Washington's Army. He used the information to successfully petition for his release from prison. He afterwards moved to Philadelphia again, where he engraved a silver bookplate for the Decatur family. Ironically, around this time he also engraved the first official coat of arms of the State of New York. Although the date of his death is uncertain, nothing more is known of him after 1786. More by this mapmaker...


Good. Like most examples, the present image has undergone restoration, including marginal reinstatement of loss, generally not affecting image, but evident in the upper right and left corners. Some soiling. Large section reattached in the lower left with no loss to original image.


Library of Congress, 2016648427. Dolmetch, J.,Rebellion and Reconciliation, p. 31. National Humanities Center, Colonists Respond to the Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party, p 12. Parker, Wellsprings of a Nation, 135. OCLC 191119980, 51114352, 875000379.