The Able Doctor, a small-but-brutally vivid cartoon deploring the Boston Port Bill of 1774.
Soon after the Boston Tea Party of December 1773, Parliament retaliated by passing the five so-called “Intolerable Acts.” Among other things, these brought Massachusetts political appointments under control of the British government, restricted town meetings for a year, and closed the Port of Boston until reparations were paid for the destroyed tea. The Acts are the target of the ribald cartoon offered here, which equates America with a native woman being violated by the British leadership.
As with most British political satires of the period, The Able Doctor is replete with imagery whose meaning is today somewhat obscure but would have been clear to informed viewers at the time. Don Creswell offers a brief explanation:
“America, a half-clad Indian woman, is attacked by Mansfield, North (who is pouring the tea down her throat and has a copy of “Boston Port Bill” in his pocket), Bute, and the Earl of Sandwich. A Frenchman and Spaniard look on, while Britannia weeps. In the foreground a “Boston Petition” lies torn on the ground, and in the background the British fleet is bombarding Boston.” (American Revolution in Drawings and Prints, #664)
The gentleman sneaking a peak under America’s skirt is the Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty and said to have been something of a rake. It is worth noting that, while it made for good propaganda, the alleged bombardment of Boston was entirely fictitious.
The Able Doctor appeared in The London Magazine for April 1774, accompanying an account of the debate in Parliament on the Boston Port Bill, the “Intolerable Act” responsible for the closing of the Port of Boston. Within a couple of months a pirated version was engraved by Paul Revere and appeared in the May 1774 Royal American Magazine.
British Museum, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires, #V.5226. Creswell, American Revolution, #664.