A picturesque view of British failures in North America

A Picturesque View of the State of the Nation for February 1778. [London: For The Westminster Magazine], February 1778.
Engraving, printed area 3 7/8”h x 6 ¾”w plus margins, uncolored. Abrasion with loss to few letters of title, minor marginal soiling and staining. Extensive interpretive annotations in pencil on verso.

A Picturesque View of the State of the Nation is a witty Revolutionary War-era political cartoon published in early 1778 at a low point for the British effort to bring its rebellious colonies to heel.

The cartoon appeared in The Westminster Magazine for March 1778. At the time General Howe and the main British Army were in Winter quarters at Philadelphia, after capturing the city the previous September but having then succumbed to inactivity. Soon thereafter Burgoyne’s army surrended at Saratoga, paving the way for the signing of the Franco-American alliance in early February 1778.

“[The] cartoon shows America (represented by a man with feathered cap) cutting the horns off a cow (representing British commerce) which is being milked by a Dutchman, two men (representing France and Spain) are standing toward the rear of the cow holding bowls of milk. In the foreground, on the right, lies the British lion asleep, a small dog is standing on the lion’s back urinating. A distraught Englishman is standing to the left of the lion. In the background, across an expanse of water, is a city labeled “Philadelphia”, to the left of the city is a ship, the “Eagle” [Admiral Howe’s flagship], laid-up in dry dock, Admiral Howe is sitting at a table, out of sight of his flag ship, with his brother General Howe, a keg is on the ground to the left and wine bottles on the ground to the right of the table.” (Library of Congress)

A Picturesque View of the State of the Nation had considerable success, as versions appeared in France, the Netherlands and the United States, the last probably engraved by Paul Revere.

Creswell, American Revolution in Drawings and Prints, #726. M. Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum, vol. V #5472.