Cartoon of Jackson and the French


“The debilitated situation of a monarchal Government…” [and] “The Flourishing condition of a well-formed industrious Republic.” Philadelphia?, ca. 1836. 12 x 16 1/2. Lithograph. Very good condition. Reilly: 1836-2.


This picture shows an international situation that had importance for domestic American politics. Andrew Jackson holds up the “Treaty of 4 July 1831” in which France had agreed to pay the United States $5,000,000 in spoliations claims dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. Across a body of water representing the Atlantic Ocean stands King Louis-Philippe scowling. Both men have six unidentifiable countrymen standing behind them. The Americans are noble looking, happy, and exhibiting energy and pride; they stand next to a table with an American eagle and crest, a chest full of money with a view of the Capitol in Washington on the inside of the lid, and two books alluding to George Washington and military victories. The Frenchmen look perplexed and frightened, and an officer throttles a seaman. In the background, ships of the two navies are facing each other.

The legends beneath the picture contrast French destitution with a sound American economy, and indeed it was a time of unparalleled prosperity in the United States. France was ready to go to war against the United States when its first payment on the spoliation claims bounced, and Jackson insulted the French ambassador. An unlikely mediator, Lord Palmerston reminded the French government that in case of war, the American navy could easily take all the French West Indies possessions. In response, France retreated and eventually paid on the check. This cartoon was made to remind Americans of the unprecedented victory of the Jackson administration in completing the spoliation claims. Previous administrations of such diplomatically astute presidents as Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Monroe had never completed them, and now Old Hickory from the backwoods of Tennessee had done it. The long term results of the Treaty of 4 July 1831 were not as favorable as Americans would want, but at this time the Jackson supporters were using it as a further claim to support the president’s choice of Martin Van Buren in the election of 1836.