The Flight of the Congress, 1777 293
Before and after the departure of the congress from Philadelphia on 19 September, John Adams indicated his view that Gen. William Howe and the British gained nothing by capturing the city (
Adams Family Correspondence
). In England, however, the “flight of the congress,” the American defeat at Brandywine Creek on 11 September, and the British entry into Philadelphia on the 26th were deemed evidence of a decisive victory over Washington's army. The elation was shortlived. News soon arrived of the indecisive action at Germantown and Gen. John Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga. The war was far from over.
This was one of the few cartoons published in Britain that was hostile to the Americans. The British lion, his foot on a map marked “philadelphia” and “delawar,” roars “how,” and chases a panic-stricken congress represented by wild animals. Above, and representing the German troops in Howe's army, the Prussian eagle holds in its beak and talons the symbol of the American colonies: a rattlesnake inscribed “independence.” In the fleeing pack Henry Laurens is depicted as a tiger, John Hancock as an ass with a lion's skin draped over its back, George Washington as an armadillo, Richard Henry Lee as a wolf, John and Samuel Adams as two foxes, and Israel Putnam as a wild boar. The identity of the stag inscribed “V—D—” is unclear, and a badger and wildcat, which also run with the pack, are unidentified. The animals are fleeing from the “cave of rebellion,” beside which is inscribed “Resolv'd, nem: con never to run away.” Above the cave an opossum attempts to climb the liberty tree in which a squirrel sits throwing money of various denominations to the winds. The owl in flight perhaps represents Benjamin Franklin; and the tag in its beak: “louis baboon a Paris,” possibly suggests the hopelessness of seeking an alliance with France in the face of the American defeats. In the background, to the left, is a ship under full sail. This cartoon was published by William Hitchcock of London on 20 November 1777 (Mary Dorothy George, ed., British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires, [London], 1935, 5:No. 5401).
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department.