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British cartoon depicting the Edenton Tea Party

Move your mouse over the image to see comments. Philip Dawes, “A Society of Patriotic Ladies, at Edenton in North Carolina.” Mezzotint. London, March 25, 1775. . About the illustration
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petitionpresidingbaby and dog

This British cartoon satirizes the fifty-one ”patriotic ladies” of Edenton, North Carolina, in their attempt to endorse the nonimportation association resolves of 1774. Drawn by Philip Dawes, it was titled “A Society of Patriotic Ladies, at Edenton in North Carolina,” appeared in a London newspaper on March 25, 1775.

Look closely at the image. What is happening? (Read the mouseover comments to find details and get some additional context.) What does the cartoonist think of the Edenton “Tea Party”? Of the Revolutionaries? Of women’s “proper” role?



The text of the petition reads:

We the ladyes of Edenton do hereby solemnly engage not to conform to ye pernicious Custom of Drinking Tea or that we, the aforesaid Ladyes, will not promote ye wear of any manufacture from England, until such time that all Acts which tend to enslave this our Native Country shall be repealed.

How does this text differ from the document the ladies of Edenton actually signed?

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The lady with the elaborate coiffure (or, as we would say today, “big hair”) who is presiding over the tea party is actually the Earl of Bute (1713–1792), a Scottish politician who had almost nothing to do with the American Revolution.

Lord Bute had been a tutor of George III when George was a boy and later served as Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1762–1763. He was rumored to have had an affair with George’s mother, Princess Augusta, and he resigned as Prime Minister after an anti-government newspaper published a biting satire of him and of the Princess. But even after he resigned, many people in England believed that he had a secret influence over the king, and blamed him for royal policies they disliked — especially policies that seemed to centralize power in the hands of the king. He was regularly made fun of in pamphlets, newspapers, songs, plays, and cartoons, and he was attacked by mobs and even threatened with assassination.

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baby and dog

A baby is sitting on the floor, and a dog is pulling at its ear — suggesting that the women ought to be paying more attention to their duties as mothers. The dog is also lifting its leg on a tea chest.

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