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Cartoon Showing Blacksmiths Forging Fetters

  • Political Cartoon Showing Blacksmiths Forging Fetters for the Americans, March 1, 1776
This cartoon, printed in London in 1776, depicted several prominent politicians and George III creating chains to keep the American colonies in line.
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    Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
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    Broadside Concerning the Repeal of the Stamp Act, May 16, 1766
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Political Cartoon Showing Blacksmiths Forging Fetters for the Americans, March 1, 1776

Printed in London on March 1, 1776, this political cartoon depicts several high-ranking British government officials working in a blacksmith shop to make shackles, or “fetters,” for the American colonists. The men depicted are William Murray, first baron of Mansfield (the chief justice of the Court of King's Bench), Frederick North, Lord North (who held the office later defined as prime minister), John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich (who was first lord of the Admiralty, the head of the commission that directed the Royal Navy), and John Stuart, third earl of Bute (an unpopular former first minister whom many people feared exercised too strong an influence on the king). King George III watches approvingly from the window. Lord North is shown holding in his right hand “An act for Prohibiting all Trade” that Parliament passed on December 22, 1775. The Prohibitory Act stipulated that all trade with America was prohibited and that any American ships, cargoes, and seamen could be captured if they came into contact with the Royal Navy and declared as prizes or prisoners of war. The seamen could be imprisoned or impressed into the Royal Navy as well. By that time, the king had declared the North American colonies to be in a state of rebellion and outside of his protection.

For Educators


1. Who are the men depicted in the cartoon?
2. To what piece of legislation does the cartoon refer?
3. What was the main goal of the Prohibitory Act?

Further Discussion

1. How does the action in this cartoon (forging fetters) correlate with the rhetoric/language being used in the colonies at that time?
2. The Prohibitory Act prohibited Americans from trading with countries other than England and stated that all American ships and their cargoes were to be captured if they came into contact with the Royal Navy. How would these restrictions negatively affect the American economy and how would they benefit England


Library of Congress Bibliographic Information-Cartoon Showing Blacksmith

Suggested Reading

Black, Jeremy. George III: America's Last King. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.