Anti-Abolitionist Caricature


George Cruikshank (1792-1878), The New Union-Club, Being a Representation of What Took Place at a Celebrated Dinner Given by a Celebrated Society - vide Mr. M-r-t’s pamphlet, “More thoughts,” &c.&c. … (London: G. Humphrey, 1819). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize Cruik 1828.28e

AN00046844_001_l.jpgGA 2006.01519

The first joint Parliament of England and Ireland was held in 1801, prompting a caricature by James Gillray (1756-1815) of the English and the Irish meeting in a drunken debauch at the Union Club [left]. Eighteen years later, Cruikshank revived the design but this time it is the English and the African citizens who are seen fraternizing in vulgar and outrageous ways.

Cruikshank’s print satirizes the British abolitionist movement, in particular its leader William Wilberforce (1759-1833) seen standing on the far left. He is also seen naked in the painting on the back wall, entitled Apotheosis of W-W.

The slave trade from Africa to the British colonies was outlawed in 1807 and from other foreign countries in 1811. However, slave ships continued to sail from the West Indies. In July of 1819, the British Parliament passed two acts to addressed this: An Act for the More Speedy Trail of Offences committed in distant Parts upon the Seas, to the Trail of Offences committed in Africa against the Laws abolishing the Slave Trade [12 July 1819] and an Act for establishing a Registry of Colonial Slaves in Great Britain, and for making further Provision with respect to the removal of Slaves from British Colonies [12 July 1819]. Cruikshank finished and published this caricature one week later.

The print satirizes the British abolitionists from the standpoint of the West Indian planters. His title mentions two pamphlets published by the leader of the West India Interest in Parliament Joseph Marryat (1757-1824), which are Thoughts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and Civilization of Africa (1816) and More Thoughts Still on the State of the West India Colonies (1818) (available full-text online).