This political cartoon from the late 1700s was intended to illustrate America's displeasure with the French government, specifically over events related to the XYZ Affair.
The cartoon depicts three American representatives - John Marshall, Elbridge Gerry, and Charles Pinckney - confronting the five-headed "Paris Monster" that is the French Directory. Making an overtly threatening gesture towards the Americans (likely symbolic of French naval attacks on American shipping, known generally as the Quasi War), the monster is demanding money. Marshall responds with, "Cease bawling, Monster! We will not give you six pence!" This scene is in reference to French Foreign Minister Charles de Talleyrand's demand of a loan of $12 million and a personal bribe of $50 thousand in order to gain an audience with the French government. After refusing to meet these demands ("Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute!"), the Americans returned home and made their report to President John Adams. Fearing that reporting such events to Congress would lead to a declaration of war against the French, Adams substituted the names of the French emissaries with the letters X, Y, and Z (hence, the XYZ Affair). Realizing they had underestimated the United States, the French requested another meeting with the American representatives. This second meeting went much better, and Adams was ultimately able to avoid war.
Other scenes in the cartoon depict a haggard women holding a French flag and presiding over a guillotine. This is likely a reference to France's Reign of Terror and its apparent perversion of the democratic ideals modeled in the American Revolution - and, indeed, many Americans felt betrayed by the fact that the French had not adhered to these principles.
The final scene is of a "Civic Feast," in which French colonies sit with the Devil (small figure in middle) and partake in a dish of frogs, while being "robbed" by a figure on the left.
This political cartoon is intended to accompany my PowerPoint presentation entitled, "The First Political Parties." The presentation includes an enlarged version of the cartoon, complete with labels for the various scenes.
I have included an answer key to use as a guide.
There is also a wonderful animated video addressing the XYZ Affair on YouTube. It is an excellent supplement to this cartoon.
Political Cartoon" Cinques-Tetes, or the Paris Monster
by Brian Hook
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License