Analysis Of Benjamin Franklin's Political Cartoon

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On May 9, 1754, Benjamin Franklin published his Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper, featuring one of the first published political cartoons in US history (Herskovits 2). The cartoon displayed a disconnected snake with the bold words “Join, Or Die” printed on the bottom. Contrary to popular belief that the cartoon was Revolutionary War propaganda, Franklin’s cartoon sought to unify the colonies in the French and Indian War. Prior to the French and Indian War, England’s North American colonies were mostly individual states. Other than sharing a common nationality and ruling government, the colonies had very little in common. As conflict arose between England and France, the colonies had to unify and defend themselves against the hostile French and…show more content…
The snake is separated into eight pieces, each with a label. “S.C., N.C., V., M., P., N.J.,N.Y, N.E.” label each section of the snake. Each label represents the colonial states in America. South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England (consisting of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire) make up the twelve colonial states being represented. For unknown reasons, Georgia is the only colony not represented. At the time of the cartoon’s creation, a myth existed that said if the pieces of a snake were put back together before sunset, it would come back to life (Herskovits 3). Franklin used a snake as his symbol because of this myth. It symbolized that if the divided colonies could come together, they could stay alive. The last component of the cartoon, the words “Join, or Die”, carried a brief but powerful message. Franklin wanted to use use fear to influence the colonists to unite. Franklin realized the potential danger of French and Native forces and wanted to communicate that to the colonists. He did this by supposing two simple options: Unity, or certain
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