I've been reading about the XYZ affair and I've found this cartoon, in which a woman representing America is stripped by a group of Frenchmen in the presence of John Bull and other anthropomorphic countries.



First Directeur: We infringe-Dat be ver good! Indeed Madame Amerique you be ver pretty WOMAN and we should like to give you the hug Fraternale, Begar we do not want to quarrel with you, as a proof, my Brother the grand Directeur's are at this moment take all de care possible of your Baggage-derefore if you will go back and bring a little more of de l'Argent you shall be admit to de honor of de swing, we only ask de favor we never seize on properly [points to sack labeled PRIVATE PLUNDER FOR THE DIRECTORS]

America: America will not have her rights infringed on.

Second Directeur: By gar some of dese fedders vil look vel in de caps of us Legislateurs.

Third and Fourth Directeurs pour plunder from bags marked EXTORTED FROM PORTUGAL and Borrow'd by Force from Switzerland into a bag marked NATIONAL SACK DIPLOMATIC PERQUISITES.

Fifth Directeur: Oui Oui Madame Amerique dis Argument vil connvince you dat all he say be true.


First European: aye they left me nothing but my prayer book and Crown, and striped that of its jewels.

Second European: they'll certainly pluck her to the last feather.

Third European: Yes we know how things will go by Experience.

Fourth European: yaw Mynheer we have been great dupes and there sits John Bull on his Rock laughing at us.

I can assume some of the countries represented. For example, in the late eighteenth century it was a popular stereotype in England that the Dutch had fat asses, so the figure of brown clothes on the right must be the Netherlands.

Would you help me to identify the other countries in that group? Thanks in advance.

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    Higher resolution, text is legible: charlescrawford.biz/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/…
    – AllInOne
    Jan 23, 2018 at 19:09
  • To narrow this down somewhat, there weren't that many major powers in the EU at the time, so presumably and in no particular order they could be any of Ottomans, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Austria-Hungary, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, or Russia. And to a lesser degree, Switzerland and Sardinia. I honestly can't imagine a UK caricaturist caring about any other country at the time. Jan 23, 2018 at 19:18
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    The comments are also transcribed on this page Jan 23, 2018 at 19:22
  • The robed one on the left / First European was the Pope. The hat is a clear give away, but also France invaded Rome and took the Pope prisoner shortly before the XYZ affair, in 1796, hence the line about only prayer book and a de-jeweled crown. Don't know about the one with flat hat one (doesn't really look European...), but the other two looks like Spain and Prussia to me.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 23, 2018 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


The description of the print on the British Museum site includes the following explanation of that part of the picture:

The scene is on the coast near the Channel. Across the water is 'Shakespeare's Cliff', rising in a curve to a mound on which sits in a chair a fat John Bull laughing at the spoliation.

In the middle distance, by the French shore, is a group of five: a Spanish don in cloak and slashed breeches says: "they'll certainly pluck her to the last feather". Next him (left) stands the Pope wearing his tiara and holding an open book; he says: "aye they left me nothing but my prayer book and Crown, and stripd that of its jewels". A fat Dutchman (right), pointing across the water, says: "Yaw Mynheer we have been great dupes and there sits John Bull on his Rock laughing at us". Next is an Austrian hussar, saying, "yes we know how things will go by Experience". The fifth, behind the others, may be a Swiss.

  • (my emphasis)

It notes that the picture is a Hand-coloured etching dated 1 June 1798.

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    I suspect the fifth character is a Venetian rather than a Swiss. Venice had just been broken up, partitioned between France and Austria, while Switzerland was pretty much let alone, in the Treaty of Campo Formio. Jan 24, 2018 at 4:02
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    @PieterGeerkens It's certainly possible that the figure is Venetian, although French troops had overrun Switzerland at the beginning of March 1798 and established the Helvetic Republic in April, so the timing of the print in June of that year fits rather well for that too. There's actually not a lot to go on from the clothing for that figure, so it could probably be almost anyone who'd been on the receiving end of French military aggression. Jan 24, 2018 at 6:13

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