Where Could the Alabama Matter Lead?
- Where Could the Alabama Matter Lead?
- Full Title:
- Ou Peut Mener La Question de l'Alabama? Fantaisie Prusso - Americaine en Deux Hemispheres [Where Could the Alabama Matter Lead? - German-American Fantasy in Two Hemispheres]
- Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection
- Lesage, Louis Ernest ["Sahib"]
- Other Creator(s):
- Yves & Barret
- Date posted:
- ID Number:
- Politics & Government
U.S. Civil War
- (cm, H x W) 32 x 49
- Collector's Notes:
- This extravagant French satirical map is based on an Anglo-American dispute that arose out of the U.S. Civil War.
One major feature of Confederate naval strategy was the use of armed "raiders" to attack unarmed Union commercial shipping. Not only were suitable available ships were pressed into this service, but an agent acting for the South contracted in 1861 for the construction in Liverpool shipyards of two new warships for use in merchant raiding. Because this construction violated not only pre-existing British law, but the nation's declaration of neutrality, efforts were made to disguise the intended use of the ships. (For example, they were named the "Oreto" and "Enrica" and rumored to be under construction for the Italian government - which denied it.) "But the true purpose of the ship[s] was an open secret" (Symonds 2009, 67); for example, they were built from the plans for Royal Navy gunboats, and it was readily apparent that they had gun ports for the placement of cannon!) When challenged, the construction was defended as lawful on the ground that unless and until the ships were outfitted with guns, they were not "warships." Ibid. 68. With the complicity of Liverpool shipbuilders and the lethargy (or worse) of the British government (under Lord Palmerston and Foreign Minister Lord John Russell) the construction continued. In March 1862, the completed "Oreto" set sail for Nassau, where it was outfitted with guns and ammunition and rechristened the CSS Florida. The second vessel, an even more formidable fighting ship, was ready for sea in July 1862. On the same day that the British government finally resolved to stop its delivery, the "Enrica" suddenly set sail for "sea trials," surfacing next in the Azores, where it was fully equipped for battle and rechristened the CSS Alabama. Ibid. 68-74. In the following two years, before the capture of the Florida and the sinking of the Alabama, these two warships wreaked havoc on Union merchant shipping. The Alabama alone seized or destroyed 69 Union vessels, and the Florida another 38.
After the end of the war, as the U.S. faced a massive war debt, there were repeated demands for compensation from the British for the complicity of its government in aiding the South, particularly in warship construction. The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee argued that Britain should pay $2 billion - or cede Canada to the U.S.! In light of Germany's growing power resulting from the Franco-Prussian War, the British decided that it was important to remove this impediment to Anglo-American relationships. In March, 1871, the parties agreed to an international arbitration tribunal to resolve the outstanding disputes, then collectively labeled "The Alabama Claims." In the end, the U.S. was awarded $15.5 million, an amount comparable to $33 billion today (measured by share of GDP).
This map was published immediately after the announcement that the parties had agreed to arbitration. It is dense with satirical comments of all sort, beginning with observations on the arbitration proceeding itself: "One need only pick the right moment for presenting his bill" and "The smart Yankee has done as our peasants who charge the neighboring lord ten times the value of the damage done to their fields by rabbits of his warren." Most of the lengthier statements reflect French anger and bitterness in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war. The text at the bottom center ("L'Alabama, le vaisseau fantome de l'Angleterre!") recalls the moment during the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War when French forces rescued British troops from a Russian attack, and contrasts that with Britain's reluctance in the recent war: "Albion, my dear, when France, your poor neighbor and friend . . . was recumbent, asking help and solace, you diverted your head, pretended not to recognize her, not to be obliged to save her, at least to greet her." And the text at the lower right attacks the ascendent Germany, the "Regeneration of the old continent by the Krupp system." The long list of tragedies foreseen from German dominance concludes with the worst: "After a heroic resistance, French women are sentenced to wear the fashions of Berlin."
Although the map is unsigned, it is almost certainly the work of Louis Ernest Lesage, a well-known French caricaturist of the time who worked for many years for La Vie Parisienne.
Yves & Barret were one of the leading firms in the novel process of photoengraving. Carr 1882, 1060. Their work became known at the time as "the Yves and Barret process." (“Half-A-Hundred Pictures," New York Times, December 25, 1880, p. 3.) The collection includes three of the firm’s satirical maps from La Vie Parisienne: ID #2082, "L'Europe en ce Moment” (1872); ID #2145, “Ou Peut Mener La Question de l'Alabama?” (1872); and ID #2404, “Haute Bicherie - Basse Bichere” (1881) (not yet online).
- For further information on the Collector’s Notes and a Feedback/Contact Link, see https://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/content/about-collection-personal-statement and https://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/content/feedback-and-contact
- La Vie Parisienne, March 9, 1872
- For full details on references, see http://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/content/references.
- Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
- For important information about copyright and use, see http://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/copyright.
About the collection
This is a collection of “persuasive” cartography: maps intended primarily to influence the opinion of the viewer -- to send a message -- rather than to communicate geographic information. The collection reflects a variety of persuasive tools: allegorical, satirical and pictorial mapping; selective inclusion or exclusion; unusual projections, graphics and text; and intentional deception. Maps in the collection address a wide range of messages: religious, political, military, commercial, moral and social.