Harper’s Weekly – June 26, 1869

Brother Jonathan was a British-originated symbol for America — used by both English and American cartoonists — who generally interacted with John Bull, the symbol for England. However, Nast only used him once in his 25 years there, and then in an unorthodox manner.

In the spring of 1869, recently inaugurated President Ulysses Grant unsuccessfully attempted to settle the Alabama Claims controversy, left over from Civil War marauders unlawfully provided to the Confederacy by English shipbuilders. Nast reacted to a cartoon in London Punch depicting Grant as Jonathan, dressed as a British squire. He counter-attacked sharply a month later, trumping the Punch cartoon (which he included) by pointing out that John Bull (Falstaff) had grown too fat from his ill-gotten wealth, obtained by violating neutrality. Not too subtly, the British icon angrily crumpled a speech by Senator Charles Sumner, who had recently demanded that Britain cede Canada to the United States as part of a $2 billion proposed settlement.

Grant didn’t pursue the claims until 1872, when he told Secretary of State Hamilton Fish to drop the $2 billion demand and settle the matter before the fall election. As a result, an International Tribunal in Geneva awarded the US $15.5 million in British gold.