M984.306.408 | Aeneus after the Shipwreck

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Aeneus after the Shipwreck
Henri Julien
December 11,1873, 19th century
Ink on paper - Photolithography
27.9 x 38.6 cm
Gift of Mr. Colin McMichael
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , politics (general) (2228) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

The "shipwreck" referred to in this cartoon is the Conservative Party led by John A. Macdonald, who had just resigned after being accused of corruption. It was alleged that he had accepted a bribe from the wealthy entrepreneur Hugh Allan (1810-1882) during the elections of 1872, in exchange for being awarded the contract to build the railway that would link Eastern Canada to British Columbia.

Published in December 1873, the cartoon shows Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) dressed as Aeneas, one of the heroes of the Trojan War and the founding of Rome. Macdonald was linked to Aeneas because as Canada's first prime minister he had noble status: he was seen as a leading pioneer and founder of the country.

Like many other mythological heroes Aeneas appeared in several Greek and Roman legends such as The Aeneid, by Virgil (70-19 B.C.). In that story Aeneas survives the sacking of Troy and sets sail in a ship with his companions. They sail for several years until a violent storm tosses them up on the coast of Africa, close to Carthage (in present-day Tunisia). The cartoonist borrowed this scene from a passage of the long epic, The Aeneid.

  • What

    The cartoonist Henri Julien uses analogy here, that is, he makes a link between the situation of some government members and Aeneas's mythological account. He shows public figures dressed as legionnaires.

  • Where

    This cartoon was published on December 11, 1873, in the French-language weekly L'Opinion publique. It was also published on December 6 in The Canadian Illustrated News, the English-language version of the magazine.

  • When

    The Pacific Scandal broke in July 1873, after the publication in newspapers of compromising letters and telegrams.

  • Who

    John A. Macdonald is shown here surrounded by some members of his fallen government, including Hector Langevin (1826-1906), Charles Tupper (1821-1915) and Samuel Tilley (1818-1896).