The Gerrymander • This image was first published as a political cartoon in a Massachusetts newspaper after governor Elbridge Gerry decided to reshaped Massachusetts voting districts to favor the Democratic-Republican party. Federalists commented that a district near Boston resembled a salamander. Thus, it was titled the Gerrymander in honor of Governor Gerry.
Gerrymandering • Gerrymandering is the process of shaping electoral districts so that one side would have favor over another. This results in the district having a distinct shape, in this case referred to as a gerrymander. • Gerrymandering reaches this result by concentrating opposing votes and distributing favored ones so that there are less “wasted” votes.
The Logical Appeal • This image presented a logical appeal towards its Federalist supporters. It presented the new boundaries in a monstrous, draconic form as it left them to ponder the situation that was placed otherwise unobstructed before them. This was intended to elicit an unfavorable response among the people for having been effectively cheated out of their votes. Very little detail was needed for this cartoon; it simply presented the facts before its audience and allowed them to draw their own conclusion by not placing a caption on the piece.
Imagery Western dragons were considered to be manifestations of evil. This concept harkens back to the scriptural portrayal of Satan being a serpent. Western dragons were also known for their greed—a sentiment that would have also been expressed by the Federalists.
Audience • The Massachusetts voters would have been the primary audience of this image. They would have had an understanding on what was being expressed through the image, and they would also be the ones that it demanded a response from. This piece, as with many other political cartoons, does not have a broad or universal audience. It addressed a specific occurrence of a specific time.
Questions How does knowing the historical context add to the effect of the drawing? What effect would be lost without that knowledge? Why would Federalists continue to refer back to this image? Was the artist successful in conveying his thoughts to you? Why is this so?