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Join or Die was the first political cartoon representing the colonial union produced by a British colonist in America. It was made by Benjamin Franklin from a woodcut showing a snake cut into eight parts, with each segment labeled with the initials of one of the American colonies or regions.
See the fact file below for more information on the Join or Die or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Join or Die worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Franklin owned and ran the Pennsylvania Gazette, and featured the “Join, or Die” cartoon on May 9, 1754.
- The Pennsylvania Gazette was considered the first American publication to illustrate news stories with cartoons and Join, or Die as a political cartoon is believed to have been the first of its kind in America.
- Instead of the four colonies, New England was represented as one segment. Delaware was included in Pennsylvania. Georgia, however, was omitted completely. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were not represented, nor were any British Caribbean possessions. Thus, the snake has only eight segments rather than the traditional 13 colonies.
- NE represents New England, NY stands for New York, NJ for New Jersey, P for Pennsylvania, M for Maryland, V for Virginia, NC for North Carolina and SC for South Carolina.
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
- During the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years’ War, political cartoons were used to organize action against an outside threat posed by the French and Native Americans in the mid-18th century.
- The Seven Years’ War was a war for the colonies and Britain against France and their native allies. The colonists wanted to control the west of the Appalachian Mountains.
- At that time, the colonists were divided on whether to fight the French and their Native-American allies.
- Franklin proposed a plan called the Albany Plan and his cartoon suggested that such a union was necessary to avoid destruction. He wrote:
“The Confidence of the French in this Undertaking seems well-grounded on the present disunited State of the British Colonies, and the extreme Difficulty of bringing so many different Governments and Assemblies to agree in any speedy and effectual Measures for our common defense and Security; while our Enemies have the very great Advantage of being under one. Direction, with one Council, and one Purse. …”
PRIOR AND DURING AMERICAN REVOLUTION
- Around 1765-1766, during the stamp act congress, Franklin’s political cartoon was used with a different meaning in the lead-up to the American Revolution.
- The patriots associated the image with eternity, vigilance, and prudence, and were not the only ones who saw a new interpretation of the cartoon.
- The loyalists saw the cartoon with more biblical traditions, such as guile, deceit, and treachery.
- British colonists in America protesting British rule used the cartoon in the constitutional courant to help persuade the colonists.
- Franklin opposed the use of his cartoon at this time and published a new cartoon named “Magna Britannia: her colonies reduced”, where he warned against the danger of Britain losing her American colonies by means of the image of a female figure (Britannia) with her limbs cut off. Because of Franklin’s initial cartoon, however, the courant was thought of in England as one of the most radical publications.
- In 1754, use of Join or Die was designed to unite the colonies for ‘management of Indian relations’ and defense against France.
- In 1765, American colonists used it to urge colonial unity against the British. Also during this time, the phrase “join, or die” changed to “unite, or die,” in some states such as New York and Pennsylvania.
- After the publication of the cartoon during the Stamp Act Congress, the “Join, Or Die” cartoon remained popular.
- Variations were printed in New York, Massachusetts, and, in a couple of months, in Virginia and South Carolina.
- New York and Pennsylvania continued to publish the cartoon week after week for over a year.
- On July 7, 1774, Paul Revere altered the cartoon as the masthead of the Massachusetts Spy.
- Franklin’s “Join, or Die” snake lost its purpose but still conveyed the powerful message of strength in unity for centuries.
- Today, it is still one of the most famous political cartoons ever published.
Join or Die Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Join or Die across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Join or Die worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Join or Die which was the first political cartoon representing the colonial union produced by a British colonist in America. It was made by Benjamin Franklin from a woodcut showing a snake cut into eight parts, with each segment labeled with the initials of one of the American colonies or regions.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Join or Die Facts
- Define a Snake
- Expectation vs Reality
- Color It Green
- The Segments
- Spreading the News
- Use of the Cartoon
- Life Story
- Significant Event
- I Write Articles
- Symbol of Unity
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Link will appear as Join or Die Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 17, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.