From the Visual Defence of Rights to the Visual Representation of a Fundamental Value
Affiliation: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Keywords: iconography, liberty, Libertas, cap of liberty, United States of America
Categories: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law
In the 1760s, most inhabitants of the North American colonies which were to become the United States considered liberty as an inherited right that had to be defended within the frame-work of the British constitution against unwarranted intrusions by the government in London. To visualize this struggle in political prints, they made use of motifs like the Roman goddess Libertas and the cap of liberty, both of which they knew from corresponding English prints. Following the Declaration of Independence, these motifs were increasingly turned into attributes of a new political order built on liberty. This transformation led to a mélange of changes and continuities in the iconography of liberty which this article seeks to demonstrate by examining examples of relevant images from the first decades of independence.