1. Left Image: W.D. Cooper, "America Trampling on Oppression" (1789)
Here are 2 roughly contemporaneous etchings of liberty slaying monsters.
The first is British and comes from E. Newberry, History of North America (London:
1789). The frontispiece is by W.D. Cooper and is called "America Trampling
on Oppression". America/Liberty is depicted as the goddess Minerva who
is the goddess of war, poetry, music, medicine, and wisdom. Above her head
is a spear with intertwined snakes (medicine) and a sword (war). She has
her left foot on a wolf's head (the British Empire which had been defeated
by the American colonists in the Revolutionary War); next to her right foot
is an overturned cornucopia out of which is spilling coins (suggesting the
bounty that is to come once the Americans are free of British oppression).
In her left hand she holds a staff with the Phrygian cap of liberty on top;
her right arm is held upwards with her index finger outstretched (it looks
like she is "giving the finger" to the British Empire!). She is
flanked by a pair of Roman columns: on the column to her right there is a
picture of Doc. Benjamin Franklin and symbols of science, music, and learning;
on her left is Gen. George Washington with symbols of military power. It
is interesting that such prominence is given to Franklin and Washington,
suggesting that the reason for America's success against British "oppression"
was a combination of both practical learning (Franklin) and military
2. Right Image: Pierre Paul Prud'hon et Jacques Louis Copia, "Liberty
overthrowing the Hydra of Tyranny" (1793)
de France <http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb40254330k>
The second image is a French engraving from 1793 by the illustrator Pierre
Paul Prud'hon (1758-1799) and the engraver Jacques Louis Copia (1764-1799).
It shows a rather bedraggled looking Liberty (quite Amazonian in appearance
and very different from the better dressed Minerva) wearing a rough dress
which exposes one breast, and an animal skin tied around her shoulder. She
wears a laurel crown on her head. In her right hand she is holding an axe
with a very broad blade; in her left she is holding a yoke used to harness
a horse or ox to a plough or wagon. Under her right foot is the head of a
slain king (despot) with his crown now dislodged; behind her lies a multi-headed
hydra (we can see at least three heads) which she has also killed. The hydra
was a mythical Greek creature which had nine heads and the body of a serpent.
A pool of blood lies between two of the heads. The motto says "She has
overthrown the hydra of Tyranny and smashed the yoke of Despotism."
What is interesting in these two images is the explicit violence shown in
the French image in which Liberty herself has killed the king and slain the
monster in order to achieve liberty, whereas in the English/American illustration
Minerva/Liberty is not shown holding a weapon nor is she in an aggressive
pose. Although she has her foot on the slain wolf it is not clear who killed
it. The implication is that others, like General Washington, did the fighting
and killing of the oppressors on her behalf. The Anglo-American image also
shows Liberty within the confines of a classical Roman building suggesting
a strong link to classical notions of order and political theory. The French
image by contrast shows Liberty in no particular time or place other than
a rather vague reference to Roman attire and mythology. These two illustrations
say a lot about the difference perceptions held by contemporaries of the
American and the French Revolutions.