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Caricature History of Canadian Politics


“CARICATURE HISTORY” does not mean that history is caricatured. On the contrary, a good caricature enables us to see, in a true light, facts that might otherwise be hidden or misrepresented.

We understand current events and the social life of England from the illustrations of Punch more truly than from the columns of the Times or the Morning Post. Canada is only beginning life, and our politics touch subjects of general interest so seldom, that it is sometimes thought and said that there is no field for a Canadian Punch but the fact, perhaps not generally known, that for the last forty years, at any rate, we have rarely been without artists whose pictures on the questions of the day have appealed successfully to popular humor, proves that our political life has been robust from the beginning. Some of these artists had to content themselves with publishing fly-sheets that provoked the laughter of the town, but that had no chance of obtaining more than a local reputation. For others, organs well-known in their day, such as Punch hi Canada, Diogenes, and Grinchuckle, were established at different times prior to 1873, when Grip vaulted into the seat which he has occupied since to the satisfaction of all Canada. Requests have been frequently made for a work containing a continuous series of his cartoons, and in now acceding to these it has been thought well to give illustrations of what was done among us in the same line previously. Fortunately the publishers were able to obtain selections from the sources to which I have referred, and also from the Canadian Illustrated News; and the First Volume of this work thus gives something like a continuous pictorial history of the events that have stirred popular feeling most deeply since 1848. They believe that those older representations will be heartily welcomed, and they desire to thank all who have assisted in making the work so extended.

As to Grip himself, he needs no letters of commendation, but, with his well-known regard to the established usages of society, he thinks that there should be a Preface to the work. Considering how freely he takes a hand in our concerns, and that, in order to show us what goes on behind the scenes, he has no hesitation in entering bar-rooms, Government Houses, Palaces, and the Privy-Council Chambers of our pastors and masters, this modesty on his part will be duly appreciated by a modesty-loving public.

A young member of our House of Commons waxed eloquent in the course of his maiden speech, and, naturally enough, some of his brethren thought him mad. Not so thought Joseph Howe, to whom Shakespeare was dearer than all the Blue-books in the Parliamentary Library': “Thank God for a bit of poetry in this dry-as-dust House,” whispered the old man to a near neighbor. 'Yes, and thank God for Humor, with its intuitive perception of truth, and its consequent impartiality. Without Grip, what Saharas our Parliaments would be.

Every man should take an intelligent interest in the political life of his country. But from what quarter is he to get information ? He cannot get Hansard; and even if he could, life is too short to read the terrible volumes. To trust himself to this or that party paper will insure interest but not intelligence; and to read the papers on both sides will land him in hopeless scepticism, or drown him “in a popular torrent of lies upon lies.” On the whole, he cannot do better than trust Grip, as the most honest interpreter of current events we happen to have. Grip, too, not only generally hits the nail on the head, but sometimes hits like a blacksmith—and we belong to a race that loves to see a blow well struck. Besides, the fellow has no malice in him. He has always a merry heart, and that doeth good like a medicine. Many a laugh he has given us, and laughter clears away unwholesome fogs from the spirit. Along with music it is next best to Holy Writ, according to the testimony of Martin Luther. A picture, too, has this unspeakable advantage over verbiage, that you can take in the situation at a glance, and if it is not agreeable, you can pass on. You condemn the representation as unfair, but, at any rate, your time is not lost.

I do not speak as an artist of the cartoons or the caricatures that illustrate our political history since 1873. To me their artistic merit is exceptionally great, but I am not qualified to speak as a critic of technique. I speak only as a public teacher who knows that the educational influence of pen or pencil may be greater than that of the living voice, and who rejoices when that influence is on the right side.

In this case it is on the right side. Grip is impartial, in a country where it is very hard to be impartial, and harder still to have your impartiality acknowledged. Grip is also always patriotic. He is something even better he is healthy. You may think him at times Utopian. You may not agree with the means he proposes, but you must always sympathize with the end he has in view. He is scrupulously clean. He never sneers. In the best sense of the word, he is religious.

One word more: Grip’s humor is his own. It has a flavor of the soil. It is neither English nor American. It is Canadian.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honor formally to introduce to you my esteemed friend, Mr. Grip. You may receive him with confidence into your homes and hearts.

University of Queen’s College,
Kingston, March, 1886.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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