I find these objects amazingly relatable to today’s communications, a revolutionary sort of social media for the time (1778). These works on paper, known as rebuses, contain a combination of words and images that translate into words or phonetics—a fun form of an emoji. These portray the opposing views of Great Britain and the American colonies about the American Revolution. The accepted translations are:

Britannia to America

My dear daughter, I cannot behold without great pain your headstrong backwardness to return to your duty in not opposing all the good I long intended for your sole happiness, and being told that you have given your hand to a base and two-faced Frenchman, I have sent you over five wise men, the greatest of all my children, to put you to rights and hope you will listen to them and mind what they say to you. They have instructions to give you those things you formerly required. So be a good girl, discharge your soldiers and ships of war, and do not rebel against your mother. Rely upon me and do not trust to what that French rascal shall tell you. I see he wants to bring on an enmity to all unity between you and I, but listen not to him. All the world takes notice of his two faces. I’ll send him such messages from my great cannons as shall make his heart repent and know that one good or ill turn merits another. N.B. Let not hate take too much hold of your heart. I am your friend & mother.

America to her mistaken mother

America to her mistaken mother. You silly old woman, that you have sent a dove to us is very plain, to draw our attention from our real interests, but we are determined to abide by our own ways of thinking. Your five children you have sent to us shall be treated as visitors and safely sent home again. You may trust them and admire them, but you must not expect one of your puppets will come home to you as sweet as you sent him. ‘Twas cruel to send so pretty a man so many thousand miles and to have the fatigue of returning back after bobbing his coat and dirtying those red-heeled shoes. If you are wise, follow your own advice you gave to me. Take home your ships [and] soldiers. Guard well your own trifling and leave me to my self, as I am at age to know my own interests without your foolish advice, and know that I shall always regard you and my brothers as relations but not as friends. I am your greatly injured Daughter Amerik.

Tyler Johnson, estate guide

Rebuses, 1954.0051.004 A and 1954.0051.005 A

Matthew and Mary Darly, publisher

London, England 1878