The designer of the composition, John Francis Renault, was an engineer in the French army and assistant to the Comte de Grasse (he anglicised his name from Jean-François when he settled in America) and claimed to have been present at the siege and ultimate surrender at Yorktown. The scene he offers us is accurate in spirit, Cornwallis was too sick, he claimed, to be present at the surrender, delegating O'Hara, his second-in-command, to hand over his sword; which he gave to General Lincoln. Of the foreigners present, the most illustrious was Lafayette.
Meanwhile, behind this gathering, various dramas are played out on higher levels of allegory. To the left, Justice and Abundance stand beside a giant urn inscribed with the names of absent (some through death) American heroes, including Montgomery, Franklin, Mercer, Laurens, Putnam, Adams and Lee. A child with a great paddle inscribed "American Constitution"—the helm of statehood—frolics before it, with an attendant. Rising up beside her is a column surmounted by Lady Liberty with her liberty cap. To the right, and in stark contrast to these images of reason and enlightenment, a host of ancient tyrants spills from an upturned and smashed chariot, vanquished by another gravity-defying figure of Liberty. They fall to earth behind the defeated British generals.
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