With the military situation not going as well as hoped for the Union in early 1864, there was considerable talk that President Abraham Lincoln could not win reelection. However, in this New York Illustrated News cartoon, the president appears as a sleeping giant whose big shoes will be difficult to fill, despite the efforts of tiny “presidential cobblers and wire-pullers.”
On the far left is Thurlow Weed, political boss of New York Republicans and former owner-editor of the Albany Evening Journal. He was a close advisor of Lincoln’s and, here, thumbs his nose at the others. In front of Weed is Manton Marble, owner-editor of the Democratic New York World. Beside Marble appears the head of William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post. In front of Bryant is James Gordon Bennett Sr., owner-editor of the New York Herald, who holds one end of a measuring string while his paper’s managing editor, Frederic Hudson, holds the other end and kneels on the floor. The Herald promoted General George McClellan for the presidency, but did not officially endorse the Democratic nominee. Behind Hudson is Democratic Congressman James Brooks, owner-editor of the New York Daily Express.
Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune peers down into Lincoln’s boot. Greeley was a leading force in Lincoln’s 1860 nomination and election, but became increasingly critical of the administration.
Lying on the floor in the foreground is Secretary of State William Henry Seward, who calculates the size of Lincoln’s shoes. Although Seward lost the 1860 Republican nomination to Lincoln and their working relationship in the administration was initially troubled, the secretary soon became a loyal and valued advisor to the president. On the right, holding a measuring stick to the shoe is Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, a leading radical Republican. Beside Sumner is editor John W. Forney, whose Washington Chronicle was established to counter criticism of the Lincoln administration found in Greeley’s Tribune. Forney also seems to thumb his nose or wave his hand dismissively at the project. Standing with his arms folded and a perturbed look is Henry Raymond, editor of The New York Times and a strong supporter of Lincoln and the Union cause. On the far right is Anna Elizabeth Dickson, who was a prominent reformer, radical Republican, and popular lecturer. She watches Lincoln closely through a telescope.