The Democratic "Chicago" Platform


 "The Chicago Platform"
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 15, 1864, pp. 664-665

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
The Democrats assembled in Chicago on August 29, 1864, for their national nominating convention. The following day Governor Horatio Seymour of New York was elected to preside at the convention and a stridently anti-Lincoln platform was adopted with only four dissenting votes. This Thomas Nast cartoon is an intricate double-page spread that interweaves twenty pictures with extracts from the Democratic platform, McClellan’s letter of acceptance, and a Pendleton speech. Like his "Compromise with the South," this Nast illustration was highly effective as a propaganda tool for Lincoln’s reelection campaign. Like “Compromise with the South,” it was printed as a poster and widely distributed throughout the country.

In the center is the Democratic presidential nominee, General George McClellan, standing aboard the Union ironclad Galena, watching the Battle of Malvern Hill in the background. The likeness is a reminder to voters of McClellan’s failure as a military leader; specifically, of his unsuccessful attempt to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. In May 1862 the Galena, part of a Union flotilla approaching Richmond, was badly damaged by Confederate fire, but McClellan refused to order nearly Union land troops to assist it. That was followed by the Battle of Malvern Hill, the final debacle of the Union’s peninsular campaign.

McClellan is surrounded by images of anti-Union and anti-black violence and humiliation perpetrated by Confederates and their Northern sympathizers. The vignettes attempt to show in pictures what the words of the Democratic platform and speeches really mean when put into action. In the far-right-center roundel, for example, the platform call for "rights of the states unimpaired" allows slaves to be whipped mercilessly by their masters; while "the constitution itself has been disregarded," in the far-left-center roundel, shows that the words refer to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Source consulted: Draper Hill, "Nast’s Top 100 Cartoons"; Library of Congress, American Political Prints.













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