n this cartoon Thomas Nast encapsulates his interpretation of the Civil War activities of the presidential competitors in 1868. General Ulysses S. Grant is shown as the hero of the Union cause and victor of the Civil War. His pose is casual, exuding a calm confidence to take on any task. The text below the general underlines his commitment to the principle of unconditional surrender. The cartoon’s title is a play on one of the Republicans’ campaign slogans—“Match him!”—which expressed confidence that their candidate’s qualities were unrivaled.
In contrast, Governor Horatio Seymour stands before the mob of New York City draft rioters, as his words of support for their cause appear in the caption below him. Nast places even greater emphasis than usual on Seymour’s demonically horned hair by adding a shadow behind his figure. In the right background is a composite picture of the draft riot: the Colored Orphan Asylum burning, a lynched black man hanging from a lamppost marked “city hall,” and the Irish-American perpetrators in front. Behind the governor stand “shoulder-hitters”—strong men, often former boxers, who enforced the will of urban politicians by threats or acts of violence. Nast lays the blame for the deaths of innocent blacks during the draft riots literally at the feet of Seymour by locating the bleeding, dead body of a black child on the steps beneath his feet.
It was Nast himself who provided the motto “Match him!” for the Grant campaign. The artist painted a mural on a large curtain, which pictures the White House flanked by two pedestals. Grant sits upon the one labeled “Republican Nominee, Chicago, May 20th,” while the pedestal inscribed with “Democratic Nominee, New York, July 4th” stands empty. Columbia points to the vacant pedestal and challenges: “Match Him!” Immediately after the announcement of Grant’s unanimous nomination at the Republican National Convention, Nast’s mural was dramatically revealed to the audience, which broke into jubilant cheers and applause. The scene was made into a campaign poster, and the catch-phrase appeared in campaign songs and poems.