he terms "Mexican" (caption) and "Mexicanism" (hat) connote
fear of a military coup. In 1876 General Porfirio Díaz ousted Mexican president
Sebastian Lerdo and essentially established himself as dictator, holding power
until the Mexican Revolution of 1911. Here, in place of the Mexican military
strongman is Democratic national chairman Abram Hewitt, wearing a Mexican
sombrero and military outfit.
Nast interprets Hewitt's statement on the election controversy as a threat
that Tilden's victory will be "backed by brute force." Hewitt holds a
noose and a bullwhip inscribed with "bulldozing," all signifying the
political intimidation and violence perpetrated by Southern Democrats against
blacks and their white Republican allies. The term "bulldozing" may
derive from striking the victims with a "bull's dose"-the amount of
force applied from a bullwhip to oxen clearing fields.
The hollowness of the menace, however, is emphasized by depicting Hewitt as a
scarecrow with a wooden sword, facing the mighty American Eagle, unruffled
protector of the republic. Nast dramatizes the sure triumph of law and order
over lawless banditry by sketching the eagle as unnaturally larger than the
scarecrow, and perching it on the monumental "Rock of Justice."
The artist aligns the (implied) Republican cause with the solemn sanction of
biblical authority by quoting from the book of Leviticus (ephah and hin were
units of measure used in business transactions). By calling Hewitt a
"stranger" and "Mexican," Nast defines (by extension)
Democratic corruption and vigilantism as alien to the proper ways of American