Electoral College Controversy: Civil War, Part II?


 "A 'Mexican' Scarecrow"
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   January 13, 1877, p. 24

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
The 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 politics.













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