The Dewey Presidential Boom and Bust


 “The Preliminary Battle”
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   April 28, 1900, p. 379

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In order to stop the likely renomination of William Jennings Bryan, the 1896 Democratic standard-bearer, for president in 1900, conservative Democrats encouraged Admiral George Dewey to enter the race. In early April, the naval hero of the Spanish-American War announced that he was available for the Democratic presidential nomination. On the cover of the April 28 issue of Harper’s Weekly, Bryan and Dewey prepare to battle for the nomination as Republican President William McKinley looks over the political fence with interest. Bryan is about to release his Populist Ostrich, which wears a free-silver 16-to-1 medallion (the proposed government-set ratio of silver to gold), against Dewey’s American Eagle, which sports a Constitution neckband.

Dewey’s candidacy captured much attention in the press, but soon sank into oblivion. He had already angered some Americans, particularly Protestants, by marrying a wealthy, Catholic widow in late 1899 and giving her the house that grateful citizens had donated to him. However, it was his own naïve statements to the press that torpedoed his chance for the nomination. Dewey asserted that the job of chief executive was easy, the president merely executed laws that Congress enacted, and that as a military man he was used to following the orders of his superiors (here, Congress). Such ill-considered expressions revealed that he had a poor understanding of the complexity of the modern presidency and of the relationship between branches of the federal government. Newspaper headlines, such as “Leaders Laugh at Poor Dewey,” exemplified the ridicule heaped upon the war hero. In mid-May, Dewey withdrew his name from contention for the Democratic presidential nomination and accepted a job as president of the newly established General Board of the Navy. He served in that position until his death at the age of 79 on January 16, 1917. His remains were interred at the National Cathedral in Washington, D. C.













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