Grant and the Republicans


 “Which Shall It Be?”
  Cartoonist:  Matt Morgan
  Source:  Leslie's Illustrated
  Date:   November 9, 1872, pp. 136-137

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Cartoonist Matt Morgan uses white letters on a black background to emphasize in bold relief his message that the voters face a stark choice between Horace Greeley’s honesty and ability (left) and Ulysses Grant’s corruption and malfeasance (right). The Greeley tally sheet promises civil service reform, specie payments, fair elections, a one-term presidency, and an end to corruption. Four lines deal with the situation in the South, of which three essentially call for an end to Reconstruction, while “equal rights to all” is meant to reassure blacks. In conclusion it is predicted that the Greeley presidency will bring peace, security, and prosperity. A hard-working Greeley sits at his desk and confers with his dignified advisors (l-r) (possibly) former Interior Secretary Jacob Cox , Senator Lyman Trumbull (seated), Senator Carl Schurz, [unknown], and Senator Charles Sumner.

Vastly different is the scene on the right in which an inebriated Grant, whiskey bottle at his side, leans back informally in a rocking chair, with his hands stuffed into his pockets and one eye swelled shut as from a drunken fight or mishap. This hapless figure incongruously wears a crown labeled “King Grant.” The president’s disreputable cadre of henchmen slouch and loll about him (counterclockwise from the right): [unknown], Senator Simon Cameron (on the desk), Senator Roscoe Conkling, Senator Oliver Morton, Vice President Schuyler Colfax, and Senator Matthew Carpenter (on the floor).

The board above them offers dire warnings as to what Grant’s reelection will mean for the country. The first point is a veiled reference to Reconstruction, with its expansion in the scope and power of the federal government (“centralization”). Further down the list, Reconstruction is condemned as “Perpetual Discord Between North and South. Military Rule and Martial Law.” The second item—“Forcing Re-Election by Federal Power”—could be a criticism of both patronage and the military supervision of elections in the South and New York City. The third warning alludes to the failed attempt by financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk to corner the gold market in 1869, using the influence of Grant’s brother-in-law, Abel Corbin. Other faults on the list include allegations of various kinds of corruption, such as vote fraud and bribery, and ill-considered policies, including politicizing the judiciary, the attempt to annex Santo Domingo (i.e., the Dominican Republic), and encouragement of monopolization.













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