uring the mid-1870s, John Morrissey battled John Kelly for control of the
Democratic party in New York City. In 1872 Kelly had succeeded William Tweed as
the "reform" boss of Tammany Hall, and a few years later Morrissey
formed an anti-Kelly faction that eventually became known as Irving Hall.
In 1876 Kelly worked against Governor Samuel Tilden's presidential nomination,
but dutifully accepted his party's decision. Morrissey, on the other hand, was a
long-time backer of the New York governor and was said by critics to be the
driving force behind him. It served the purposes of the pro-Republican Harper's
Weekly to depict Morrissey, instead of Kelly, in charge of Tammany Hall. Using
the tactic of guilt by association, the newspaper linked Morrissey to both
Tammany Hall and Tilden, thus tainting the Democratic nominee with the
corruption of Tammany Hall.
In this cartoon Morrissey steers the Democratic "team" of Tilden (r)
and his vice-presidential running-mate, Thomas Hendricks (l). Morrissey's
disreputable background as a prize-fighter is recalled by his broken nose and as
a gambling-house proprietor by the card symbols on his sleeves. The biblical
quote from Deuteronomy 22:10 is meant to evoke the conflicting monetary views of
the hard-money Tilden and the soft-money Hendricks. Tilden is further ridiculed
through depiction as the stubborn, and more diminutive, ass to Hendricks' ox.
Note that the legs of Hendricks' ox convey forward movement, while the legs of
Tilden's ass are dug into the ground, impeding progress.