Electoral College Controversy: Looking for Votes


 “Go South, Young Man”
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   December 2, 1876, p. 980

Click to return to previous version of this cartoon...

Click to return to previous version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
It soon became apparent that the outcome of the president election was undecided because voting results were disputed in the three Southern states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Both parties sent officials to those states to prevent the other party from committing (more) fraud and to ensure that their party won. Cartoonist Thomas Nast, a Republican, lampoons the Democrats sending their partisans south in “Go South, Young Man.” The cartoon’s title is a play on the advice associated with the late Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune and 1872 Democratic/Liberal Republican presidential nominee, to “Go West, young man.”

Here, the Democratic national chairman, Congressman Abram Hewitt of New York, has dispatched John Hoffman, former New York governor, who sprints southward while carrying orders for himself and Senator William Barnum of Connecticut to buy or count one more electoral vote for Democratic presidential nominee Samuel Tilden. With his electoral tally standing at 184, Tilden needed just one more electoral vote to become president. The identification of Hoffman as the “counted in Governor 1868” refers to his gubernatorial victory in that year, which was alleged to have occurred because the chairman of the state Democratic party, none other than Samuel Tilden, knowingly allowed New York Democrats to engage in vote fraud. The charges, however, were never substantiated.

The figure in the right-background is John Morrissey, former champion prizefighter and head of the Irving Hall political machine in New York City. Morrissey was a longtime supporter of Tilden. Since Morrissey’s former machine affiliation, Tammany Hall, represented the epitome of political corruption to cartoonist Thomas Nast, the artist continued to associate Morrissey with both Tammany Hall and Tilden in order to connect the Democratic nominee to Tammany Hall. The linkage with corrupt machine politics is further emphasized by the poster in the background which claims that Tammany Hall’s notorious former boss, William Tweed, who died in 1875, was also “going South” (perhaps also a double entendre for Hell). The mention in the other poster of betting pools on the presidential race is an allusion to Morrissey’s ownership of several successful gambling houses.













Website design © 2001-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to