Blaine’s Scandal Sheet


 “Slippery Jim Dictating His Letter of Exoneration To Himself”
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast.
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   September 27, 1884, p. 637

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Republican presidential nominee James Blaine had been tarred with the taint of corruption since 1876. In 1869, Blaine used his influence as speaker of the house to ensure passage of a land grant for the Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad. In gratitude, Warren Fisher, one of the firm's contractors, allowed Blaine to sell securities in the railroad company and, at the speaker's insistence, pocket a suspiciously large commission in bonds. When the railroad had financial difficulties, resulting in the bonds becoming nearly without value, one of the firm's wealthy backers, Tom Scott, bought the almost worthless bonds back from Blaine and his friends at a price well above their market value. In return, Speaker Blaine pushed legislation to benefit Scott's Texas & Pacific Railroad.

The scandal first came to light when Blaine was seeking the Republican nomination in 1876. Blaine attempted to exonerate himself on the floor of the House, but copies of letters to Fisher were revealed by a disgruntled company clerk, James Mulligan. An official House investigation, though, was dropped when Blaine was appointed to the Senate. Blaine's questionable dealings, as well his attempt to cover up the scandal by lying to his colleagues and the public, came back to haunt him when he sought the Republican nomination in 1880 and the presidency in 1884. The full text of the letters was published widely in newspapers during 1884, including the issue of Harper's Weekly which contains this cartoon. As a postscript to one of the Mulligan letters (as they became known), Blaine had scribbled, "Burn this letter!" Democratic followers chanted that phrase at political rallies during the campaign.













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