n the evening of October 29, less than a week before the presidential election,
Republican nominee James Blaine attended a fundraising dinner at New York City's
elegant restaurant, Delmonico's. The guest list of wealthy contributors included
Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt. Blaine spoke on the topic of the Republican
role in generating economic prosperity for New York City and the nation.
Unfortunately for the candidate, it lent credence to Democratic claims that the
Republicans cared only for the interests of the rich, not the working class,
whom Blaine had been targeting with his emphasis on the protective tariff.
The next day, a damning cartoon by Walt McDougall and Valeriean Gribayedoff appeared in the New York
World. It condemned the Delmonico dinner through a biblical analogy to the
avarice and hedonism of King Belshazzar's court. In the Book of Daniel, King
Belshazzar hosts a sumptuous dinner for his rich and royal associates, at which
a hand appears out of nowhere, writing strange words on the wall. The prophet
Daniel is called in to interpret the words, which were a promise of divine
judgment on Belshazzar. The king dies that evening.
This cartoon features Blaine and his wealthy contributors feasting greedily
on a lavish array of political spoils, while in front of their table a poor
family begs for table scraps, unnoticed by the self-indulgent dinner guests.
(Compare this cartoon to Joseph Keppler's earlier one, "The Writing on the
Wall.") Blaine is in the center of the table, holding the carving knife and
The guests include (left to right): Aspinwall [first name and occupation unknown]; J. F. Dillon, a former circuit court
judge who rendered a decision favorable to Jay Gould; William Evarts, the
Republican senatorial candidate in New York; Levi Morton, U.S. minister to
France (and future vice president and New York governor); possibly Judge Scott
Sloan of Wisconsin; financier Cyrus Field; businessman David Dows; financier Jay Gould;
unknown; Blaine; New York Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid; financier Cornelius
Vanderbilt; Blaine campaign manager and coal baron Stephen Elkins; naval
contractor John Roach; William Dowd, banker and unsuccessful Republican candidate for New York mayor in 1880; railroad mogul Chauncey Depew; Judge Noah Davis;
businessman and Wall Street financier Rufus Hatch; banker Jesse Seligman; financier Russell Sage; and former congressman Anson McCook of