The Irish Question


 “The So-called ‘Intensely American Candidate”
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   August 16, 1884, p. 530

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Thomas Nast cartoon ridicules the notion that the Irish vote will carry Republican nominee James Blaine to the White House. The Irish-American confronting Uncle Sam is representative of Nast's conception of Irish-Catholics in politics. The figure's combative, clamorous manner is discerned through his pose and gestures: open mouth, pointing finger, shillelagh raised threateningly in the air. His mustache and apparel are those of the shoulder-hitter, urban toughs who enforced the will of political bosses by intimidation or violence. The dialogue identifies him as "Dynamite Dictator," thereby connecting him with violent acts by certain Irish Nationalist groups in England and Ireland. He and the two men conveying Blaine--a servant or cabdriver (left) and a prisoner (right)--sum up Nast's biased view of Irish-Catholics.

Uncle Sam, though, is clearly not worried. He blocks the doorway of the White House, standing in a relaxed yet disdainful manner, with furrowed brow, hands in his pockets, and legs crossed. He denounces Dynamite Dictator's rhetoric as "Gammon!" (deceitful nonsense; humbug).

It is ironic that Nast, who for years ruthlessly assailed the association between the Democratic party and Irish-Catholics, in this cartoon and this campaign is forced to uphold their interdependence at least implicitly. He does so, however, not by praising the union but by denouncing the Irish-Catholic support of his Republican political foe, Blaine.













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