James G. Blaine: Power Behind the Throne?


 "Make Way for the Uncrowned King"
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   August 18, 1888, p. 605

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
According to cartoonist W. A. Rogers, the real power behind the Republican throne is James G. Blaine, the presidential nominee of 1884, not the 1888 GOP standard-bearer, Benjamin Harrison. In this cartoon, Blaine arrives in the grand style of an Indian rajah: in a regal carriage atop an ornately decorated Republican elephant, and attended by servants—an Irish coachman and his top advisors, New York Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid (left) and Congressman William Walter Phelps (right) of New Jersey. On the ground, the Republican masses and press bow deeply out of reverence for their “uncrowned king,” while Harrison scurries from the path of the trumpeting elephant and its royal rider.

The cartoon parodies the planned celebration for Blaine’s return to New York City in August 1888 after a 14-month vacation in Europe. However, the same postdated issue of Harper's Weekly (published August 8) explained that the Republican leader’s ship was delayed for two days, compelling the event’s organizers to hold the parade in his honor on the evening of August 9, before his arrival. Representatives from 29 states and three territories gathered to celebrate the absent honoree, and an estimated 8-10,000 participated in the torchlight procession. Blaine’s ship docked the next morning, and he was driven to the Fifth Avenue Hotel “without delay and without display.”

The week before this cartoon appeared, Harper's Weekly reported the announcement that after winning the presidential election Harrison would appoint Blaine secretary of state (in reality, the cautious nominee waited until mid-January 1889 to offer him the position). The Maine politician had served briefly in that capacity during the Garfield and Arthur administrations (1881), and desired to resume the office. The newspaper’s lead editorial noted that Blaine was “as much the acknowledged chief and leader of his party as Mr. [Henry] Clay of the Whigs during the [William Henry] Harrison campaign of 1840.” Republicans announcing Blaine’s future appointment hedged their statement with an assertion that Harrison would be head of the administration, which, as editor George William Curtis wryly pointed out, “implies a feeling that there is some question upon the point.”













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