James G. Blaine: Power Behind the Throne?


 "The Effect of 'Negative Gravity,' "
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 27, 1888, p. 809

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In this cartoon, James Blaine is the manipulative power behind Benjamin Harrison, whose strings he literally pulls. As the Republican nominee tugs on his bootstraps, the future secretary of state lowers a rope hoisting Harrison upward toward a cornucopia of wealth through taxation. The “Fool’s Paradise” of false prosperity symbolizes the large federal surplus created by high tariffs intended to protect American industry from foreign competition. Meanwhile, the elevation trick is not working for Uncle Sam, who yanks up on the straps of his boots labeled “War Tariff”—a reference to the policy of high tariffs, which the cartoonist traces to increased rates enacted by Congress during the Civil War. Uncle Sam is baffled by how the Harrison hoax operates, but he argues that any connection between tariffs and genuine prosperity is against reason. To pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps means to improve one’s socioeconomic position by individual effort, but cannot be accomplished here because of the artificiality of the war tariff.

The title, “The Effect of ‘Negative Gravity,’” refers to the idea that objects can be freed of the gravitational force pulling them earthward and consequently move skyward. The notion may have derived from a fictional story in the November 1884 issue of Century magazine, “A Tale of Negative Gravity,” by Francis “Frank” R. Stockton, a well-known American writer of humorous tales and fantasies in the late-nineteenth century. In it, the main character creates a machine that “could diminish, or entirely dissipate, the weight of an object of any kind.” Decades later, scientist Albert Einstein proposed the thesis of negative gravity by which an energy in the universe was forcing apart objects that would ordinarily be attracted together by gravity. Einstein later repudiated the theory, but it gained prominence in the 1990s as a way to explain why the universe was expanding at an increasing rate.













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