Democrats and the Tariff Question


 "The True Republican Flag"
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   July 21, 1888, p. 525

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Having been nominated for a second term, President Grover Cleveland hoists a flag declaring that the Democratic Party of 1888 stands with the Republican Party of 1884 on the tariff question. According to cartoonist Rogers, the Republican platform of 1884 supported reduction of the federal surplus through tariff reform. That stance is contrasted with the 1888 Republican platform calling for surplus reduction through the elimination of all internal taxes, rather than dismantling the protective tariff system. In order to gain prohibitionist votes, Cleveland supporters emphasized the fact that tax abolition would mean "Free Whiskey."

During the 1880s, the tariff question became a key issue in American politics. Both parties were divided on the issue, but in the 1888 presidential election the Democrats under Grover Cleveland stood for tariff reform (tariffs for revenue only) and the Republicans for upholding high tariffs aimed at protecting American industry. James Blaine had helped convince the GOP to emphasize tariff protection late in the 1880 race and made the issue a cornerstone of his presidential campaign in 1884. Through clever editing, this cartoon misrepresents the Republican platform of 1884, which declared for selective tariff reform that did not undermine the protective nature of the system. The platform’s clear emphasis was on the latter, not the former. Meanwhile, attempts at tariff reform under President Chester Arthur, a Republican, in 1882 and under President Cleveland in 1887-1888 (which was debated during the campaign) were unsuccessful.

Harper’s Weekly consistently backed tariff reform over the years. Here, Uncle Sam stands defiantly in front of a large whiskey barrel, which the Republican sailors are threatening to break open. They are (left-right): Whitelaw Reid, editor of the New York Tribune, holding a wood drill; Bob Ingersoll, famed orator, lawyer, and agnostic, who clutches a club reading “No Sunday School Politics,” symbolizing his opposition to prohibition, Sunday closing laws, and other attempts to legislate Protestant morality; partly obscured behind the flag’s rope is Congressman Thomas B. Reed of Maine, who became speaker the House after the 1888 election; Senator William Chandler of New Hampshire crouches on the ship’s floor; wielding an ax is Senator John J. Ingalls of Kansas, a fiery anti-Cleveland speaker whose badge refers to his service as judge advocate for the Kansas Volunteers during the Civil War; appearing in the shadow is the profile of Congressman William “Pig Iron” Kelley, a leading tariff protectionist; and gripping a crowbar on the far right is Congressman William McKinley of Ohio, who later sponsored the high tariff act known as the McKinley Tariff (1890).













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