Hill Challenges Cleveland


 "Two Bees, or One Bee, That Is the Question"
  Cartoonist:  Charles G. Bush
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   March 14, 1891, p. 191

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In this parody of Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To Be or Not To Be,” David B. Hill, who has already pinned the “bees” of the New York governorship and a seat in the U.S. Senate, contemplates adding the presidency to his collection. As lieutenant governor, Hill had succeeded to the governorship in January 1885 when Grover Cleveland resigned to assume the presidency. Thereafter, an animosity developed between the two, primarily due to Hill’s unfulfilled desire for ample federal patronage and Cleveland’s characterization of the governor as an unprincipled machine politician. Hill was elected to the governorship in his own right in November 1885 and reelected in 1888.

In January 1891, Hill manipulated the state legislature to elect him to the U.S. Senate for a term commencing that March (state legislatures elected U.S. senators until the 17th Amendment of 1913). However, he would not resign as governor to take the senate seat until his gubernatorial term ended in January 1892. Critics labeled him the “governor-senator,” which explains the “Two Bees” on the wall. In 1888, Hill had failed to spark interest in a challenge to Cleveland’s renomination, but made a more serious effort in 1892 to become the party’s standard-bearer—the “One Bee” in the cartoon. The bees in this and other cartoons may be visual shorthand for the catchphrase “a bee in one’s bonnet,” which means to have an obsessive idea.

During the 1890 congressional contests, Governor Hill stumped for Democratic candidates through the Midwest and South in the hope of collecting political IOU's for the upcoming presidential race. In the midst of a severe snowstorm in February 1892, the New York State Democratic Party chairman called a “Snap Convention” at which delegates voted to endorse Hill, rather than Cleveland, for president on the unit-rule basis. Under it, the Senator got all the state’s votes on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention, but lost the nomination decisively to Cleveland. In the Senate, however, Hill usually defended the policies of the second Cleveland administration (1893-1897). His fierce party loyalty was encapsulated in the emphatic statement associated with him, “I am a Democrat,” which appears on the ball and chain he wears in this cartoon.













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