This cartoon is based on Joseph Flynn’s popular comic song (1889), “Down Went McGinty.” The lyrics tell of a foolish Irishman who fell off a wall, down a hole, into jail, and finally into the sea, where he died. It includes the penultimate lines,
Down went McGinty to the bottom of the sea
And he must be very wet for they haven’t found him yet
The song was performed by early vaudeville stars, such as Maggie Cline, who staged an elaborate production assisted by stagehands, theater musicians, and audience members, and Dan Quinn, whose rendition is one of the first gramophone recordings. “Down Went McGinty” became a common response when children fell down.
Here, a combination of Democrats and Mugwumps have found Grover Cleveland at the bottom of the sea, where his ship of state sank in 1888—a reference to his electoral defeat to Republican Benjamin Harrison. However, they are having a difficult time raising the waterlogged presidential nominee of 1892, whose gigantic size lampoons his weight. The sailors aboard the “Democracy” vessel are (left-right): vice-presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson; Governor Robert Pattison of Pennsylvania; Senator Calvin Brice of Ohio, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee; and Governor Leon Abbett of New Jersey. The “Mugwump Party” of the independent liberal press is represented by Harper’s Weekly editor George William Curtis and the back of a figure from The New York Times (perhaps editor Charles R. Miller).
The underwater divers are (clockwise from lower-left): Senator John Carlisle of Kentucky; Senator Roger Mills of Texas; William C. Whitney, Cleveland’s campaign manager and former Navy secretary; Senator Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland; Patrick A. Collins, former congressman from Massachusetts; and, Charles Fairchild, former treasury secretary in Cleveland’s first term. The “Free Trade” banner on Cleveland’s shirt and the caption’s reference to “his English suit of clothes” both allude to the Democratic nominee and platform’s support of tariff reform. Republicans warned that the opposition party really wanted to eliminate all duties on foreign goods, which would allow British products to flood American markets.
The underwater setting and scuba-diving theme of this 1892 Judge cartoon is similar to a Harper’s Weekly cartoon by William A. Rogers, “A Hopeless Undertaking,” published during the 1880 presidential campaign. In the earlier image, Democratic presidential nominee Winfield S. Hancock appears as an underwater diver trying to raise the ship, “Democracy,” which had sunk in 1860. The notable difference between the two cartoons is that the problem in the 1880 image is identified as the party, not candidate Hancock (who was generally respected by his Republican opponents), while the obstacle in the 1892 image is candidate Cleveland and the weight of his 1888 loss of the White House.