Gold Democrats


 "The Flag Is Still There"
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   November 7, 1896, p. 1089

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
The postdated cover of the last issue before the November 3 election confidently portrays Republican presidential nominee William McKinley nailing up the American flag again. The military scene, with naval uniforms and bombs bursting in air, visually interprets the War of 1812 inspiration for the national anthem. To make that point clear, the caption is a phrase from “The Star Spangled Banner.” The illustration reinforces the journal’s contention that the survival of the republic was at stake in the presidential election of 1896. Instead of invasion by a foreign army (the British) in 1812, this time it was an invasion of foreign ideas—socialism, nihilism, and anarchism. The motto on the flag—“For National Honor”—refers to retaining the gold standard, which would presumably uphold the financial credit of the United States in world markets. It also implies that voters will choose to be true to traditional American political principles rather than opt for the alleged radicalism of the Democratic platform. That message is bolstered by the background image of the American eagle having captured the snake of “Anarchy.”

McKinley is held aloft by Senator John A. Palmer of Illinois, who had been nominated for president in early September by a breakaway group of Democrats, the National Democrats. Although commonly called the Gold Democrats or Goldbugs, they not only objected to the 1896 Democratic platform stance in favor of free silver, but also to its criticism of the federal courts and (implicitly) the Cleveland administration, both of which the National Democrats explicitly praised. The National Democrats opposed the high tariff policy of Republicans, and therefore believed they offered a real alternative to both major parties. Many political observers, however, thought they inadvertently boosted (as in this cartoon) the chances of the Republican ticket by dividing the Democratic vote. On election day, though, Palmer polled less than 133,000 votes, barely over 1000 more than the Prohibition nominee, Joshua Levering.













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