Altgeld and Anarchism


 "1881 - 1897"
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 24, 1896, p. 1041

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
With the presidential election of November 3 only a few weeks away, cartoonist Rogers stressed the alleged political radicalism of the Democratic Party in 1896 with this postdated October 24 cover. The alarming illustration portrays the skeletal ghost of Charles Guiteau, the executed assassin of President James Garfield (1881), embracing the menacing figure of Governor John Peter Altgeld of Illinois. The cartoonist and his editor, Carl Schurz, considered Altgeld to be an enemy of law and order because of his pardons of three anarchists involved in the Chicago Haymarket bombing of 1886 and his objection to the use of federal troops during the Pullman strike of 1894. They believed that the Illinois governor was the real power in the 1896 Democratic national campaign, with presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan being only a figurehead. Since Guiteau’s lawyer had used an insanity defense (albeit unsuccessfully), the assassin’s spectral presence and Altgeld’s wild-eyed look both convey the message that the Democratic Party leadership has gone mad. The governor holds the fiery torch of “anarchy” on his shoulder, while crumpling the U.S. Constitution with his other hand. Insinuating a nightmarish future if the Democrats win the election, the White House and the Capital Building appear in the background through the flames and smoke of the anarchy torch.












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