Bryan and Free Silver


 “He Drove His Wedge Too Far”
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   September 1, 1900, p. 809

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Cartoonist W. A. Rogers uses lumber to represent the national credit, and pictures Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan’s insistence on the unlimited coinage of silver (“free silver”) as a threat to it. The symbolism is similar to Rogers’s cartoon from the 1896 campaign, “Monkeying with a ‘Buzz-Saw.’” Both images are based on the assumption that the gold standard resulted in good national credit, which in turn produced abundant national prosperity.

The background image is of Aldai Stevenson as an “axeman” chopping down trees in the “Petrified Forest.” The latter pokes fun at the Democratic vice-presidential nominee’s age (65 years old), while the former reminds voters of his tenure as first assistant postmaster general during the first administration of President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889). As a key source of political patronage, the Post Office was a major battleground in the fight over civil service reform (merit appointments and tenure). While a top postal official, Stevenson fired 40,000 Republicans and replaced them with Democrats, provoking angry Republicans and independent reformers to label him the administration’s “axman” or “headsman.”













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