Democratic Prospects and Pitfalls


 “William Jennings Bryan and His Cabinet”
  Cartoonist:  Victor Gillam
  Source:  Judge
  Date:  September 15, 1900

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Judge cartoon envisions the gang of political crooks and misfits who will be appointed to the cabinet if Democrat William Jennings Bryan is elected president. On the far left is Jeremiah “Sockless Jerry” Simpson, a former Populist congressman (1891-1895 and 1897-1899), who is the postmaster general. When he ran for Congress in 1890, his opponent claimed that Simpson was only a country rube with no socks. He turned the insult into a popular nickname on his way to election victory. New York City Mayor Robert Van Wyck is the secretary of agriculture and holds an ice saw symbolizing his role in the Tammany Hall Ice Trust scandal. With his arm around the mayor is Richard Croker, the corrupt boss of Tammany Hall, who is secretary of the treasury. President Bryan’s Tammany collar and small stature indicate that he will be controlled by his cabinet members. John Peter Altgeld earned a radical reputation while governor of Illinois (1893-1897) by pardoning three anarchists jailed for participation in the Haymarket Riot and for opposing the use of federal troops during the Pullman Strike of 1894. Here, Altgeld is dressed as a bandit for his position as the U.S. attorney general.

Congressman William Sulzer of New York, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is the secretary of the navy. His “Sulzer Water”—word play for “seltzer” or “soda water”—is labeled with the charge that he opposed the U.S. having a navy. In October, Bryan began campaigning against increased funding for the military. Possible similar statements by Sulzer may have been provoked this cartoon’s hyperbole against the New York congressman. Sitting behind the desk is Senator “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman of South Carolina as the secretary of state, wearing a Ku Klux Klan hat. During the 1870s, he fought to end Republican rule and Reconstruction in South Carolina. He was a member of the Sweetwater Saber Club, which had armed clashes with black militia members, intimated black voters, and lynched black politicians. Standing with his arms crossed is David H. Waite, a former Populist governor of Colorado (1893-1895), who is the secretary of war in Bryan’s cabinet. Waite was nicknamed “Bloody Bridles” after an 1893 speech in which he asserted, “it is better … that blood should flow to the horses’ bridles, rather than our national liberties should be destroyed.”

William J. Stone, former governor of Missouri (1893-1897) and vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is the interior secretary, dressed as an American Indian (the Interior Department oversaw Indian affairs). He was one of the leaders of the free-silver movement that won control of the Democratic National Convention in 1896. An opposition Gold-Democratic newspaper reported that the governor’s “tiptoeing” behind the scenes for the free-silver forces had earned him the nickname, “Gum-Shoe Bill” (after the rubber-soled shoe). On the far right is former senator David B. Hill of New York, a Gold Democrat who was effectively silenced at the 1900 Democratic National Convention. He serves Bryan and the cabinet as an office boy.

The cartoon is reminiscent of a Harper’s Weekly cartoon lampooning the potential cabinet of 1880 Democratic presidential nominee Winfield S. Hancock.













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