The Republican Nomination


 “Will the History of Napoleon’s Return Repeat Itself?”
  Cartoonist:  Udo J. Keppler
  Source:  Puck
  Date:  March 6, 1912

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Puck cartoon dramatizes the battle for the 1912 Republican presidential nomination with an analogy to Napoleon’s return from exile. Theodore Roosevelt, the ex-president (1901-1909), appears as the former self-proclaimed emperor of France. Napoleon Bonaparte first abdicated on May 4, 1814, and was exiled to the island of Elba, off the Italian coast of Tuscany. On February 26, 1815, he escaped and landed at Cannes, France, with a small army of 600. He was met by the 5th Regiment of the French Army, which had orders to arrest him. As the cartoon caption explains, Napoleon confronted them alone, allowing them the opportunity to “shoot your emperor if you dare.” They did not, and his army multiplied as he advanced through France. On March 19, the Bourbon royal family fled to Belgium, and the next day Napoleon resumed control of France.

The implication of this cartoon is that the Republican rank and file will not follow the orders of their leader, President William Howard Taft, but will join Roosevelt’s campaign. The former president did beat the incumbent in the popular primaries, winning contests in nine states against Robert La Follette’s victory in two and Taft’s in only one. The president, however, had influence over the large number of delegates chosen by state political machines, the power of which rested substantially on federal patronage. That fact is represented in this cartoon by the dual battle standards reading “Republican Delegates” and “Federal Job Holders.” The other identifiable figure in the scene is Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock, who was responsible for the largest distribution of federal patronage. The allegiance of the regular party apparatus allowed Taft to secure pledges from 326 delegates, compared with Roosevelt’s 432 and La Follette’s 41. The president’s loyalists also controlled the Republican National Committee and the convention’s Credentials Committee, both of which awarded the vast majority of contested delegates to Taft, allowing him to win renomination.

Roosevelt then bolted the Republican Party to run under the Progressive Party banner, but he and Taft lost the general election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Similarly, the situation for Napoleon did not turn out well, either. In the spring of 1815, he invaded Belgium, where his troops fought the armies of Prussia and Britain. On June 18 began the battle of Waterloo, where Anglo-Prussian forces defeated the French. On June 22, Napoleon abdicated for a second and final time. He was exiled on the tiny island of St. Helena, off the southwest coast of Africa, where he died in 1821.













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