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1864–Lincoln’s Shoes–Randy Persaud

It goes without saying that President Lincoln certainly has his place in American presidential history. Known for freeing the slaves and successfully leading the country out of civil war, Lincoln transcended the American presidency. He is firmly cemented in our nation’s history as one of the most famous and popular presidents in American history. However, during the time of the 1864 election, in the middle the Civil War, Lincoln was not viewed as the majestic figure people have come familiar to viewing him as. During the 1864 presidential election, many people in the North had become tired of the Civil War. Many expected the Civil War to last only a couple of weeks, but 1864 marked the third year of the bloodiest affair America had ever seen. Many people wanted Lincoln out, as they felt he had terribly mishandled the war. The North had a lack of major military victories and the high cost of war lead to inflation. In 1864, Lincoln was facing the fear that he may not even be reelected for a second term. To combat the anti- Lincoln sentiment, the New York Illustrated News ran a political cartoon on March 5, 1864.

The political cartoon, titled “Lincoln’s Shoes” made people ponder the question: If not Lincoln for President then who else? The cartoon demonstrates Lincoln’s larger than life persona, as he appears as a sleeping giant in background of the cartoon. In the foreground, there are people whom appear considerably smaller than Lincoln attempting to measure his shoes, which are much taller than all of them. The majority of these men who are trying to measure Lincoln’s shoes are editors of rival newspapers that are anti- Lincoln. Of note is the man looking down into the boot, Horace Greely whom people consider as one of the most famous editors of his time but also one of Lincoln’s bigger critics. The man holding the measuring stick to the shoe is Charles Sumner, a leading radical republican and a opposer of Lincoln’s Union Party. William Seward, the man who lost the 1860 Republican nomination to Lincoln, is the person on the floor who is trying to calculate Lincoln’s shoe size.

The cartoon is trying to poke fun at people’s attempt to replace Lincoln as President. Despite people opposing him, there is no viable candidate who can step in and fill the big, empty shoes that Lincoln would leave behind had he lost the 1864 election. In addition to Lincoln opposers in the cartoon, there are some of his supporters. On the far left is Thurlow Weed, political boss of New York Republicans and former owner of the Albany Evening Journal. Weed was known as a close advisor of Lincoln and here is putting his thumb to his nose, as he watches as the Lincoln opossers try to measure his shoes to no avail. The man with his hand up on the right is John Forney of the Washington Chronicle, famously known for his counter criticism of the Lincoln administration. He is being depicted as throwing his hands up, as he watches the futile efforts in disgust. Interestingly, there is a woman in the carton as well. Women were not common in political cartoons at the time, unless they symbolized something. The woman in this cartoon is Anna Dickson a radical reformer and popular lecturer. In the cartoon, she is looking at the giant sized Lincoln through a telescope, admiring him.

The cartoon is significant because it expresses the view that Lincoln was the only man capable of leading the country out of civil war. Despite people believing he mishandled the war, there was no clear and apparent alternative to Lincoln. The cartoon is implying here that Lincoln was the only man “big enough” for the job.

Lincoln did in fact get reelected and it speaks to a bigger theme in the American presidency. It speaks to the fact that very few during times of war does an American president change. The incumbent president rarely loses during times of war. One of Lincoln’s slogans that became famous was “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream,” or don’t change Presidents during a time of crisis. 1864 marked the first time in over 30 years (1832 election of Andrew Jackson) that an incumbent president gained reelection. He ended up winning unanimously, proving he was the only man who cold lead the nation through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis.

Sources

http://assemblyman-eph.blogspot.com/2009/04/abraham-lincoln-political-cartoons.html

http://elections.harpweek.com/1864/cartoon-1864-Medium.asp?UniqueID=15&Year=1864

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