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1864–Nast Cartoon, Compromise–Randy Persaud

My third piece of campaign rhetoric is probably the most famous of its time. This cartoon, titled “Compromise with the South” was run throughout the entire country and was used as scare tactic to warn citizens of the dangerous consequences the North would face if it came to a compromise with the South during the Civil War. The cartoon was created by famous editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast, whom many regard as the “Father of the American Cartoon.” It is widely regarded as one of his most powerful and effective cartoons (and a personal favorite of his). This cartoon was widely used by Lincoln’s campaign and helped turned the tide in order to get reelected during the 1864 Presidential Election.

The main purpose of this carton is to critique the Peace Democrats, a faction of the Democratic Party in 1864 who believed that the South should compromise with the North in order to end the war and be readmitted into the country. This cartoon depicts the harsh realities of the North if they did compromise with the South. It displays a proposed ceasefire between the North and South and conveys the message that if the North does indeed give in to the Peace Democrats and negotiates, the war will have been for nothing and African Americans would go back to slavery. The cartoon exhibits a defeated Union soldier, whom appears to be hiding his face in shame as he extends his weak and fragile hand to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis is pictured as smiling and disrespectfully putting one of his feet on the grave of a fallen Union solider, whose headstone reads “In memory of the Union Heroes in a Useless War.” The female kneeling on the ground in front of the grave is Columbia, a common personification of America during the time. She mourns in sorrow as she hides her face in shame as well. The background of the picture is divided in two. On the left, labeled “North” there is complete destruction, as bodies lie dead on the floor with fire in the background. Above all of this is the powerful image of the American Flag pictured upside down, signaling stress and turmoil. On the right, labeled “South” the Confederate flag stands upright (in contrast to the American on the right) with slaves kneeling on the floor in chains, demonstrating slaves being returned to slavery.

This cartoon was very significant at the time; many people in the North had lost patience with the Civil War. The north was running out of resources and inflation continued to cripple the North’s economy. Many Northerners stared to become open with the idea of having a truce with the South. Nast’s cartoon depicts the reality of what might result if they do compromise with the South. Not only would all the Union soldier’s death be in vain, but slavery would continue, therefore returning the country to the same condition it was before the war started- just with 600,000 less men due to the deaths in the war. In fact, the cartoon looks less like a compromise and more like a Union surrender.  It made people in the North realize that the Union soldiers were fighting long and hard for a great cause and to suddenly compromise with the South would be a injustice not only to them, but to the principles of America.

The cartoon was released on September 3, 1864 and coincided with major Union victories. Once released, Lincoln’s campaign managers began immediately producing posters of the cartoon. It became extremely instrumental in helping citizens realize that compromise with the South would be an injustice and seem like surrender. Support for Lincoln and continuation of the war significantly increased and the cartoon helped turned tide and led Lincoln to a landslide victory in 1864. 

Sources

http://lincolnstudies.blogspot.com/2008/04/compromise-with-south-by-thomas-nast.html

http://elections.harpweek.com/1864/cartoon-1864-large.asp?UniqueID=17&Year=1864

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