It wouldn’t be too difficult to edit together a fancy video segment juxtaposing news anchors and pundits, one after the other, exhibiting the “horse race” metaphor as it applies to presidential election cycles. It is an easily digestible metaphor centered wholly on the winner take all, one shot, race to the finish. A race, of course, where spectators sit back and watch the animals strain to be the best, the first, the champion. Although the average American voter may fail to comprehend the origins of “derby day,” or the high stake betting associated with horse racing, the thrill of victory and agony of a close defeat is very palpable in American political culture. In presidential politics, the horse race provides a metaphor for the everyman to understand, simultaneously heightening the sense of urgency experienced overall.
Is this a symptom of our twenty-first century, twenty-four cable news cycle? Does the image of the horse race circulate because of the contentious climate in today’s national and divisive elections? A campaign song pamphlet from 1858 entitled “The White House Race” suggests differently. Set to the tune of “Camptown Races,” the lyrics compare candidates to horses in a mad dash, enticing the voter to bet on the “mustang colt,” over the “old gray” horse. From the parody of the tune to the imagery advanced in the lyrics, the horse race is alive and well on the way to the White House, long before television – let along cable news outlets – heralded horse race mentality of presidential politics.
The tune, “Camptown Races” may be a familiar one even to modern audience and its original lyrics also detail a horse race. As the historical marker in Bradford County, Pennsylvania explains, Stephen Foster’s song was written in 1850 about thirty years after the sport had been banned in the state. Pennsylvania Historian Chris Miner suggests that although once considered a spectacle in cities, the sport was outlawed for its “riotous” nature which consisted of running the races down public streets in Philadelphia and elsewhere. But, as Steven A. Reiss details in his book The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime, the sport persisted, perhaps in part to its urgent and high stakes nature of gambling on races, eventually reemerging under legal protections using the race track venues modern audiences recognize today.
Although the horse race metaphor circulates well among publics of voters, one might ask why such a rhetoric may be so pervasive. Why does the electorate respond to the horse race comparison in more recent presidential campaigns? One explanation may be the theory advanced by Allan J. Lichtman in his book, Predicting the Next President, in which he states, “like the [presidential election] polls themselves, the horse-race commentators can never be wrong” (8). Commentators in a horse-race are, quite literally, calling it as they see it – unable to predict what could happen in the next moment. Lichtman continues, suggesting that the metaphor offers an insight into campaigns, but very little insight to elections.
This could not be more accurate and offers one explanation for the pervasive nature of this turn of phrase. The comparisons to the race are clear as the public digests a candidate’s “run” for the presidency as a “run” towards the White House. Political Scientist Anthony C. Broh describes the horse race metaphor as a framework journalists can access that privileges polling data and enhances the entertainment value of presidential campaigns. He writes, “A horse is judged not by its absolute speed or skill but in comparison to the speed of other horses” (515).
There is a strategy for managing curves, there are other competitors who may kick dirt up along the way and incredible breakaways down the home stretch. However, as any spectator of the race is well aware, the horse you bet on at 25-to-1 odds could cost you, while the horse that is a long shot might pay out more in the end. Because of the unpredictable nature of the horse racing scene, it is enthralling and exciting. But most of all, it is anybody’s guess. This best translates to the story campaigns and the media like to tell of an electorate, on the edge of their seats, waiting to see who will come out of the gate strong and who will eke across at the finish line.
Broh goes on to assert that the metaphor serves to bolster the democratic process, even while demonstrating some clear problems. Whereas no such claim is made here, the rhetorical force of the metaphor is certainly worth examining. The accessible image of a horse race, the long tradition of the sport in American culture, and the entertainment value of the chase all collude to bring the metaphor to a memorable photo finish.
- Allan J. Lichtman, Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 2012).
- Anthony C. Broh, “Horse-Race Journalism: Reporting the Polls in the 1976 Presidential Election,” The Public Opinion Quarterly 44(1980): 514-529.
- Steven A. Reiss, The Sport of Kings and Kings of Crime: Horse Racing, Politics, and Organized Crime in New York, 1865-1913 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011).
- “Camptown Races Historical Marker,” ExplorePaHistory.org, Accessed April 30, 2014, http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-2FA.
In modern elections in the United States there are often scandalous incidents involving one or more presidential candidates or the people closest to them. Most recently, New Jersey Governor and potential 2016 Republican candidate was involved in a bridge scandal, which has severely influenced perceptions of his character and subsequent conversations regarding his potential candidacy. Although Christie claims that “Bridgegate” has not and will not affect his 2016 plans, the scandal still remains a black mark on his record and one of the many examples the role personal character plays in presidential campaign rhetoric.
This is only one type of scandal voters are exposed to during the modern never-ending campaign season. Apart from incidents that involve an action (or inaction) taken while in public office that could affect the welfare of people, skeletons often come out of closets that prompt audiences to question or reconsider a politician’s character. Juicy secrets are revealed about politicians and presidential candidates to audiences willing to indulge them. Often when the skeletons come out, the mudslinging begins—supporters of the other, better candidates not only share the damning information but exploit it in a variety of ways for a particular end—damaging the candidate’s character enough to cost him/her the election to public office. This topic is ripe with content for analysis, but for this blog post I will focus on one 19th century election and a “major scandal” that resulted in rhetorical acts of mudslinging and character attacks, analyzing one particular artifact (while also showing other related images) that acted symbolically to shape perceptions of S. Grover Cleveland in the 1884 election versus James Blaine.
Character attacks, or the latin ad hominem, are not uncommon to political discourse generally. In the historical discourses we have examined as a part of #COMM 760, it is clear that “mudslinging” is not unique to the most current era of politics. Everything about a candidate’s character—appearance, intelligence, and experience, for example—directly impacted that candidate’s trustworthiness as leader of the nation, more so than “issues” in a campaign. As Trevor Parry-Giles explains, “American elections, particularly at the presidential level, are dominated by images and personality-based arguments.” Political images, then, or “verbal and/or visual rhetorical markers of public character and individual persona,” take the abstract idea of “character” and concretize it. With this basic framework in mind, I turn to the primary political image artifact that appeared during the 1884 Cleveland v. Blaine election: a cartoon entitled “Another Voice for Cleveland.”
In this political cartoon appearing in The Judge, magazine Grover Cleveland’s scandalous secret is not only exposed to the audience, but it is exploited in a way that casts Grover Cleveland as cowardly. Ernest Ferguson explains that after the Democratic convention and nomination was secured for Cleveland “came the bombshell. Several days after the Democratic convention, the Buffalo Evening Telegraph published an exposé, headlined ‘A Terrible Tale: A Dark Chapter in a Public Man’s History,’ which revealed a secret episode in Cleveland’s life. The article alleged that Cleveland was the father of an illegitimate 9-year-old child, and that he’d been paying the mother for years to keep her quiet. Republican newspapers gleefully picked up the story, and Blaine supporters started reciting a jeer of their own: ‘Ma, ma, where’s my pa?’” In the cartoon, the child is visibly upset, but the words read, “I want my Pa!” instead of “Where’s my Pa?” This, as the title of the cartoon does, suggests that the child is “another one for Cleveland.” Cleveland is shown looking discombobulated –almost drunken—as he tries to cover his ears and ignore the cries from his child. Cleveland is depicted as shaken and visibly trying to tune the child out, thus he is cowardly in the face of his secret. The child’s mother—the woman, Maria Halpin, whom Cleveland’s affair was with, is shown hiding her face in shame. Perhaps she is portrayed as such because of the allegations that Cleveland paid for her silence over the years.
There is a significant juxtaposition in this cartoon. The tag hanging from Cleveland’s coat reads “Grover the Good.” Before the exposé of his sex scandal was published, Cleveland had a reputation for public integrity. In fact, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of The New York World, said, “When a blathering ward politician objects to Cleveland because he is ‘more of a Reformer than a Democrat,’ he furnishes the best argument in favor of Cleveland’s nomination and election.” Ferguson continues, “At the Democratic convention in Chicago, one of Cleveland’s prominent boosters said that his friends ‘love him and respect him, not only for himself, for his character, for his integrity and judgment and iron will, but they love him most for the enemies he has made.’” The Judge cartoon depicts a common rhetorical attack on character: if you think you know “Grover the Good,” think again.
While the cartoon itself serves as an argument against Cleveland’s personal character, Cleveland responds in a way that just might have been the reason he was able to win the election. When offered an envelope containing James Blaine’s scandalous activities, Cleveland paid for it, shredded it, and burned it. Not only did Cleveland own up and accept responsibility for the illegitimate child, he chose to take “the moral high road” when given the opportunity to stoop to his opposition’s level. Ferguson concludes his historical analysis of Cleveland’s sex scandal by saying “Cleveland wasn’t always honest. He had long held a grudge against the press, and during his second term he and aides covered up the news of a tumor in his jaw and surgeries to repair it. However, that did not dent his reputation for personal integrity and putting the public before politics. He died in Princeton, N.J., in 1908, and on his tombstone at the Nassau Presbyterian Church are carved the words: ‘I have tried so hard to do right.’”
Cleveland’s character issue reflects the larger trend in American politics. Michael Calvin McGee reminds us of the ideal principle “not men, but measures” as the basis for electing leaders, but history has proven that it is oft not the case. Character matters for audiences, and one could study any president/presidential candidate in terms of his or her character and that relation to election success. In Cleveland’s case, perhaps the voters appreciated his honesty when the scandal was exposed, and saw Blaine as posessing low-morals:
A delegate from Chicago summed up the situation. “I gather that Mr. Cleveland has shown high character and great capacity in public life but that in private life his conduct is open to question, while on the other hand, Mr. Blaine in public life has been weak and dishonest, while he seems to have been an admirable husband and father. The conclusion I draw from these facts is that we should elect Mr. Cleveland to the public office for which he is admirably qualified to fill and remand Mr. Blaine to the private life which he is so eminently fitted to adorn.”
Grover Cleveland won the election of 1884 and married a woman named Frances Folsom in the White House. Mudslinging, character-attacking discourses are compelling arguments against character that could affect the outcome of an election. But Cleveland countered those arguments by enacting the character he had been previously known to have, ultimately overcoming the attack through his virtuous actions. Perhaps today’s politicians could learn from the strategies of Grover Cleveland in the face of political scandal.
 Trevor Parry-Giles, “Resisting a ‘Treacherous Piety’: Issues, Images, and Public Policy Deliberation in Presidential Campaigns,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 13, no. 1 (2010): 37-38.
 Ibid, 39-40.
 http://elections.harpweek.com/1884/cartoon-1884-Medium.asp?UniqueID=27&Year=; also Ernest B. Ferguson, “Moment of Truth,” American History (2013): 65.
 Judge was a popular Republican-leaning publication (Ferguson 65).
 Ernest B. Ferguson, “Moment of Truth,” American History (2013): 65
 Ernest B. Ferguson, “Moment of Truth,” American History (2013): 66.
 Ibid, 67.
 Ibid, 68.
 Michael C. McGee, ‘Not Men, But Measures’: The Origins and Import of an Ideological Principle,” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 64 (1978): 141-154.
 Ibid, 67.
 Photo, right: Library of Congress. Cleveland’s opposition event went as far as to question his trustworthiness because he went by his middle name!
The first time I heard this song, it ran through my head for days. Days. If I’d been able to vote in 1952, this song would certainly have run through my brain while I stood in the voting booth. The song was written for the Man from Abilene by the great Irving Berlin (left), who gave us such earworms as “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and (of course) “God Bless America.”
While praise is due to Mr. Berlin for Eisenhower’s catchy campaign song, I’d contrast the success of Ike’s original campaign song with the decision to pair original lyrics with familiar melodies. For a modern comparison of this latter composition, I’d point you to Lyndon Johnson’s campaign song, which paired the melody from the title song of Hello, Dolly! with pro-Johnson lyrics. (Hello Dolly! premiered in 1964, the same year Johnson faced reelection.)
Although there are no doubt earlier examples, I first noticed this propensity when we read The Log Cabin and Hard Cider Melodies (1840) for class. This book, along with several others, provided many, many options for singing supporters of Old Tippecanoe (and Tyler, too).While some were set to folk melodies I knew, many were not. (And if you’ve heard of “Turn out, Giovanni, turn out”…well, I’d like to play on your trivia team some time.)
- John Frémont’s (right) songbook (1856) included “Freedom’s Dawn,” an adaptation of “The Morning Light is Breaking.”
- Abraham Lincoln’s signature campaign song, “Lincoln and Liberty” (1860), was based on the “Old Rosin the Beau” (as noted here, among other places)
- Uylsses S. Grant relied on an adaptation of “Low Back Car” in 1872, but his first jam—“Grant, Grant, Grant” (1868)—used “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching!,” a Civil War song that trickled into the popular vernacular.
In “’We Want Yer, McKinley’: Epideictic Rhetoric in Songs from the 1896 Presidential Campaign,” William Harpine also noted that, ““Marching Through Georgia” seems to have had extensive appeal as a melody for campaign songs,” particularly in the 1896 election (79).
Although Harpine doesn’t note regional differences, I wonder whether the anti-Southern song was the most effective melody for a national campaign. In 1972, James Irvin and Walter Kirkpatrick argued that music’s rhetorical power came from both melodies and lyrics. They theorized that when familiar—and well-liked—melodies accompanied unfamiliar lyrics, the listener was primed to develop positive feelings toward the lyrics. In using the melody of a song that, in its original form, celebrated Sherman’s March to the Sea, campaigns in the Gilded Age may have—intentionally or unintentionally—alienated a whole region of voters.
Horace Greeley (song cover sheet, left) puts my point more succinctly in The Log-Cabin Songbook: “People like the swing of the music. After a song or two, they are more ready to listen to the orators” (quoted from Robert Gunderson, “Presidential Canvass, Log-Cabin Style,” Today’s Speech 5 (1957): 19). Or if they don’t “like the swing of music,” maybe they’re not “more ready to listen to the orators.”
By Devin Scott–Political Cartoons in the 1860 Presidential Campaign: Visual Depictions of Presidential Candidates as Performers
The Presidential race of 1860 was a hard fought contest that was engaged in on all fronts available to the campaigners and their Parties. One such front was political cartoons; cartoons were widely printed and distributed. As such, political cartoonists’ representations of the presidential candidates are a rich area for study. In this post, I compare and contrast two cartoons that depict the four presidential hopefuls in a contest for the presidency. The first cartoon, “The Great Political Juggle,” which was printed in the (Cincinnati) Rail Splitter, depicts the four candidates as performers who juggle Electoral College electors, to varying degrees of success. The second cartoon I analyze is Louis Maurer’s “The Political Gymnasium,” which depicts the presidential hopefuls demonstrating their athletic prowess for the public.
In “The Great Political Juggle,” the audience views (from left to right) John C. Breckenridge, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and John Bell engaged in a Juggling contest for the Presidency. The artist depicted Lincoln as the winner of the most states, followed by Bell and Breckenridge, with Douglas in last place. This rendering is accompanied with an explanatory caption that dictates Lincoln’s overwhelming victory in the Free States and Bell and Breckenridge’s splitting of the southern States. Douglas is humorously depicted as having fallen down under the weight of “squatter sovereignty,” a “Black Pill” he was unsuccessful in convincing the country to swallow. Besides predicting Lincoln as the winner of the election, the cartoonist also predicts that it will be a battle not for popular vote, but rather for electoral votes. This distinction makes the campaign primarily about state to state popularity rather than national popularity. The other political cartoon, “The Political Gymnasium” also favors Lincoln, but stops short of predicting the outcome of the election.
In “The Political Gymnasium” the audience again watches the various candidates performing, only this time they showcase their athletic prowess, rather than their skillful juggling of the Electoral College. The cartoon portrays Constitutional Union Party Presidential candidate, John Bell as a barbell being held up by his running mate Edward Everett, demonstrating his lack of athletic prowess in relation to the other candidates, all of whom are depicted in much more active poses. Abraham Lincoln is shown upon a balance beam apparently supported by his Republican Party nomination, while Stephen Douglas and John Breckenridge, the Democratic nominees for President, box each other for control of their Party. Douglas asserts that he will make Breckenridge cry before taking “a round with the rest of them,” while Breckenridge’s character implies that he will garner enough Democratic support to prevent Douglas from seriously challenging Lincoln for the Presidency.
More interesting than the two political cartoons’ individual depictions of the contest for the presidency is the dominant commonality the two share; both cartoons depict the candidates as performers. “The Political Gymnasium” shows the candidates as gymnasts who are seeking to showcase their athleticism to the American public. This is not a direct contest where the candidates battle each other with a clear winner, despite the depiction of a boxing match between Douglas and Breckenridge. Instead, it is a performance for the public. Are Everett and Bell’s demonstration of Strength more entertaining than Lincoln’s mounting of the balance beam, or is one of the boxers’, Breckenridge and Douglas, performance most enticing? Despite the inevitability of a victor, the candidates and their Parties are shown as independent performers in the quest for the presidency, not direct competitors.
“The Great Political Juggle” provides a more obvious representation of the candidates as performers rather than direct competitors. Instead of depicting the candidates in a race or contest for votes, the Cincinnati Rail Splitter depicts the candidates as individual jugglers performing their act for the American public, with the winner being the candidate who successfully juggles the most Electoral College votes. Again, the candidates are not shown competing directly; instead, each candidate attempt to individually win the most States through their juggling performance. Once the theme of Presidential candidates as performers rather than competitors is recognized, its prevalence in the two cartoons is abundantly apparent.
What are the wider implications of these political cartoons and their decision to highlight candidates and their performances over candidates and their issues?
One possible explanation is that these political cartoons are overtly about the presidential race itself, but are actually critiques of the characters and Party politics that defined the 1860 presidential campaign. The cartoons may speak to a view of the presidential campaigns as primarily performative, rather than direct contests where the best candidate wins; the campaigners are shown as mere performers that compete on the grounds of character and Party, rather than on issues. These cartoons may be subtle critiques of the lack of issue based campaigning and the reliance of the candidates upon personality and Party to elect them. If this explanation holds true, these cartoons provide a powerful, yet subtle, critique of character and Party based campaigns, at the expense of issue based campaigns.
In other words, we might wonder, if these political cartoons are clever, prescient, critiques of “Man over Measure” politics?
“The Great Political Juggle”: http://elections.harpweek.com/1860/cartoons/RSCN0801600003d5w.jpg
“The Political Gymnasium”: http://elections.harpweek.com/1860/cartoons/PolGym12w.jpg
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.
The 1864 Presidential was a pivotal point in American history. In the midst of a civil war, the United States of America was far from united. Slavery had literally torn the nation apart and many knew that the civil war would become a defining test of the principles that America was founded upon. Many people wondered what would become of the nation.
During the election year, many people realized that whichever political party won would be able to control the outcome of war. In the North, the National Union Party, led by incumbent president Abraham Lincoln opposed Democratic nominee, George B. McClellan. As the Nation continued the fight, Lincoln and McClellan fought to prove to the Nation that they and their respective parties would lead the nation out of war.
Frank Leslie’s Budget of Fun released a cartoon on December 1, 1864 that illustrates the competition that Lincoln with the National Union Party faced against McClellan of the Democratic south. The cartoon, titled “The Two Platforms: Columbia Makes Her Choice” exhibits the two distinct paths that America would take based on which party got elected to office. The cartoon displays a woman named Columbia, a common personification of America during the time, heeding Lincoln’s warning to cross with him over the “Abyss of War.” The cartoon also has McClellan trying to persuade Columbia to cross the Democratic plank over the “Abyss of War.”
The cartoon portrays the Democratic plank as an unattractive option. The plank, placed over the “Abyss of War” is divided in two; half labeled “War Democracy” and the other labeled “Peace Democracy.” The Democratic plank is split into two in order to symbolize the Democratic Party at the time. Just as the plank was split, so was the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party was split into two factions: the War Democrats and the Peace Democrats. The War Democrats were Democrats those who felt that the South should continue fighting the North in the Civil War until they were victorious. The Peace Democrats were Democrats who felt that the South, whom were running out of resources to fight should negotiate peace with the North. In the cartoon, the two planks are tied together with rope in order to form the Democrat’s board. This is in contrast to the National Union Party’s plank which appears strong, sturdy and firm. The cartoon makes the persuasive pitch to not only Columbia but all Americans, that the correct plank to cross over the “Abyss of War” is clearly Lincoln’s National Union Party. In Columbia’s hands are the scrolled documents of the “Rights of Man”, “Constitution”, and “Laws”, while the American Eagle shadows over her. Here the cartoon is trying to send a message to the audience that the only way America’s sacred documents and values can cross the “Abyss of War” without being dropped in is through the guidance of Lincoln and the National Union Party.
The cartoonist does an excellent job of portraying all the characters and what they represent. Lincoln is portrayed as he often is: tall and strong in stature. McClellan on the other hand is very short in the cartoon and was known for being under the average male height; his nickname was “little Mac”. McClellan’s caption as he talks to Columbia is “This way COLUMBIA. There’s never danger where I LEAD.” Although it’s quite obvious that the caption is meant to be sarcastic and that there is actually clear and apparent danger with the divided Democrats, but note the capitalization of “lead.” Ironically enough, McClellan used to be a major general in for the North and briefly general in chief before he was removed from command- by Lincoln. He was removed from command due to his lack of leadership in battle (notably the Battle of Antietam). One of Lincoln’s famous quotes that evaluated McClellan’s performance as a leader was “If he can’t fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.” In the cartoon, the word “lead” is capitalized to make fun of McClellan’s leadership abilities. Perhaps the intent of the cartoonist is to make the reader ponder if he couldn’t lead in battle, how could he lead the entire nation?
The two men in the background behind McClellan is French emperor Napoleon III (with handlebar moustache) and John Bull, a common personification of Britain at the time. Both are trying to convince Columbia to go across with McClellan. Napoleon is captioned saying “Go vid dis leetha man Ma’am, Ve recommend him.” John Bull is captioned “I hope she’ll take Little Mac’s lead. I should like to see her come to grief”. The reason why both are in this cartoon is because the South, led by McClellan tried (although unsuccessful) to have the French and British recognize their independence from the Union.
It was apparent by the Presidential Election in 1864 that in order to gain peace, war had to be fought. The election of 1864 made voters think who and which party would successfully lead the nation out of war. A sign behind Lincoln reads “The only path to UNION city is thorough WAR.” This cartoon does an exceptional job in displaying that in order to get to Union City (the North and South together again) is by War and the man to lead the country is Lincoln.
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.