SALMON P. CHASE (D)
Winner: U.S. GRANT (R)
Harper's Weekly opened the Presidential Campaign of 1868 by reprinting on June 6th the picture of Columbia decorating Grant, first published during the winter of 64. This was followed by some caricature cartoons in which Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase — a candidate for the Democratic nomination — is most prominent. One of the first of these depicts Chase as a parson, wedding Democracy to the negro vote. In this picture appear Manton Marble, then editor of the World, John T. Hoffman, candidate for Governor, the elder Bennett. John Morrissey and others of the "faithful," including Horatio Seymour, whose face lent itself to the sort of caricature Nast most loved. Seymour was rather bald and had two little side locks which projected upward, like horns. Nast merely accentuated these and gave the face a slightly satanic cast. The result was as diabolical as it was humorous. Seymour, who, in good faith, had refused to be a candidate, eventually proved the choice of his party and became the demon-satyr of the campaign.
The Democratic Convention was held at Tammany Hall, then just completed on its present site. Many of the prominent leaders of the South were actively present, including General Forrest, Wade Hampton, and John B. Gordon. Friends had suggested, kindly enough, that with their records fresh in the public mind these men might properly remain in obscurity. This advice they resented with great indignation and insisted on being foremost in parliament and conclave. The result was that the decision of the Convention was not likely to be favorable to a man like General Hancock, who, though a Democrat, was a gallant Union soldier, nor to Salmon P. Chase, who had declared for universal suffrage and the payment of the government bonds in gold. "The same money for the bond-holder as for the plough-holder" was the cry, and "Down with military usurpation!" Wade Hampton caused to be embodied in the platform a plank which declared "that we regard the Reconstruction Acts of Congress as unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void."
After that there was but one of two things to do. They must either nominate a Confederate general or a Northern man of similar convictions. They recalled Horatio Seymour's war record, including the Draft Riot episode, and on the morning of the fourth day in spite of his protests, in a grand whirl of enthusiasm, selected him to head the ticket. For the second place they chose General Frank P. Blair of Missouri, whose chief qualification, from the Convention's point of view, seemed to be the fact that, having fought bravely for the Union, he was now willing to engage in an effort to undo most of what as a soldier he had helped to accomplish. Blair not only subscribed to the Wade Hampton idea, but declared it to be the one real issue of the campaign. His nomination was received with wild acclaim, and incendiary speeches followed. Among these was one by Governor Vance, of North Carolina, who declared that all of the South had lost when defeated by Grant, they would regain when they triumphed with Seymour and Blair. Once more, for a brief day, Confederacy was in the saddle.
Naturally, it was just the sort of a campaign to suit Thomas Nast. The issues were fierce and bitter. The war was to be fought over again. Yet he began rather tardily, biding his time. Then, in the late summer, he opened with a page cartoon of three elements of Democracy clasping hands, each with a foot set heavily on the prostrate colored man. But this was mild and general. Seymour the Satyr, as Lady Macbeth, regarding with awesome terror the stain left by the Draft Riots, more clearly indicated what was to be the real point of attack. Indeed, this picture was presently included with the old "Compromise " cartoon of sixty-four in a fierce political pamphlet which was distributed broadcast. The campaign grew much warmer presently, and Nast always worked better when the issues began to flame and sizzle. By the middle of September he was flinging weekly thunderbolts into the enemy's ranks. Seymour the demon-satyr tempting Columbia — Seymour the satyr leading the Ku-klux Klan — Seymour wallowing in a sea of troubles as the State elections began to tell the tale of defeat, were shots swift and sure. On October 10th appeared "Patience on a Monument" — "Patience " being the colored man, and the "Monument" a tower reciting the record of his wrongs — the tale of the Draft Riots and other outrages, in extracts from the public press. The Cincinnati Gazette reprinted the "Monument" cartoon as a special supplement. A campaign publication called the Mirror, issued "as often as occasion might require," was made up entirely of his pictures, with appropriate extracts. All these told on the feelings of men who had battled in the field for principles which now seemed likely to be sacrificed through the ballot-box. They were aroused to the point of declaring that they "would vote the way they had shot," and the returns from each State elections became fearsome handwriting on the Democratic walls.
One of the final and most effective pictures (October 31) showed Seymour on the one hand announcing to the Draft Rioters that he is their friend and will have the draft suspended and stopped, while on the other stands Grant in uniform, and just beneath him his letter to General Pemberton at Vicksburg — written almost at the exact period when the riots were in progress— announcing no terms save those of an "unconditional surrender of city and garrison." Even those soldiers who had followed gallant Frank Blair in the march "from Atlanta to the sea" grew uneasy of conscience when they thought of casting a vote for one who was now so fiercely espousing the "lost cause."
Indeed, though he had been but slightly noticed in the cartoons, it was chiefly Blair's campaign. Seymour had taken little active part in the canvass, while Blair had gone abroad in the land, scattering the most alarming utterances. The sad unwisdom of this became apparent as the returns for each State election came in. In the eleventh hour it was determined that Blair was a mistake. Those who had shrieked their enthusiasm at the moment of his nomination now demanded that he retire to the rear. Manton Marble of the World was for dismissing him altogether.
Seymour went to the front, but to no purpose. His ticket was confessedly weak. In the election he obtained but eighty of the electoral votes, while two hundred and fourteen were secured for Grant.
Yes it had not been so great a Republican victory as these figures would indicate. New York had been carried fro Seymour. New Jersey and Oregon had likewise gone Democratic, while in California and Indiana the results were disturbingly close. Had Seymour received the vote of the "solid South," Grant would have been defeated.
Under the circumstances it was but natural that the successful candidates should feel grateful to a man like Nast, whose cartoons were believed to have materially aided the Republican cause. Letters of thanks came from all quarters. From John Russell Young, then managing editor of the Tribune, came a hearty line of commendation and unstinted praise. He said:
I want, as one citizen of this free and enlightened country, to thank you for your services in the canvass. In summing up the agencies of a great and glorious triumph I know of no one that has been more effective and more brilliant. I salute you on the threshold of a splendid career.
But it remained for Grant himself to pay the final word of tribute. "Two things elected me," he said: "the sword of Sheridan and the pencil of Thomas Nast."
From Th. Nast: His Period and His Pictures, by Albert Bigelow Paine. Originally published by Macmillan & Company in 1904.