The Liberal Republican Movement

 “Children Cry for It”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   February 3, 1872, p. 109

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Nast was undeterred by Harper’s Weekly editor George William Curtis’s plea for prudence, and moved directly to challenge cartoonist Matt Morgan’s depiction in Leslie’s Illustrated of Grant as the reluctant reformer.  In “Children Cry for It” (dated February 3, 1872; published January 23), the president remarks, “If you can stand it I can,” as he feeds a steaming bowl of “Civil Service Reform” gruel to a group of unreceptive Republican liberals.  The lower caption is excerpted from Grant’s annual message to Congress of the previous December, in which he endorsed civil service reform.

Behind the steaming bowl of “Civil Service Reform” stand the perplexed duo of Greeley (right) and George Wilkes (left), editor of Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times.  In line for the gruel are (left-right): Senator Carl Schurz, Senator Charles Sumner, Senator Lyman Trumbull, and Senator Reuben Fenton.  Behind Sumner’s shoulder is Congressman Nathaniel Banks; partially obscured behind the heads of Trumbull and Fenton is Senator John Logan; and behind Banks, wearing glasses, is Congressman James Brooks. The picture on the left wall recalls Grant’s Civil War service as Union military commander.

Editor Curtis again complained privately to Nast about his pictorial attack on the anti-Grant liberals.  Nevertheless, the artist’s assault not only continued, but intensified. Curtis was not alone in his negative assessment.  Throughout the year a great deal of ink was devoted to criticizing the work of the nation’s two major political cartoonists, Nast and Matt Morgan. Their special discipline of caricature—the portraiture of distortion as a vehicle for personal attack—struck many editors as particularly wanton.  As early as May 12, the Boston Gazette warned readers about the excesses of “Caricature In The Canvass,” and how it was throwing all caution and restraint to the wind:  “The Presidential campaign of 1872 is likely to be memorable for the pictorial features of its warfare … There is an outrage upon propriety … which it is the duty of journalism to rebuke in no uncertain tone.”  As the campaign wore on, the Brooklyn Eagle, the Washington Daily Patriot, the Chicago Inter-Ocean, Atlantic Monthly, and other periodicals joined in the condemnation.



Website design © 2001-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to