The Liberal Republican Movement

 “The ‘Liberal’ Conspirators (Who, You All Know, Are Honorable Men)”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   March 16, 1872, p. 208

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In September 1870, Republican liberals in Missouri had been the first to establish a separate Liberal Republican Party.  Foreshadowing the national strategy in 1872, they formed an alliance with the state’s Democrats to overthrow the regular Republicans.  On January 24, 1872, a summons to attend a national nominating convention in Cincinnati was issued by the Missouri Liberal Republicans led by U.S. Senator Carl Schurz.

While waiting for the Cincinnati movement to come into clearer focus, Nast produced “The ‘Liberal’ Conspirators (Who, You All Know, Are Honorable Men).”  The cartoonist quotes from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and it can hardly be an accident that this caricature was published in the March 16 issue, one day after the Ides of March on which Julius Caesar was killed.  In the cartoon, the liberals plot against the political life of President Grant (as Caesar) and are considering the inclusion of Greeley (as Cicero), who wanders past the White House, absorbed in his Tribune and with a paper labeled “What I Know About Bolting” in the pocket of his long, white coat (toga).  Cicero, who does not appear in the play, was a Roman senator, orator, and enemy of Julius Caesar.  In the context of the drama, Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri (as Brutus) listens to conspirators Senator Reuben Fenton of New York (as Metellus Cimber), an early Greeley ally.  The two senators on the right are Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and Thomas Tipton of Nebraska, while Senator John Logan of Illinois stands between the shoulders of Fenton and Trumbull.

Not long after this cartoon appeared, Greeley joined other New York liberals in signing a letter of support for the platform proposed by the Missourians, although the editor, a trade protectionist, dissociated himself from the plank endorsing lower tariffs.  After Greeley had placed himself clearly with the Cincinnati movement, with prospects for either the vice-presidential or presidential nomination, Nast kept up a steady barrage that extended until after Grant’s landslide victory in November. 



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