The Democratic National Convention

 “The New Organ”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   June 8, 1872, p. 448

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
“The New Organ” is a provocative full-page cartoon in which Nast presents the recently nominated Horace Greeley as dupe of the Liberal Republicans, especially of the candidate’s campaign manager, Whitelaw Reid.  On May 15, Greeley had transferred editorial control of his newspaper to Reid for the duration of the campaign and unconvincingly announced that the Tribune would cease to be a party organ.  The prospect of an organ that was alleged not to be an organ was irresistible fodder for Nast.  It lent itself directly to this cartoon of acting editor Reid as a hand-organ operator using Greeley as his trained monkey while they troll for votes in front of Democratic Head-Quarters.  Vice-presidential nominee Gratz Brown is a tag on the monkey-Greeley’s tail.  The organ’s repertoire consists of “The Bonny Blue Flag,” a Confederate war song (adapted from the Texas War for Independence), and “Erin Go Brach,” an Irish song of rebellion against the British.

A caption underneath quotes Greeley’s New York Tribune from February 1871:  “The brain, the heart, the soul, of the present Democratic Party is the rebel element in the South, with its Northern allies and sympathizers.  It is rebel to the core to-day.”  Nast’s inclusion of the quote was a powerful shot across the bow of the whole anti-Grant movement and was intended to alienate Democrats who were preparing to adopt the Liberal Republican nominee at their national convention in Baltimore on July 9-10, 1872.  It was also meant to underscore allegations that those Democrats would be in control of the odd political coalition.

The attitudes of the assembled Democrats range from indifference to perplexity to concern. The phrase “New Departure” (in the caption) was in wide use by “progressive” Democrats anxious to move beyond the sectional animosities of the Civil War. The trio immediately in front of the Greeley monkey are (left-right):  August Belmont, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Horatio Seymour and Frank Blair, the 1868 Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees, respectively.  On the porch are past and present New York City powerbrokers (left-right):  businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt, Congressman James Brooks, lawyer David Dudley Field, Judge George Barnard, Police Commission President Hank Smith, State Senator Tom Fields, Congressman Robert Roosevelt (uncle of Theodore Roosevelt), Peter Sweeny of the former Tweed Ring, New York Governor John Hoffman, ex-Tammany Boss William Tweed, Richard Connolly of the former Tweed Ring, Mayor Oakey Hall, New York Daily News editor Benjamin Wood, and his brother, Congressman Fernando Wood.  To the right of the porch stands Police Superintendent James Kelso. 

At the top, in the left window are (left-right): ex-President Andrew Johnson, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and former Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes. In the front row of the right window are (left-right): editor Manton Marble of the New York World; George Pendleton, the 1864 Democratic vice-presidential nominee; and Thomas Hendricks, Democratic nominee for governor of Indiana. Barely visible behind Hendricks are the pope’s miter and the bishop’s hat of John McCloskey of New York. The figure behind Marble may be Senator James Doolittle of Wisconsin.

The press reaction to the cartoon was immediate.  On the date of publication (May 29) The New York Times carried a long editorial entitled “The Pictorial Canvass,” which began by asserting that Greeley—“The Tammany Pet”—was currently “obliged to spend his time in photographers’ rooms” presumably to enhance his image.  In describing one recently taken photograph, The Times observed that Reid, characterized as Senator Fenton’s “wire-puller and convention runner,” “is standing over him [Greeley] as if proud of having ousted him from the editorial chair of the Tribune and led him into the most ruinous mistake of his life.”  Continuing, The Times bestowed high praise on Nast’s cartoon:  “The collection of portraits is admirable and … combined with the humor and keen satire of the picture render it one of the most effective drawings Nast has ever produced.  It will be remembered long after H. G. has repented in humiliation and bitterness …”

The Tribune responded with a satire entitled “Tom,” written by John Hay, President Lincoln’s former secretary who was then employed as editorial writer for the Tribune.  The piece described an artist who was unable to make a living at his art, so forsook it for the lure of easy money.  The story’s clear implication was that Thomas Nast had “sold out” to the Harper’s firm.



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