The Democratic National Convention

 “American Battle of Dorking; Or, H. G. at the White House”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   June 29, 1872, pp. 517-518

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
One of the most ambitious ventures of the opening phase of Nast’s anti-Greeley campaign was the “American Battle of Dorking; Or H. G. at the White House,” with 13 small cuts by Nast illustrating an early comic essay by 25-year-old Max Adeler (pen name of American humorist Charles Heber Clark).  Ostensibly written from a vantage point in the future, and relating the defeat and downfall of the United States after the election of President Horace Greeley, it took up slightly over a page in the June 29, 1872 issue of Harper’s Weekly

It was inspired by an earlier celebrated fictional account, “The Battle of Dorking,” which was serialized anonymously in Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh, Scotland, 1871) and subsequently expanded and published in a number of variant editions credited to George Tomkyns Chesney.  Supposedly looking back from the 1920s, Chesney purported to describe the successful invasion of an unprepared Britain by a united Germany after its victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).

In the American version, the fault of the American loss of independence is placed on Greeley’s elevation to the presidency.  In the top-left drawing, a one-legged and one-eyed Uncle Sam tells a group of children the story of “the destruction of the once great American Union and the capture of the country by its present European rulers.”  Behind them, a German officer (probably Carl Schurz), armed with a huge sword, marches past a saluting French officer.  The first column showcases the presidential cabinet of “Horrors Greedey” (clockwise from upper-left):  ex-Confederate President Jefferson Davis as secretary of war; Senator Reuben Fenton of New York as secretary of state; New York City Police Commission President Hank Smith, indicted in two financial scandals, as secretary of the Treasury; Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, the shipping magnate, as secretary of the navy; David Dudley Field, attorney for Boss Tweed and the Erie Ring, as attorney general; and American News Company president Sinclair Tousey as postmaster general.

In the story, Greeley is represented as having been honest, but “also vain and weak, and he entertained certain fanatical and preposterous notions…”  One of which was “to force the entire population of the sea-board States westward at the point of the bayonet” (satirizing Greeley’s famous advice, “Go West, young man!”).  The European invasion of the U.S. was provoked inadvertently by the new president’s bad handwriting and impetuous statements.  Uncle Sam rues the day he “voted for the bucolic old editor!”



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