n one of his most amazing designs, “Clasping Hands Over the Bloodless (Sar)c(h)asm”
(dated November 23, published November 13), Nast ventured a spectacular,
grotesque overview of the 1872 presidential election. In it, President Ulysses
S. Grant, triumphantly returned to office for a second term, politely “clasps
hands” with Uncle Sam. Note Uncle Sam’s deep bow of respect and perhaps relief,
as opposed to Grant’s more restrained gesture. Tranquility has returned to the
scene (above ground), with the republic safe for at least four more years.
Below Grant and Uncle Sam, the chasm closes to doom Greeley’s misbegotten
coalition to an eternity of torment. Greeley hangs at the zenith of this
underworld, caught by the usual Gratz Brown tag on the tail of his coat. His
pockets disgorge literature as before: “What I Know about Running for
President,” “What I Know about Oblivion,” and “What I Know about Chasm.”
Immediately below the failed candidate, Whitelaw Reid sprawls as if suffering
from a hangover. His hand organ that “Is Not an Organ” carries his unfortunate
editorial prediction of six weeks earlier: “We Are on the Home Stretch.”
As in earlier instances, it is reasonable to surmise that Nast’s “Bloodless (Sar)c(h)asm”
was well under way before the election of November 5. The cartoonist’s
principal impulse may have come from a pair of apocalyptic designs by his
Greeleyite rival, Matt Morgan of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.
In the Leslie’s issue post-dated November 2, a sweeping Morgan
double-page cartoon shows the nation menaced by a dark horde of
Republican villains. Columbia is holding the tatters of an American flag as she
indicates to a group of departed national leaders (including Washington and
Lincoln) the corrupt danger rising from the lower depths.
A second tortured image by Morgan on the cover of the following issue
portrays “The Republic on the Brink.” Miss Columbia stands
disconsolate and barefoot at the edge of another yawning chasm. A cigar-puffing
“King Grant,” apparently intoxicated, commands his Republican accomplices
(left-right), Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York, Senator Oliver Morton of
Indiana, Vice President Schuyler Colfax, and Senator Simon Cameron of
Pennsylvania, to “Push her off, boys. I’ll kick this thing over. We must have
things our way.” Nast would simply turn this notion around, point it in the
opposite direction, and elaborate it considerably.