The Liberal Republican Movement

 “The Cincinnati Convention in a Pickwickian Sense”
  Source:  Harper’s Weekly
  Date:   April 13, 1872, p. 284

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In early April 1872, Nast presented a careful and prescient parody of illustrator Robert Seymour’s celebrated initial plate to Charles Dickens’ landmark novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.  Better known as The Pickwick Papers, it was initially published in monthly installments from March 1836 through October 1837.  The tale begins as Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esq., “mounted into the Windsor Chair on which he had previously been seated, and addressed the club himself had founded.”  In Nast’s cartoon, Greeley is in the title role of Pickwick, and in place of the individuals represented in Seymour’s steel plate etching, Nast’s Greeley-Pickwick is surrounded by a mixed and presumably ill-matched group of Republican liberals, mavericks, and Democrats, each with his own agenda.

Nast’s “Pickwick Club” members are (clockwise from Greeley’s left):  Senator Frank Blair, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1868; Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri, chairman of the upcoming Liberal Republican Convention; Governor B. Gratz Brown of Missouri (of whom the cartoonist obviously had no portrait by which to draw his likeness); Jefferson Davis, the ex-Confederate president; Horatio Seymour, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1868; Andrew Johnson, the former U.S. president; Fernando Wood, Democratic congressman and former mayor of New York City; Senator Thomas Tipton of Nebraska; Supreme Court Justice David Davis, nominated for president in February by the Labor Reform Party, and understood to be available for both the Liberal Republican and Democratic nominations; George Francis Train, eccentric author, lecturer, and quasi-politician; as well as Senator Reuben Fenton of New York and Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, both Republican liberals.  Notice that in contrast to the others, the temperance-minded Greeley has a glass of water to drink.

“The Cincinnati Convention, In a Pickwickian Sense,” bears the caption:  “Horace Pickwick.  ‘Men and Brethren!  A new leaf must be turned over, or there are breakers ahead.  The Cincinnati Convention may prove a fiasco, or it may name the next President.’”  This line is taken verbatim from Greeley’s Tribune editorial of January 29, 1872.  The placards on the walls range from “The Millennium Has Come” to “After This—Peace” (on the drapery valence), a reference to Greeley’s appeal for universal amnesty of former Confederates.  The hypocrisy of the Liberal Republican Convention is emphasized by juxtaposing signs proclaiming liberal high-mindedness—“The Liberal Infallibles” (an allusion to the recent decree of papal infallibility)—with signs promoting political expediency—“Anything to Beat Grant”; and by signs pointing out the contradictory nature of the convention-goers:  free-traders and protectionists, Democratic Republicans and Republican Democrats. 



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