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1868 Cartoon, “Republican Platform, or the Political Mountebank,” Criticizing Grant’s Monetary Policy
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This Democratic political cartoon features Ulysses S. Grant balancing on a thin rail supported by Horace Greeley on one end and an African-American man on the other. He holds a balancing rod, labeled “U.S. Treasury” that dispenses gold nuggets from one end to wealthy bondholders and paper currency from the other to a disabled veteran, a sailor, and a widow and orphan.

[ULYSSES S. GRANT]. Printed Broadside, “Republican Platform, or the Political Mountebank,” [1868]. New York: John McDermott. 1 p., 21¼ x 14 in.

Inventory #23618       Price: $2,600

This lithographic political cartoon characterizes Ulysses S. Grant as a “political mountebank” or deceiver, who will pay wealthy bondholders with gold specie but will care little for the veterans and their dependants who will suffer from his policies. Grant says, “Let us have Peace,” while Horace Greeley, the editor of the New-York Tribune, says “We must not let this Election go by default, so hurry up you Stump speakers.” The African-American holding the other end of the rail says, “You is got to carry dis Chile on dat Platform, Massa Grant, too.

The disabled soldier asks, “Is this what I fought for.-Gold for Bondholders, Greenbacks for Pensioners?”; the sailor asks, “Shiver my Timbers, aint I as good’s the Bondholder?”; and the war widow exclaims, “Oh my poor Husband, is this fair, you dying for your Country.” The investors on the other end encourage Grant, “Go in Grant, I’ll vote for you.” “my Bonds cost me Thirty cents on the Dollar, I go for you.” and “Fight it out on that line Old Boy.” A prominent leader of the investors says, “Good Mr. Grant I take your Gold for my Interest on Bonds but I no vote for you.

Historical Background

This cartoon is critical of the Republican Party’s monetary policy. Some Democrats favored the “Ohio idea” supported by poor Midwesterners to allow for the redemption of war bonds in paper currency rather than gold to keep more money in circulation and interest rates lower. Wealthier Easterners favored the redemption of war bonds in gold, even though many bonds had been purchased with depreciated “greenbacks.” The Republican platform opposed the redemption of war bonds with currency.

Grant defeated Democratic candidate Horatio Seymour with 53 percent of the popular vote but with a commanding 214-to-80 margin in the Electoral College, carrying 26 states to Seymour’s 8. Grant attracted as many as 500,000 votes from former slaves and formerly disfranchised free African Americans.

John McDermott (b. c. 1833) was born in Manchester, England, and came to the United States with his parents in 1841. In 1854, he was an engraver for Currier & Ives and oversaw a collection of lithographs illustrating the lives of New York volunteer firemen. In 1868, McDermott was an engraver in New York City with an office at 31 John Street.

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