"The Baby That Won't Talk at Present"

February 15, 1868

artist unknown

"The Baby That Won

Children, Symbolic; Presidential Administration, Andrew Johnson; Presidential Election 1868; Reconstruction; U.S. Economic Policy, Money Question;

Grant, Ulysses S. Grant; Johnson, Andrew; Seward, William Henry;

No 'Places' indexed for this cartoon.

Nurse W__e. - "Bless your souls, ladies, the child won't talk for several months yet."

Dame A. J. - "Say 'My Policy!' that's a little dear."

Mother W. H. S__d. - "Yes, Baby: say 'My--my--My Policy! that's a nice little darling."

Lady Ben W__e. - "Now, my Precious, put down that 'ittle horse one minute, and say 'Con-gress.'"

Granny Henry W__n - "Yes, my Pet, say 'Re-con-struc-tion.'"

Madame A. T. S__t.- "Here's a penny for Baby: say 'Greenbacks,' darling--'Green-backs!'"

In this unsigned Harper's Weekly cartoon, Republican and Democratic "matrons" dote over the "baby," General Ulysses S. Grant, enticing him to talk about the public issues of the day, particularly Reconstruction and monetary policy.  As commanding general of the U.S. army, Grant was a central figure in Reconstruction due to the role federal troops played in enforcing Congressional policy.  In August 1867, President Andrew Johnson appointed him acting secretary of war after suspending Edwin Stanton.  In January 1868, Congress reinstated Stanton, while Grant resumed his previous position.

Grant's opinions were solicited not merely because of the influence he might have on federal policy, but because both parties were hoping to convince him to run for president.  Leading Democrats, such as party chair August Belmont, wanted Grant to be their standard-bearer in 1868.  Although the general had been a nominal Democrat, Republicans viewed him as a popular war-hero and someone who rose above partisan interests in both war and peace to battle for the common good.  He was privately known to disagree with President Johnson, a Democrat, over Reconstruction and to support the agenda of moderate Republicans.

In this cartoon, those urging Grant to speak are (left to right): businessman A. T. Stewart; Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, Republican chair of the Senate Military Affairs Committee; former Virginia governor Henry Wise, holding Grant; Congressman Benjamin Wade, president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, a possible Republican presidential candidate or president (should Johnson be impeached and removed); Secretary of State William Seward, a key backer of Johnson's Reconstruction policy; and President Andrew Johnson, vainly hoping for a second term.  

After this cartoon appeared, it was soon evident that Grant supported Congressional Reconstruction against Johnson's more lenient policy.  In May 1868, Republicans nominated Grant for president, and the Senate narrowly defeated the effort to remove Johnson from office after his impeachment.  In November, Grant won the first of two presidential terms.

Robert C. Kennedy

"The Baby That Won
November 28, 2023

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