“The Late (Democratic) Cold Snap”

January 19, 1884

Charles G. Bush

“The Late (Democratic) Cold Snap”

Congress; U.S. Economic Policy, Trade/Tariffs;

No 'People' indexed for this cartoon.

No 'Places' indexed for this cartoon.

First Democratic Statesman. "It's yer infernal free-trade stove, Bill; there ain't no heat into it."

Second Democratic Statesman. "What yer givin' us? didn't I tell yer that protecshun pipe wus N.G. It can't draw."

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon by C. G. Bush points out the politically negative effect of the division within the Democratic party on the important issue of trade policy.

Debate over tariffs had existed since the early days of the republic, but reached a peak in the late-nineteenth century as America became increasingly industrialized. Both parties were split on the question, but in the 1880s, the Republicans began to emerge as the party of protectionism, and Democrats more clearly identified with free trade or low tariff rates.

In 1883, the Republican administration of President Chester Arthur negotiated a reciprocal trade agreement with Mexico. Democratic speaker of the House, John Carlisle of Kentucky, a leading voice for low tariffs, led opposition to the treaty in the Democratically-controlled House. Publicly, Carlisle urged general, rather than piecemeal, tariff reform, while hoping privately to prevent Republicans from gaining credit on the issue. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the treaty on March 11, 1884, but party alignments still somewhat blurred. The act was undermined, however, by an amendment giving the House the authority to pass legislation to implement the treaty, which it failed to do.

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon appeared during the congressional debate over the reciprocal trade treaty. It expresses the ambivalent nature of the Democratic party which still existed in early 1884 over the tariff question. One Democrat blames the “Free Trade Stove” for the party’s lack of heat, while the other Democrats criticizes the “Protection Pipe” as the source of the problem. The divided state of the party leaves them out in the cold during the election year of 1884.

Louisville Journal-Courier editor Henry Watterson tried to get the Democratic party to commit to tariff reform in its 1884 party platform, but was unsuccessful. It was not until President Grover Cleveland’s 1887 message to Congress calling for tariff reform that the Democratic party was firmly linked with low tariffs.

Robert C. Kennedy

“The Late (Democratic) Cold Snap”
December 9, 2022

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