October 1, 1887

Charles G. Bush


Children, Symbolic; Civil War, Remembrance; Gubernatorial Administration, Joseph Foraker (OH); Presidential Administration, Grover Cleveland; State Elections; Wars, American Civil War;

Cleveland, Grover; Foraker, Joseph B.;


Joseph's mad; he's very mad:

The President won't please him.

Put him in a pudding bag,

And let Ohio squeeze him.

In this cartoon, Governor Joseph B. Foraker of Ohio is a schoolboy throwing a temper tantrum, as President Grover Cleveland stands unperturbed, striking a stoic Napoleonic pose, in the background.  Like many Union veterans, Foraker was angered by the Democratic president's executive order to return captured Confederate battle flags to their home states in the South.  Although Cleveland quickly rescinded the order, the Republican governor seized the issue during his reelection campaign.  Here, Foraker's slate reads:  "Grover Cleveland's a fool Jackass!"

Joseph Benson Foraker was born on a farm near Rainsboro, Ohio, in July 1846.  After turning 16 in July 1862, he left home without permission and joined the Ninth Ohio Infantry, which was part of the Union's Army of the Cumberland.  He saw action in Tennessee, West Virginia, and Georgia, serving on General Henry Slocum's staff during the March to the Sea (November-December 1864).  Still a teenager when the Civil War ended in April 1865, he was mustered out of service as a brevet captain.  

Over the next two years, Foraker studied at Ohio Wesleyan University and read law at a local law office, and then transferred to Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), where he graduated in 1869 as a member of that school's first class.  He returned to Ohio, and by the end of the year had passed the state bar and established a law practice in Cincinnati.  In 1879, he was appointed as one of the city's superior court judges, a position he held until 1883.

During the 1870s, Foraker became active in Republican Party politics, gaining a reputation as an effective stump speaker for Republican candidates.  In 1883, the Republican Party hoped to capitalize on his oratorical ability and popularity in Cincinnati by nominating him for governor, but he lost in the general election to the Democratic nominee, George Hoadly.  However, two years later, Foraker defeated Hoadly in a rematch to become governor.

As governor, Foraker endorsed a liquor tax and voter registration, appointed the state's first health board and food safety commission, and oversaw repeal of Ohio's school segregation laws.  At a time when many Republicans were promoting reconciliation between the North and South, Foraker spoke out forcefully against violations of black voting rights in the South.  Therefore, President Cleveland's approval of the return of the Confederate battle standards provoked Foraker's heated denunciations of the president for capitulating to the South, earning the Ohio governor the nickname "Fire Alarm Joe."

In early 1887, Foraker's announcement that he would not run for reelection prompted speculation that he would be seeking the Republican vice-presidential nomination the next year.  His chances were enhanced on February 12 when he impressed a gathering of Republican Party leaders with an impassioned speech at the annual Lincoln Day dinner in New York City.  His rising star raised concerns among Republican backers of John Sherman that the governor was a potential rival to the Ohio senator for the top spot on the Republican national ticket.  In the early spring, Foraker changed his mind and announced he was a candidate for reelection.  

During the summer of 1887, the Ohio governor gained national attention for his angry statements against President Cleveland's handling of the Confederate battle flags issue.  The two men finally faced each other on September 16 at a ceremony dedicating memorials for the Union dead at the Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) battlefield.  As Foraker led the Fourteenth Ohio Regiment past the presidential reviewing stand, he doffed his hat, and Cleveland returned the gesture, but without bowing as he had to other governors.  At a reception that evening, the press reported that Mrs. Cleveland refused to shake hands with the Forakers.  On November 8, 1887, a few weeks after this cartoon appeared, Foraker won reelection.

During his gubernatorial terms, though, Foraker alienated German-American voters by strictly enforcing a state ban on Sunday liquor sales.  Disputes with the Sherman faction of Ohio Republicans continued to plague him.  Those were the two major factors leading to the failure of Foraker's bid for a third gubernatorial term in 1889.  Three years later, he unsuccessfully challenged Sherman's senatorial seat.  Thereafter, Foraker allied himself with Cincinnati's reform mayor, George "Boss" Cox.  In 1896, Foraker chaired the platform committee at the Republican National Convention, where he enthusiastically nominated Governor William McKinley of Ohio for president.  Later that year, the Ohio legislature elected Foraker to the U.S. Senate.

In the Senate, Foraker supported the Republican Party policy of high protective tariffs and, as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, urged the recognition of the Cuban independence movement.  Following the Spanish-American War of 1898, he orchestrated Senate approval of the annexation of Hawaii and an American presence in Puerto Rico and the Philippines.  In 1899, Congress passed his Foraker Amendment, which sought to prevent American businesses from gaining privileged access to Cuba's economic assets.  The next year, Congress enacted his Foraker Act, which established civilian government in Puerto Rico, although it did not grant residents American citizenship, as Foraker desired.  

Reelected in 1902, Foraker supported construction of the Panama Canal, yet was often at odds with the policies of President Theodore Roosevelt.  He finally broke allegiance to the president when Roosevelt dismissed 167 black soldiers who were charged with fatally shooting two white men during a rampage in Brownsville, Texas.  Foraker insisted that the men were not guilty, and worked to bring them justice.  In retaliation, Roosevelt intensified his promotion of Foraker's Ohio rival for the 1908 Republican presidential nomination, William Howard Taft.  When accusations surfaced in 1908 that Foraker was on the payroll of Standard Oil, he withdrew from his senatorial reelection campaign.  In 1914, he attempted to return to the Senate, but was defeated by future president Warren G. Harding.  Foraker died in Cincinnati in 1917. 

Robert C. Kennedy

May 21, 2024

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