“What I Know About Horace Greeley”

January 20, 1872

Thomas Nast

“What I Know About Horace Greeley”

Civil Service Reform/Patronage; Civil War, Remembrance; Presidential Administration, Ulysses S. Grant; Presidential Election 1872; Tammany Hall, Tweed Ring;

Davis, Jefferson; Grant, Ulysses S.; Greeley, Horace;

No 'Places' indexed for this cartoon.

No caption

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast criticizes Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, for providing bail to former Confederate president Jefferson Davis and for unjustly slinging mud at President Ulysses S. Grant. The cartoon’s caption is a humorous adaptation of the title to Greeley’s book, What I Know About Farming.

Greeley was a leader of the Liberal Republican movement of the early 1870s, which emerged to challenge the leadership of Republican president Grant. The Liberals backed civil service reform, berated the Grant administration’s corruption and expansionist foreign policy, and wanted to end what they saw as the failed Reconstruction policy for the South.

In the cartoon, Greeley “The Traitor” (left panel) bows humbly to Jefferson Davis, as the editor pays the former Confederate president’s bail in a Richmond courtroom. The image forcibly reminds readers of Greeley’s controversial action in May 1867 to secure a bond for Davis’s release from federal custody. Meanwhile, Greeley “The Patriot” (right panel) prepares to sling “Tammany Mud” at President Grant who sits on the White House porch, imperturbably puffing his cigar and following the progress of “Civil Service Reform.” The artist, to whom Grant was a hero, believed that Greeley and the Tribune had been too soft on the Republican faction cooperating with the notorious Tweed Ring of Tammany Hall, which stole millions from the public treasury of New York City.

A few months after this cartoon appeared, Greeley became the surprise presidential nominee of a coalition of Liberal Republicans and Democrats, but lost to Grant in the general election in November.

Robert C. Kennedy

“What I Know About Horace Greeley”
June 17, 2024

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