Thomas Nast

Artist's Biography

What H------ G---- Knows About Bailing.

Wood engraving, 1872.
Image size 13 3/4 x 9 1/8" (34.8 x 23.1 cm).
Good condition.
LOCATION: New York City

Inventory Number: 59887
Price: $65.00
Publisher : Published in Harper's Weekly. April 27, 1872.
This political cartoon by Thomas Nast depicts the Democratic nominee, Horace Greeley, crashing his boat, "Democrat," upon the rocks of "Tammany Ring : Corruption," "Slavery," "K.K.K.," and "War Issues." These were all known problems within the party at the time. Greeley wasn't personally affiliated with the Democrats, however. He was a favorite in the Liberal Republican party, a group that had branched off the Radical Republican party that dominated politics after the Civil War. It's founder, Carl Schurz, can be seen clinging to the mast on the right. The Democrats and Liberal Republicans joined forces during the 1872 election in hopes of beating the Radical Republican incumbent Ulysses S. Grant. Their attempts would prove futile. Grant won the election with ease in November.

In this cartoon Greeley is portrayed calmly bailing his boat out, unaware that it is too far gone to save. His bucket reads "Cincinnati Convention," the only Liberal Republican convention ever held. It wouldn't take place until May, so the artist is likely using it to symbolize Greeley's hopes for a presidential nod. In his pockets are papers reading "NY Tribune," which he was the editor of, "The Power," "What I know about Navigation," and "What I know about Bailing Jefferson Davis." Thomas Nast used these 'What I know about...' references in a series of anti-Greeley cartoons. They played off a book Greeley published in 1871 entitled "What I know about Farming." Unfortunately the book had been based on childhood memories rather than actual practice, and Nast used this against the presidential hopeful to show the public just how little he knew. References like Jefferson Davis came from other historical events. Following the end of the Civil War, Greeley felt the South deserved to be treated fairly. He insisted that Jefferson Davis should be tried for his crimes or released. When no trial was made, Greeley assisted in posting bail for the traitorous Confederate president. It was an action that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Behind Greeley is the lifeboat "Liberal," leaving the sinking "Democrat" without him. Their gaze is on the bright, sunlit city in the distance - Philadelphia, where the Radical Republican convention would be held in June. It was a sign that the Liberal party was falling apart. Other details include Boss Tweed and his cohorts washed up on the rock of "Tammany Ring : Corruption," a stark reminder of how tainted the Democratic party was. Boss Tweed had only been ousted the year before.
18th-19th Century Subjects , Caricatures and Satirical , Political