Thomas Nast

Artist's Biography

Our Modern Canute at Long Branch.

Wood engraving, 1873.
Image size 13 1/2 x 20 1/2" (34.2 x 52.1 cm).
Good condition, backed with Japan paper.
LOCATION: New York City

Inventory Number: 91643
Price: $125.00
Publisher : Published by Harper's Weekly. October 11, 1873.
Additional text reads "U.S.G. 'I can no more proclaim myself Caesar than I can compel the Atlantic Ocean to recede, and you know it."

President Ulysses S. Grant had just started his second term, but was already considering a third. The concept was still legal at the time, but sparked outraged among a portion of the population. Some publications likened him to the ancient ruler Caesar, who had held ultimate power over the Roman empire. In essence they were saying Grant would destroy the American democracy. Others, including the artist, Thomas Nast, felt this was a foolish claim. A third term in office did not make someone a totalitarian ruler. It simply meant he was voted in, by the people, to serve 12 years instead of 8.

In this cartoon Nast makes this clear by depicting Grant, as a lion in the presidential seat, sitting on the beach as the tide rises. He cannot control the waters. No matter how he may holler at it, it will rise and fall by its own will alone. By the same means he cannot control the votes of the people. A third presidential run didn't guarantee victory. Surrounding him are the animals of the news. The closest is a jackass holding the paper "Caesaris. The N.Y. Sacrecrow" behind his back. This might be a caricature of James Bennett Jr., editor of the New York Herald. Nast has portrayed Bennett with the reference of a Caesar scarecrow in other cartoons.
18th-19th Century Subjects , Caricatures and Satirical , Political