Thomas Nast

Artist's Biography

"This Would, Indeed, Be a Backwards Steep!" [and] "Does this Mean the Indorsement of the President?"

Engraving, 1885.
Image size 11 x 9 1/8" (27.9 x 23.2 cm).
Good condition, save a small repaired tear in the right margin of the first cartoon.
LOCATION: New York City

Inventory Number: 91398
Price: $75.00
Publisher : Published by Harper's Weekly. October 31 and November 14, 1885
These cartoons by Thomas Nast draws question to President Grover Cleveland's support of David B. Hill, the new Governor of New York. In the distance is Hill, surrounded by a cheering crowd, sitting beneath the banner of 'Spoils' in the first cartoon and "To the Victor Belong the Spoils" in the second. Both refer to the spoils system, in which a president could give federal jobs to his supporters in exchange for money and support. The system was outlawed in 1883 with the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, but it only affected certain areas. Nast felt Cleveland's support of Hill went against the reform act since Cleveland had previously been the Governor of New York with Hill acting as his Lieutenant Governor. Hill had been promoted to the position of Governor when Cleveland resigned because of his presidential victory> He proceeded to win the gubernatorial election held on November 3 that same year.

In the first cartoon (published on October 31st) two men are trying to toss Columbia, the embodiment of America, off the platform. She motions towards Cleveland and the sign above his head, desperate to have them stopped. The sign reads, 'I believe in Civil Reform. Of course there should be no surrender of principle nor Backward Step, and all law for the enforcement of the reform should be rigidly executed." This refers to Cleveland's platform of political reform and ending political corruption during his presidential campaign. In the background are signs reading 'We are the RULERS,' referring to rise of the Democratic party for the first time since the outbreak of the Civil War; 'We are HUNGRY' above the caged, emaciated Democratic Tiger; 'The people are mere lookers on'; and 'Tammany & Irving Halls : Double Rings' referring to political corruption in the Democratic party.

In the second cartoon (published November 14th) Columbia has been felled, but is not about to give up. She reaches for her sword 'reform,' and readies herself should action be necessary. In the distance one of the signs has been replaced with 'Now we will raise Hill to the White House' and the cage keeping the hungry tiger at bay is being opened. On the platform a man waves a flag reading, 'Now let the Tiger loose.' The banner above Cleveland's head now contains a portion of a speech he made on November 5th that year, 'No Change. : I can not rid myself of the idea that this civil service reform is something intended to do practical good, and not a mere sentiment invented for the purpose of affording opportunity to ventilate high-sounding notions and fine phrases. My plan of give it the greatest possible usefulness involves the removal of stumbling-blocks from the way of good, honest men, who are inclined to its support, and demonstrate in every public manner its value as adapted to the every-day affairs of the government.'

Sold as a pair.
18th-19th Century Subjects , Caricatures and Satirical , Political