The Old Print Shop

The Ignorant Vote - Honors are Easy.

  • ARTIST: Thomas Nast

  • PUBLISHER: Published by Harper's Weekly. December 9, 1876.

  • MEDIUM: Wood engraving,

    DATE: 1876.

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 10 7/8 x 9 1/4" (27.6 x 23.4 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: It is clear in this cartoon that Thomas Nast has grown frustrated with political nonsense. He was generally very sympathetic towards the struggling black community, a view shared by many Republicans at the time, but in this cartoon Nast has depicted them in a derogatory manner. Barefoot and wearing an absentminded grin, he is deemed unfit of an educated vote, just like the Roman Catholic Irish immigrant across from him. The two sit on a scale, the black man on the 'black' scale of the south and the Irishman on the 'white' scale of the north, neither heavier nor lighter (better nor worse) than the other. Historically, blacks voted Republican and the Irish voted Democrat. So in this manner, Nast speaks negatively of both factions and parties during the election and the ensuing mayhem. <br><br> In 1876 the people of America traveled to the polls to elect a new president. The Democrats had put up Samuel Tilden and the Republicans Rutherford Hayes. It proved to be one of the most contested elections in American history. Immense violence and electoral fraud rocked the polls, forcing Congress to get involved. It took months to recount the ballets, in which time new laws were passed to prevent a similar crisis from ever occurring again. So when this cartoon was published, in December of 1876, the issue had yet to be resolved. <br><br> At the time hatred towards the Irish was common, and Nast pulls on a very stereotypical depiction of them in this engraving. Many of the issues lied in their religion - most were Roman Catholic, which was disliked in the country. Nast himself produced many anti-Roman Catholic images in his lifetime, some of which show the religion trying to take over and corrupt young school children. It was a fear drawn from the fact that many parochial schools in those days were Catholic. The Irish preferred using them over public schools because it allowed them to protect their religion and culture. Many (protestant) Americans felt this prevented the immigrants from assimilating. Another words, they felt the Irish weren't American at all. <br><br> Blacks, in 1876, had only recently been emancipated. As slaves they were not allowed an education, so it wasn't until after the Civil War (1861-1865) that they were able to attend school. This might have played a factor in Nast's depiction of them. On top of this, violence and fraud claims had come from both blacks and whites during the election. In some areas the polls had been a bloodbath. Another note that should be made was the overall frustration growing in the North. Many brave men and died during the Civil War to free the black community, but their situation and treatment had hardly changed - slavery had only been replaced with violence and hatred. <br><br> With a title like "The Ignorant Vote - Honors are Easy" Nast is likely telling his viewers that neither party truly deserve distinction because both had constituents who had darkened the polls.


  • CONDITION: Good condition, save a stain in the lower right margin corner.