The Old Print Shop

"There is Nothing Mean About Us." : Uncle Sam. "What Congress Proposes to Reduce our Army and Navy to!"

  • ARTIST: Thomas Nast

  • PUBLISHER: Published by Harper's Weekly. May 30, 1874.

  • MEDIUM: Wood engraving,

    DATE: 1874.

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 10 x 9" (27 x 22.9 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: Uncle Sam and Columbia, the personifications of America, look upon the skeletons in the doorway. One wears the belt of "U.S. Navy" and the other "U.S. Army." On the table are papers reading "Retrenchment in the U.S. Army and Navy Skeleton Regiments," "Retrenchment in the Post Office. It does not pay to make it a convenience to the people," "Are we getting too mean to exist?" and "Does it PAY to run a republic? Does it pay to have a flag?" Uncle Sam has removed his hat in respect of the armed forces and Columbia appears quite vexed as she stitches together an American flag. In the background is the dome of the Capitol building.<br><br> The Reconstruction Era followed on the heels of the American Civil War. The policies implanted during the time frame were, in part, meant to help rebuild the South and ensure the rights of the black community. To do so the armed forces were dispatched in problematic states, an act that irritated Southerners. At the time, the South was heavily Democratic and as their politicians gained momentum in the federal government they fought to defund the military. They would also work to make it illegal for the military to be used to enforce civil laws, and would accomplish this feat through the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. <br><br> In this cartoon the artist, Thomas Nast, seems to remark that defunding the military was a terrible idea. Stripping them of money would lead to decay - it would make the armed forces useless and leave the country vulnerable. He wasn't entirely wrong. The Compromise of 1877 would whisk federal troops from the South and in their wake white supremacists would reclaim local and state positions and create what we know today as the Jim Crow Laws.


  • CONDITION: Good condition.