The Old Print Shop

The Plank - Hitting the Nail on the Head.

  • ARTIST: Thomas Nast

  • PUBLISHER: Published by Harper's Weekly. October 23, 1875.

  • MEDIUM: Wood engraving,

    DATE: 1875.

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 20 1/8 x 13 1/2" (51.1 x 34.3 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: In the upper left is "Church and Sate. A speech by the President of the United States to the Army of the Tennessee." And excerpt from the speech reads, "In a republic like ours, where the citizen is the sovereign and the official the servant, where no power is exercised except by the will of the people, it is important that the sovereign, the people, should foster intelligence - that intelligence which is to preserve us as a free nation. If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be the Mason and Dixon's, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.... Let us all labor to aid all needful guarantees for the security of free thought, free speech, a free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion. Encourage free schools, and resolve that not one dollar appropriated for their support shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian schools. Resolve that neither the State nor the nation, nor both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford to every child growing up in the land of opportunity of a good common-school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistical dogmas. Leave the matter of religion to the family alter, the church, and the private school supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separate." <br><br> President Grant hammers a nail into the plank labeled "the Public School System must and shall be preserved," which is part of the "Centennial National Platform." Caught between the boards is the Catholic serpent. It wears three crows, each of which holds a different notation - "Church," "State," and "School." Supporters of the church can be seen to the left, displeased by Grant's actions. Columbia, the personification of America, ushers a group of children into the "U.S. Public School." Several children cheer from within the building. In the background is the United States Capitol building. <br><br> At this point in history the Catholic Church was running many of the schools in America. It was a problem that seemed to be worsening. Catholicism was not well liked in America and for one very significant reason - the church preached ideals that went against the very foundation of the country. At the time of publication Pope Pius IX was running the Catholic church. There is a two column article printed on the back discussing him and the threat he presented on America through the teachings of his disciples. In short, the Pope had created a highly censored atmosphere in Rome, where anti-semitic values were common fare. These went against the very constitution that ruled America, as presented by the planks of "free thought," "free speech," and "a free press." What's more, infamous political machines such as Tammany Hall were being driven by Catholic politicians. Tammany Hall, of course, is remembered for producing corrupt figures like William (Boss) Tweed, who embezzled millions in tax money and used bribery and intimidation tactics to meet his agendas.<br><br> Today the direct funding of religious schools is deemed unconstitutional under the first amendment (Separation of Church and State), but the state does provide funding in an indirect fashion - such as secular textbooks and school buses.


  • CONDITION: Good condition.