Abraham Lincoln stands as one of the revered presidents in U.S. historical past, however what did Individuals of his time consider him? Judging from political cartoons from the 1860s, when the nation’s bitter Civil War raged, he minimize a far much less heroic determine.
As lithograph publishers, partisan newspapers and illustrated magazines grew within the years earlier than the struggle, so did political cartooning. Editorial artists comparable to Thomas Nast and Louis Maurer wielded nationwide affect with their sharp caricatures and eager capacity to distill complicated political situations right into a single panel. The cartoons had been designed as instruments of partisan persuasion, utilizing humor to foster ridicule, admiration, concern and anger.
Lincoln—tall and gangly in look, with rough-edged frontier roots—was a straightforward determine to caricature. All through his 1860 campaign and tumultuous wartime administration, cartoons poked at Lincoln from throughout the political spectrum. Some artists supported “Trustworthy Abe,” making a advantage of his standing as a Washington outsider and a champion of freedom. However many satirists skewered his antislavery views, his dealing with of the struggle and his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, stoking fears amongst Southern Democrats that his actions would upend their free-labor financial system and race-based social hierarchies. Beneath, Lincoln cartoons from each side:
Lincoln as a D.C. Outsider
Storming the Citadel (Currier & Ives, 1860)
Though Lincoln had beforehand served one time period within the U.S. Congress, his frontier upbringing and picture because the plain-talking “rail splitter” positioned him as an outsider to energy in Washington, D.C., serving to him win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 1860. Cartoonists often used the fence rail, which underscored Lincoln’s rural roots and mimicked his lanky body, as a populist marketing campaign image.
On this pro-Lincoln cartoon revealed throughout the 1860 presidential marketing campaign, “Trustworthy Outdated Abe” wields a rail to defend the White House from his three opponents—a sitting senator, a sitting vice chairman and a former senator—who’re making an attempt to interrupt into it. Artist Louis Maurer dressed the vigilant Lincoln within the military-style cap and cloak worn by the “Huge Awakes,” teams of younger Republican supporters who staged nighttime marches in northern cities.
The Republican Social gathering Going to the Proper Home (Currier & Ives, 1860)
Currier & Ives bought satirical cartoons to audiences throughout the political spectrum, and Maurer additionally brandished Lincoln’s “rail splitter” picture in opposition to him. This drawing depicts Lincoln as a beardless bumpkin sitting atop a picket rail carried into an insane asylum by his influential supporter, New York Tribune writer Horace Greeley.
Though it mischaracterizes Lincoln’s views, the cartoon lampoons the comparatively unknown candidate as a radical whose supporters advocate free love, equal rights for ladies and African Individuals, socialism, the abolition of faith and authorities handouts. “The cartoon precisely displays virulent anti-Republican hostility on the a part of Democrats and Southerners, who criticized Lincoln’s occasion for its alleged affiliation with subversive ‘isms’ that, of their view, threatened to damage the nation,” writes David S. Reynolds in Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Time.
Lincoln and Slavery
An Inheritor to the Throne (Currier & Ives, 1860)
Though he opposed the enlargement of slavery past the states the place it already existed, Lincoln didn’t marketing campaign as an abolitionist—nor did he consider in racial equality. That didn’t cease cartoonists comparable to Maurer who, on this caricature, misrepresents Lincoln’s views and faucets into fears amongst Democrats and Southerners that he would invert the nation’s racial hierarchy.
Within the racist cartoon, Lincoln stands subsequent to a spear-holding Black man who readers of the time would have acknowledged because the sideshow performer billed by circus impresario P.T. Barnum because the “lacking hyperlink” between people and monkeys. (Lincoln stands in entrance of an commercial for the human exhibit who was dubbed “What Is It?”) Tribune writer Greeley touts the Black man because the occasion’s “subsequent candidate for the presidency,” whereas Lincoln says he’ll “show to the world the prevalence of the Coloured over the Anglo Saxon race.”
Lincoln’s Final Warning, (Harper’s Weekly, October 11, 1862)
Because the Civil Battle progressed, Lincoln’s said objectives advanced from strictly preserving the Union to ending slavery within the Confederacy. Weeks after Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, this cartoon by artist Frank Bellew portrays the president as an axe-wielding frontiersman in shirtsleeves chopping down a tree representing slavery. Harper’s, which was usually supportive of Lincoln’s administration, depicts the president as a rugged hero in distinction to the cowering Accomplice soldier clinging to the tree.
Lincoln’s Dealing with of the Civil Battle
One Good Flip Deserves One other (Punch, August 9, 1862)
When the necessity for extra troopers grew and the variety of white volunteers dwindled because the Civil Battle dragged on in the summertime of 1862, Lincoln thought-about lifting the federal ban on African Americans serving within the Union Military. This cartoon, which appeared within the conservative British humor journal Punch, lampoons the president as a huckster providing a musket and cartridge field to a Black man visibly unimpressed with the proposition. Artist John Tenniel underscores Lincoln’s seeming insincerity by drawing a sly look on his face and having him use a fractured dialect. The same model of this sketch was later printed within the Southern Illustrated Information.
Working the ‘Machine’ (Currier & Ives, 1864)
Because the struggle dragged on into 1864, Lincoln confronted a troublesome reelection campaign. Dissatisfaction together with his dealing with of the struggle grew, together with the physique depend and federal debt. Democrats accused Lincoln of illegally increasing government powers, flooding the financial system with newly printed paper forex and infringing on civil liberties by jailing political foes. Anti-Lincoln cartoons more and more mocked the president’s penchant for telling tales and cracking jokes at such a dire time within the nation’s historical past.
This blistering 1864 cartoon assaults Lincoln’s cupboard as corrupt and incompetent. As Treasury Secretary William Fessenden cranks out extra dollars, Secretary of State William Seward orders the arrest of an administration critic and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton celebrates the seize of a single prisoner and gun, Lincoln merely laughs whereas reminding himself of a “capital joke.”
Columbia Calls for Her Youngsters! (1864)
Because the struggle’s loss of life toll continued to climb and a peace motion gained power within the North, Lincoln issued a proclamation in the summertime of 1864 calling for an additional half-million volunteers. This 1864 Joseph E. Baker lithograph, reflecting the mounting grief and anger in regards to the president’s dealing with of the struggle, options an indignant Columbia, the feminine illustration of the USA, rejecting the decision for volunteers and demanding that the president “give me again my 500,000 sons.” A weary, matted Lincoln gives no response apart from a diversionary tactic: “Properly, the actual fact is—by the best way that jogs my memory of a STORY!!!”
Lincoln and Emancipation
Abe Lincoln’s Final Card; or, Rouge-et-Noir (Punch, October 18, 1862)
Lincoln took a major gamble in issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862. By declaring his intention to abolish slavery in rebel-controlled territories beginning on January 1, 1863, he risked defection of the Union’s slaveholding border states—and a stinging defeat within the midterm elections.
On this satire drawn by Tenniel, a pissed off Lincoln is shedding a card sport with a Accomplice soldier and performs his remaining card, which encompasses a spade-shaped African American head with caricatured options. The hornlike factors in Lincoln’s hair counsel devilish intentions, and the gunpowder barrel used as a desk hints on the politically explosive outcomes the Emancipation Proclamation may spark. “Enjoying that black card would, Tenniel argued, result in the racial struggle and blood-bath,” writes historian Allan Kulikoff in Abraham Lincoln and Karl Marx in Dialogue.
Freedom to the Slaves (Currier & Ives, 1865)
After Lincoln’s assassination, a a lot totally different picture of the president emerged. On this print issued shortly after Lincoln’s loss of life in 1865, Lincoln seems not because the calculated opportunist, however the almost divine “Nice Emancipator.” Whereas a Black man kneels in a subservient function that ignores the sacrifices additionally made by African Individuals to finish slavery, Lincoln factors to the heavens together with his proper hand and stands on damaged shackles. He’s offered as a modern-day Moses who single-handedly delivered an enslaved individuals to freedom. Photos comparable to this one, repeated in varied media for many years after Lincoln’s killing, elevated him to American sainthood.