Thomas Nast Political Cartoon Analysis

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Throughout the mid to late 1800’s, Thomas Nast, known as the father of political cartoons, captivated his viewers in a magnitude the nation had not seen before. Nast’s comedic and satirical cartoons sought to ameliorate and sway the nation in line with his own personal beliefs. The zenith of his fame and influence was during the dawning days of the Civil War (1864-1865) throughout the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877). In 1862, Thomas Nast joined Harper's Weekly as an artist. Before long, he earned national fame for his drawings of Civil War battles. President Lincoln described him as the "best recruiting sergeant" for the Union because his sketches encouraged others to join the fight. Thomas Nast was a staunch opponent of slavery and a staunch…show more content…
Soon after the war, Confederates began being pardoned and accepted back into the Union as citizens. Thomas Nast’s cartoon, “Shall I Trust This Man, and Not This Man” fostered the dilemma of what should America do with the newly freed slaves and the ex-Confederates. The first image depicts Columbia sitting before many former Confederates who are begging her for forgiveness and for their re-admission into the Union. The bottom caption indicates Columbia debating whether or not she should trust them. The second picture depicts an African-American amputee. In this picture, Columbia is standing beside him, her hand upon his shoulder. She is pondering why she cannot trust the African war hero as opposed to the traitorous Confederates. She is pondering why shall I trust the Confederate traitors with civil rights but not give this disabled Black Union veteran any of the same rights? In his cartoon, Nast depicts the African-American as a hero who deserves to be recognized as such. He admires the blacks who fought for the Union and believes they should attain equal rights. Thomas Nast was a strong Lincoln supporter and a radical Reconstructionists who believed in suffrage for blacks and a much harsher treatment of the South. Even though Nast knew suffrage was a birthright, he determined that his audiences needed the additional justification of…show more content…
After differences of opinion within the government as to how to go about rebuilding and readmitting the South were agreed upon, it was decided that the Southern states would be coerced to ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. The 13th amendment abolished slavery, the 14th amendment extended citizenship rights to freed slaves, and the 15th amendment gave freed male slaves the right to vote. Even though slavery had been defeated, racial prejudice thrived in post war America. Democrats unleashed anti-black sentiments to rally fellow whites to assimilate under their banner. Thomas Nast’s cartoon, “This is a White Man’s Government”, satirizes the Democratic Party in 1868, depicting the Democrats as the oppressors of the black race, represented by the black Union soldier who fell while carrying the ballot box. Nathan Bedford Forrest - the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan is represented in the center, while to his right stands an Irish immigrant, depicted as a barbarian. The figure on the right is the Democratic candidate for president in 1868, Governor Horatio Seymour, depicted as a wealthy New York financier. This venomous alliance is what Nast saw as the characteristics of Democratic Party - racial oppression, violence, and the old Confederacy. Nast’s cartoon became the slogan of the Democratic campaign, which openly advocated racism and prejudice.
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