The Modern Samson

Thomas Nast was a popular Republican political cartoonist in the turn of the 20th century. He is known for the modern representation of Santa as well as the Republican elephant. He created many satire political cartons many of which are classics. One of these cartons specifically I am looking at today, not because of its popularity, but rather what it includes. This carton is called "The Modern Samson" and was originally printed in the October 3rd Issue of Harpers Weekly in 1868. The carton depicts a parody of the biblical story of Samson who would loose his power if his hair was cut.

To understand the times a small back story is required. After the civil war one of the purposes of the reconstruction act of 1867 was to grant African Americans the right to vote. However, there was heavy Democrat opposition to this. In fact in wasn't until the 15th amendment in 1870 that the final 3 of the original 11 confederate states conformed to this bill out of constitutional requirements. This carton in 1868 gives an inside look at how Republicans of the day saw Democrats. The funny thing is its not to far off from how modern Republicans see Democrats today.

At first look it looks just like any other politically motivated carton of the era. However, I noticed something that made me look further in to it. On the lower right you can see some books burning. One of those books is the Bible. I have always associated the Democratic party's anti religious stand to the Frankfurt School and there Marxist social theory. This is where terms like "politically correct" came from. These social theory's where later refined by Saul Alinsky in his book Rules for Radicals which Democrats openly support. However, the Frankfurt School didn't come to America until the 1930's and this carton was created in 1868 which means Democrats had a hatred for the Christian religion almost 60 years prior to what I originally thought. This made me dig a little deeper and see what other details stand out in this carton. I will go in to more detail below. Keep in mind this carton was drawn by a Republican of the time so this is a representation of how Republicans of the time viewed Democrats. When this picture was created the republican party was only 14 years old.

From this picture you can see a woman with the label Southern Democrat on her dress cutting the hair off a black man with a razor. The hair has the label Suffrage on it, meaning voting rights. The razor has the inscription "Lost Cause Regained". In the story of Samson his power was removed by cuttings his hair. In this image that means the power of voting is being removed. This image clearly shows the bible among other books being burned. You can also see a (book, scroll, and globe) signifying knowledge.

The text to the right reads:

"We shall gail all we lost in the lost cause mobile tribune"

"The first drop of blood shed in a servile war will be the signal for the extermination of the whole race"

Richmond Examiner

"We must make the negro understand we are the men, we were when we held him in abject bondage"

Menidian miss Mercury



My take on the right panel is that it looks like its carved with a crud object like its the hidden desire and the left front panel is clean and shows only what they want everyone to know. I may have gotten a few words wrong but some where hard to make out.

Some of this plaque is a little hard to make out but it represents a period event that Democrats used to gain support. The writing reads:

"The Democratic Barbecue The sensible colored men (Late N___R) are beginning to see that the Democrats are their best and truest friends. They are as babes with out experience n government affairs. "

"Denounce the loyal league upon every occasion organize a ku-klux-klan"

The upper right of the carton is an statue of Democrat President Andrew Johnson with the inscription over his head reading "I will be your Moses" meaning Johnson is the black Moses because of his veto of the reconstruction act. A veto that the Republican congress of the time overturned. He is also grasping a tablet in the shape of the ten commandments with the word veto inscribed in it. Below that statue of Johnson is the names of the Democrats to the left.

Andrew Johnson is known for saying he would rather cut off his arm then grant voting rights to blacks before he vetoed the reconstruction act.

The angry men on the left are noteworthy Democrats of the day. These are our modern day Bill Clinton's.

From Left to Right is:

Wade Hampton holding a torch,

Nathan Bedford Forrest, wearing a Fort Pillow medallion, He was the president of the confederacy.

Robert E. Lee, squatting with his sword on his shoulder

Horatio Seymour, with demonic hair, a KKK breastplate, and a slavery flag.

Frank Blair, also wearing a KKK breastplate

Raphael Semmes, holding his sword strait up

John Hoffman, holding the curtain up and caring a sword

A crazy looking demonic dude.

The flag in the hands of Horatio Seymour is a flag explaining what the "Lost Cause Regained" is all about. The lost cause is slavery and to the left displays the names of two riots against the reconstruction act as well as the slogan "Mob law ku-klux-klan Democrats" below. The purpose of the KKK of the time was voter suppression of Republicans by mob law, basically murder. To the lower right there is a demonic looking snake that I can only assume, due to the religious nature of the rest of the carton, represents Lucifer in the form of a snake from the story of Adam and Eve.


After looking at all these details I came to a conclusion to what Thomas Nast was trying to convey. The carton seams to be aimed at removing voting rights from African Americans but I believe its more then that. Horatio Seymour was the Democrat nominee for president and Frank Blair was his running mate, those are the two men with KKK breast plates. They did loose the election to Ulysses S. Grant but this carton could have been a warning on what was to come. In the time the KKK wasn't simply a racial group like they are today. The KKK was a group of Democrats that Killed Republicans to stop them from voting. black or white, it didn't matter. During this time about 4000 Americans where killed by lynching from the KKK including 3000 blacks and 1000 whites. During this period African Americans where almost all Republicans, for obvious reasons.

The message that I believe was trying to be conveyed was the move from Democrats to replace religion with government. By removing the voting rights of African Americans and replacing there faith with government dependency they would lead Africans Americans back to servitude. I believe that Thomas Nast was warning other republicans that if Horatio Seymour won the presidency he would try and remove religion from government. A task that's already been done today. By replacing religion with government dependency the government would basically return the country to slavery.

This image is 145 years old and the narrative is still the same. The tactics today that the Democrats use isn't far off from the tactics they used in the past. The party hasn't changed, they have only changed there image. However, do they have the same goal?



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