Tuesday, July 13, 2010

William Seward: The Senatorial Tapster

When I was preparing my recent post on William Seward, I looked for, and failed to find, contemporaneous political cartoons commenting on Seward's role during the Secession Crisis. In the comments to that post, captainrlm rectified that omission by pointing out the wonderful illustration that appears above.

Taken from the Gettysburg College Civil War Era Collection, the illustration is entitled The Senatorial Tapster. The Gettysburg College site indicates it appeared in Vanity Fair on "1860-03-10". In it a customer comments, "I notice you draw your ale very mild now, William." The proprietor, Seward, replies, "Yes, this is a new tap, some I brewed myself last Wednesday; my customers thought the Rochester ale was rather too strong."

The site explains, "Two men draw beer from tapped kegs; the keg on the far right says, '1860 Senate.' After Seward lost the presidential nomination, he dropped his stronger antislavery views in favor of the more moderate Republican platform."

This description appears to be wrong, however. Assuming "1860-03-10" is March 3, 1860, the cartoon must refer to the softening of Seward's rhetoric before, not after, the 1860 Republican Convention. Sure enough, a Google search turned up a book entitled Abraham Lincoln: The Year of His Election (1929), by one Albert Shaw, that asserts that the cartoon was referring to Seward's pre-Convention activities:
As Senator Seward's pre-convention campaign for the presidential nomination progressed it was noted that his utterances in the Senate became less radical than the famous "Irrepressible Conflict" speech at Rochester in 1858.

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