This cartoon immediately follows and is closely related to “At Last, the Democratic Tiger has Something to Hang On”
The Chinese Exclusion Act passed on May 6, 1882. Several Republicans, most notably James G. Blaine caved, in Nast’s view, to Democratic demands that the Chinese Must Go. In the process, Nast believed Blaine betrayed the values of Lincoln’s Party and discarded the core philosophy of civil rights and tolerance for all people.
The Democrats asked for a 20-year ban on Chinese immigration to the U.S. The Republican concession,limited the term to 10 years, upon which time the ban on the Chinese would be revisited. This concession did not pacify Nast and others who believed the act was immoral and unjust. President Arthur later extended the ban. Ultimately the ban became permanent.
The hefty Republican elephant adds weight to the free fall of “Freedom for All” tree, uprooting the anchor of “Liberty” that supported Chinese immigrants and had promised to shelter the them. With the added assistance of the elephant, the roots of this once strong tree rips violently from the American foundation.
The Chinese man has lost his grip from the trunk, and only a thinning, tenuous branch connects him to a land that once welcomed him. An America the Chinese helped to cultivate and build. He has reluctantly become part of a terminal trio to undermine American strength. The unearthing of the tree, used a symbol of life, knowledge, and wisdom, is unmistakable.