Tag Archives: tammany tiger

“At Last the Democratic Tiger has Something to Hang On” 1882

A lion hangs from the queue of a Chinese man
“At Last the Democratic Tiger has Something to Hang On” – 22 April 1882 by Thomas Nast. Source: UDel-Walfred

 

This smaller cartoon is a commentary offered on the eve of the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law on May 6, 1882, by President Chester A. Arthur.

The passage of the act was a victory for the Democratic Party, shown here, not as a donkey, which had become the favored symbol. Instead, Nast returns to his past and revives his old nemesis, the Tammany Tiger.

The Tammany Tiger clenches on the queue of a Chinese man who is desperately holding on for life by wrapping his arms and legs around a tree trunk named “A Veto.” The weight of the tiger is pulling down on the queue, stretching the Chinese man and causing him great discomfort.

The queue is the lifeline for the tiger. The Democrats are reinvigorated by raising “The Chinese Question” and their legislative triumph to drive the Chinese out. By referring to the Democrats as the Tammany Tiger, Nast makes an unmistakable comparison to the corrupt Tweed era. At last, this tiger has found something to hold onto. In a twist of irony, the Chinese, by their very existence, have empowered the Democrats.

Democrats had been on the wrong side of slavery, and the losing side in the Civil War. By exploiting racial fears, Democrats, with a strong Irish constituency, found a receptive audience by stoking Sinophobia in communities where a visible Chinese presence could be targeted.  Repeatedly and effectively, the Democrats pointed to Chinese “otherness” to swell their ranks and influence of political power. “The Chinese Must Go” made famous by Irish-born Denis Kearney in California, soon became a roaring anthem across the nation.

Detail
Detail

The Tammany Tiger can hardly believe his predicament. After Tweed’s arrest and fall from power, the tiger had been quiet. The tiger has only barely escaped doom. He holds the queue precariously by his teeth. His limbs are all askew, and he has an expression of surprise or puzzlement.

Thomas Nast signed the cartoon on the left side or side of the Chinese trying to remain in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

“(Dis)”Honors are Easy”” 1882

"(Dis) Honors are Easy, 20 May, 1982, Library of Congress
“(Dis) Honors are Easy, 20 May, 1982, Library of Congress

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.