CSPAN’s American History TV pointed us to this vintage political cartoon from 1879 by Harper’s Thomas Nast showing what a politically charged “cliff” looked like in the late 19th century.
Photo: American History TV
The caption says: “Stranger Things Have Happened: Hold On, And You May Walk Over The Sluggish Animal Up There Yet.”
According to Harper’s description of the piece, Nast is depicting how the Democratic Party could win the upcoming presidential election — something they hadn’t accomplished since 1856 — by adopting the gold standard. Senator Thomas Bayard, who favoured the policy, is shown saving the Democratic donkey “from the chasm of ‘financial chaos’ into which it was toppling because of its desire for inflationary money—paper currency (“greenbacks”) or silver,” according to Harper’s.
In the background, Treasury Secretary John Sherman holds a document labelled “83 cents resumption.”
The image is critical of Sherman’s acceptance of the reintroduction of silver coins in 1878 (worth 83 cents to the gold dollar), which, according to cartoonist Thomas Nast, undermined the resumption of the gold standard in January 1879.
Debates over cliffs and gold standards. Nothing changes.
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