Total Destruction of the Democratic Platform

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Unidentified artist, Total Destruction of the Democratic Platform. Terrible Shipwreck and Loss of Life in Salt River, 1868. Lithograph. Graphic Arts Collection GA2012- in process.

If a political party was in trouble in the 19th century, they were said to be “up the Salt River.” This was the case for the Democrats in the presidential election of 1868. Their ticket of Horatio Seymour (1810-1886) and Francis Blair (1821-1875) ran against the Republican Party’s nominees Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) and Schuyler Colfax (1823-1885).

An unsigned political cartoon shows the Democrats on a sinking platform, along with their shipmates Jefferson Davis, Andrew Johnson, Wade Hampton, Henry Wise, and newspaper publisher Marcus Mills “Brick” Pomeroy. Blair says he wishes he “had never come aboard.”

Meanwhile, Grant and Colfax watch calmly from the shore, not far from the White House. An important aspect of the Republican platform that year was their endorsement of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which allowed African Americans to vote. Thanks to a provision that kept many ex-confederates (and Democrats) from voting, Grant won the election by 52.7 % of the popular vote and became the 18th President of the United States.