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Abraham Lincoln Civil War Caricature

December 3, 1864

This is one of the great John Tenniel caricatures of Abraham Lincoln as a Phoenix rising from the ashes fueled by the logs of the United States Constitution, Commerce, Credit, Habeas Corpus, State Rights and a Free Press. Rufus Wilson in his description below characterizes it as a brutal cartoon which was later regretted by Tenniel and Punch, but another interpretation is possible. As Wilson notes in previous reviews, Tenniel and the editors of Punch thought the Civil War was going poorly for Lincoln and the North and that Lincoln would lose the election. The fact that he won showed that he had overcome tremendous adversity, that from the ashbin of history he had arisen in the form of the majestic American Eagle.

Twenty three years later a cartoonist named Hamilton plagiarized Tenniel's famous work on the cover of Judge magazine, as shown below. In October 1887 Governor Joseph B. Foraker of Ohio, whose head is shown atop the eagle, was seeking reelection as a Republican and the Republican journal Judge pictured him as surmounting the snubs, insults and attacks of Democrats, including President Grover Cleveland, to win reelection. So the cartoonist for the Republican Judge did not see it as brutal or even uncomplimentary to picture a successful Republican governor who had overcome adversity as a phoenix rising from the ashes. 

Lincoln In Caricature by Rufus Rockwell Wilson

 The savage cartoon, The Federal Phoenix, by Tenniel appeared in London Punch on December 3, 1864, and gives unwelcome proof of the angry mood in which the Eng­lish Conservative leaders and a majority of their followers received the news of Mr. Lincoln’s reelection. It must also have been that one of his Lincoln caricatures to which their author in after days looked back with deepest regret. Its title explains its character. It shows one of the birds to which the ancients gave the name of Phoe­nix, on whose neck the artist has placed the head of Mr. Lincoln, rising from a pyre the fuel for which is furnished by commerce, credit, the Constitution, a free press, habeas corpus and state rights. How it impressed the public for whom it was in­tended can only he conjectured, but to one who was a babe in arms when the man thus held up to condemnation passed from life, it seems as brutal in motive as it was misleading in fact.

This is one of the classic caricatures of Abraham Lincoln and it can be read as either complimentary or brutal in commenting on Lincoln's victory in the 1864 Presidential Election.

Price: $115

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