Wednesday, April 24, 2019

History and the Power of the Wealthy

Many of the People's Party members were immigrants, and English was their second language.  Political cartoons were then, as they remain today, effective ways to communicate political issues.  These immigrants could often understand political cartoons even with their limited ability to read English.  However, all populists could grasp the messages of political cartoons without reading lengthy editorials, just as we do today. 

This political cartoon from the early 1890s appeared in the County Capital, the populist newspaper in St. John, Kansas, Isaac B. Werner's county seat.  Isaac subscribed to and submitted articles to the County Capital.  

The cartoon speaks for itself, with the sub-title "I know no law, except that which I buy," but because the labels on the barrels are rather small and difficult to read, I will type them, starting from the barrel on the left and continuing to the right.  Remember, you can click on the image to enlarge it.

From left, labels on the barrels into which the wealthy man is pouring coins:  To corner the necessities of life; To buy the votes of starving workmen; To buy Legislation in my own interest; To buy gold-bearing bonds; To Quash Legislation Beneficial to the People; To perpetuate the way I bank; To buy the people's papers; To elect a president to suit myself; To control transportation and transmission of news; To buy Supreme Court decisions; To kill little ranchers in Wyoming; To secure cut-throat mortgages; To hog government lands; To keep the saloon in politics; and To buy the souls of stranded girls.

Notice that the wealthy man suffers from gout, a disease caused by dining on rich foods.  The wealthy of that era indulged in lengthy dinners of many courses, fine wines served with each different course, and rich desserts and cigars to complete the 2 or 3 hour dinners.

The reference to killing ranchers in Wyoming refers to the Johnson County War, in which wealthy ranchers hired out-of-state gunmen to hunt down and eliminate small ranchers that the wealthy men regarded as cattle thieves.  The primary issue arose because of the free range grazing, followed by the spring roundups.  Calves born on the open range during winter and early spring were not yet branded, and the dispute was over claims to those calves.  Movies and books have portrayed this range war.

The European Anarchist pictured in the framed portrait on the wall is depicted as a bomb-throwing armed villain, but the American Anarchist is depicted as a powerful wealthy man who controls or influences everything, as the message on his vault says:  THE PEOPLE'S LAWS BE D....D!!!

This political cartoon shows many of the issues that the Populist Movement sought to confront through the formation of their own political party, The Peoples' Party.

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