White Man's Government

Creator: Thomas Nast

Context: This cartoon was printed in 1868 as the federal government was constructing new governments for the southern states and considering what rights to grant the freed slaves under both state and federal law.

Audience: The cartoon was published in Harper's Weekly, a popular magazine that reached many middle-class and wealthy Americans of the 1860s.

Purpose: Nast was commenting on the alliance of white workers, former Confederates and wealthy Northern capitalists that he believed would combine to prevent the freed slaves from achieving new rights such as the vote.

Historical Significance: This cartoon offers the insights of a particularly observant commentator on social and political trends in the post-Civil War United States. It also reveals how unlikely bedfellows were willing to join forces to keep freed men and women from achieving political equality after the war.