Harper’s Weekly – November 11, 1876

Barrel (Fund-Raising)

Nast used a barrel to stigmatize fund-raising efforts by political candidates, somewhat similar to today’s insinuations of “dark money.” Here, Samuel J. Tilden, the wealthy 1876 Democratic Presidential candidate, was dumping his barrel of money into a ballot box. The money was to go to Democratic politicians who would use it to bribe state officials, who would determine election counts and winners. The only factual inaccuracy was that the bribe money would not come from Tilden but from his Democratic associates.

The cover cartoon available the week before the election, was full of written accusations. Sticking out of Tilden’s pocket was a $5,000 contribution he had made to Boss Tweed in 1868. A sign on the far side of the barrel equated “The Shot-Gun Policy South” with “The Barrel Policy North.”

However, the cartoon was aimed at New Yorkers, and the sub-title echoed Tweed’s “What Are You Going to Do About It?” Below were lengthy quotes from the 1868 message that went out under Tilden’s signature requesting pre-election vote estimates to prepare for adjusting actual counts as necessary, and Horace Greeley’s letter to Tilden a year later, calling on him to stop illegal voter registration in the city.