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Analyze the political cartoon "The 'Strong' Government" (1869-1877).  

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A "carpetbagger" was a term used in the Reconstruction era (when this cartoon was composed) to describe a Northerner who moved to the destroyed South for political or economic gain, often striving to achieve political power in an area for which he had no particular care and to which he had no connection. Ulysses S. Grant is depicted here as the ultimate carpetbagger, being presented actually in a carpetbag and escorted by two Union soldiers. The Union soldiers, it is suggested, enforce his rule: without military might, he would have no dominion over the South. The soldiers are chained to the wrists of a white woman, labeled "the strong South," who is carrying the carpetbag on her back. The implication here, then, is that Grant's government depends upon his exploitation of the white southerners, who prop him up because his military forces insist that they do. It is notable that the woman carrying the bag is white—she does not represent the black people who traditionally did the manual labor in the antebellum South; she is a member of a group that was extremely wealthy and powerful before the Civil War. Grant's government wished to help the former slaves, but many white families in the South resented this focus, as they felt that it was all happening at the expense of white Americans who were now disenfranchised. In the background of the cartoon, the destroyed South can be seen: the landscape is littered with ruins, which reflect the effect of the Civil War on the area.

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"The Strong Government" cartoon in Puck magazine shows two different Reconstruction policies. In the first picture, Grant is pictured atop a carpetbag being carried by a woman. One can tell that the woman is overburdened and quite miserable. She walks on uneven gravel as well, thus demonstrating the economic and social turmoil the South was going through at the time. Grant is flanked by soldiers; these soldiers represent the military Reconstruction. The woman is manacled to the soldiers, thus symbolizing the occupation of the South.

The carpetbag was considered the symbol of Northerners coming South after the Civil War. While some Northerners were humanitarians who wished to help the former slaves, the majority of these travelers were seen as opportunists who came to the South in order to look for cheap investments and thus take advantage of a bad situation.

The background of the cartoon shows a plantation house surrounded by military-style tents. There are a few ruined houses in the foreground with a sunken ship in the far right of the picture. The artist, J.A. Wales, was aware of the South's plight. Even at the time of the cartoon's 1880 publication, the South was still reeling from the social and economic effects of the war.

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Since the other educator has already provided a concise and excellent explanation of the cartoon, I will direct my efforts towards addressing certain major points.

First, the "Solid South" (representing the Southern states) is suffering under what is called the "carpetbag and bayonet rule." The words "Solid South" are written on the front of the woman's clothing, and the words "carpetbag and bayonet rule" are written in smaller letters on the left of the carpetbag.

Carpetbaggers refer to Northerners who traveled South after the Civil War. While it is true that many of them were corrupt opportunists, a surprisingly large percentage of them were interested in protecting the rights of the newly freed slaves. Many sincere, altruistic carpetbaggers were from middle class families; they strongly favored the Reconstruction policies that some Southern Democrats rejected. Seated inside the carpetbag is Ulysses S. Grant, the commander-in-chief of Union forces during the war.

Grant served as the American president after the war (from 1869 to 1877). He championed Reconstruction policies that protected the rights of newly emancipated slaves. During Grant's presidency, the 15th Amendment was ratified, and it gave former slaves the right to vote. Grant's position on slavery angered many Southerners, and violence erupted when organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan emerged to protect the rights of former slave owners. Many of these once influential members of society resented the loss of their former livelihoods and their power. They were further incensed when Grant signed legislation to limit the scope of the Klan's activities.

Because of the violence, Grant saw no choice but to institute military rule (referred to as "bayonet rule" in the cartoon). Critics maintained that Grant was too heavy-handed in his approach, while others argued that he didn't go far enough to protect former slaves from the Ku Klux Klan. In the cartoon, you may notice many bayonets in the carpetbag. On one of the bayonets is a paper that reads "Rule or Ruin." Grant believed that a strong Union military presence in the South was the only way to protect the newly won rights of slaves. However, the cartoon argued against Grant's severe approach to Reconstruction. What do you think would have been the best approach?

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The political cartoon "Strong Government" appeared in Puck magazine.  It depicts the South struggling under the weight of a carpetbag that is carrying the President Ulysses S. Grant.  The South is also chained by two Union soldiers, whose bayonets act to support the uncanny presidential chariot.  All of this is depicted near an army encampment outside of the "Halls of Justice."  The message of this cartoon is that the South has been enslaved by the policies of Reconstruction by the federal government.  It illustrates the economic and political strain that northern interference had on the former Confederate states. The carpetbag is symbolic of Northerners that moved to the South for their own selfish economic gains.  The fact that this scene is set outside of the Halls of Justice adds a certain irony to the cartoon.  It suggest that this is what the North considers to be justice.  The cartoon also represents the disdain the South had towards Union troops occupying their states.

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