Currier & Ives "The Irrepressible Conflict" or the Republican Barge in Danger
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Published by Currier & Ives at 152 Nassau Street, New York. Cartoon making reference to the so-called "Irrepressible Conflict" speech given by New York Senator William Seward at Rochester, New York on 25 October 1858. This speech ignited a firestorm of criticism and probably cost Seward the presidency. The cartoon reflects the considerable bitterness among New York Republicans at the party's surprising failure to nominate Seward for president at its May 1860 national convention. The print was probably issued soon after the convention's nomination of Abraham Lincoln. The "Republican Barge" tosses on a stormy sea, precariously close to a rocky shore, with Lincoln (far left) at the rudder. "I'll take the helm. I've steered a 'flat' boat before," says Lincoln. Also in the barge are (left to right) "New York Tribune" editor and powerful Lincoln supporter Horace Greeley, Missourian and Lincoln's future Attorney General Edward Bates, an unidentified man, and former "Washington Globe" editor and influential Jacksonian Democrat Francis Preston Blair. In the bow sits "New York Courier" editor James Watson Webb, who warns, "Breakers ahead!!" Depicts a black man wearing a "Discords Patent Life Preserver" on board saying "If de boat and all hands sink, dis Nigger sure to swim, Yah! Yah!" The man on shore says "You wont save your crazy old craft by throwing your pilot overboard; better heave that tarnal Nigger out."
The pertinent quote of Seward's speech was: "It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation."
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