Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Currier & Ives "The Irrepressible Conflict" or the Republican Barge in Danger

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Log in
to see this thumbnail image

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03489 Author/Creator: Currier & Ives Place Written: New York, New York Type: Print Date: 1860 Pagination: 1 lithograph : b&w ; 34.3 x 45.5 cm.

A high-resolution version of this object is available for registered users. LOG IN

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03489 Author/Creator: Currier & Ives Place Written: New York, New York Type: Print Date: 1860 Pagination: 1 lithograph : b&w ; 34.3 x 45.5 cm.

Summary of Content: 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."

Background Information: 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."See More

People: Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872
Bates, Edward, 1793-1869

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: PoliticsGovernment and CivicsElectionRepublican PartyPresidentArt, Music, Theater, and FilmLincoln's CabinetJournalismAfrican American HistoryPropagandaHumor and Satire

Sub Era: Age of Jackson

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources