This is perhaps one of
Thomas Nast's most poignant Civil War Illustrations. The leaf, from an
original 1864 Harper's newspaper, features a Slave Auction and other
incredible images of slavery. This leaf is over 140 years old, and on the
day it was printed, Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, the
Civil War was raging on, and men and women were bought and sold like cattle
across our land.
Original 1864 Picture of a
Slave Auction by Thomas Nast. (Click on Image for Enlargement)
This piece is rich with
incredible historical slavery content. It captures the full human cost of
the the Institution of Slavery, and was produced at a time that Slavery was
still practiced in this nation. It was created by Thomas Nast, one of the most
celebrated artists of the 1800's. Thomas Nast was famous for creating the
popular image of Santa Claus, and the Republican Elephant.
The leaf contains no less than 19 striking inset illustrations of the
tragedy of slavery. Featured prominently near the center of the print is an
illustration of a Slave Auction. In the image, a beautiful young woman is
pictured with her head slung low, standing on the auction block, being sold
to the highest bidder. Behind her stands the auctioneer, gavel in hand,
about to complete the sale of another enslaved human. On the auctioneers
podium reads the words, "States Rights, Auction of Slaves and Union
Soldiers". In the audience, the high bidder can be seen with an evil grin on
his face, as the auction is completed. His intentions for the young woman
are too terrible to contemplate. To the side of the auction block kneels the
woman's husband and small child, about to be sold in separate
auctions. The child clings to his father, as if he knows this is the last
few moments the family will ever be together. This image, more than any
other, captures the unimaginable inhumanity of the institution of Slavery.
The next inset presents another poignant image of the cruelty of Slavery. A
slave is pictured tied to a tree being brutally beaten by two men. The man
is collapsed in pain, but is unable to fall to the ground, because he is
roped to a tree. The men whip him mercilessly. Two other black men are
pictured on the ground, undoubtedly about to receive the same treatment.
Another image includes a riot in which white men are beating a group of
blacks with clubs. One black man is on the ground. His attacker has him by
the throat and is about to deliver the death blow with a club. Even a child
is shown stomping the downed man. Another man is holding a black child in
the air, and is beating him mercilessly with a club.
The next image shows the plight of two runaway slaves. They are pictured
being pursued by a hunting party, led by a pack of dogs. The dogs have
caught the two unfortunate slaves, have them on the ground and are mauling
them as the men catch up. The two downed slaves pay the ultimate price for
their unquenchable desire for freedom.
Another image shows a group of men who have captured a Union Buffalo
Soldier, and are returning him to bondage. Other images include pictures of
Jefferson Davis, George McClellan, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh
Sherman, and other Generals of the day. Draped across the top of the
illustration are images of tattered flags, with the names of Civil War
battles etched on the stripes.
Finally, the leaf does present a ray of hope. President Abraham Lincoln is
pictured standing on a stage, in front of a group of slaves, reading them
the emancipation proclamation; boldly declaring their freedom, and the end
of the cruelty of human bondage. The crowd of slaves are pictured
celebrating, praying and giving thanks. Surrounding all the poignant images
are the words from the 1864 Democratic National Convention platform. In the
center of the Print is pictured George McClellan, Democratic Candidate for
President of the United States.
George McClellan was running for president against Abraham Lincoln in 1864.
McClellan was running on a platform of "Compromise with the South".
His "Chicago Platform", in effect, supported the notion of ending the war by
letting the Southern States secede. This image by Thomas Nast served
as a reminder to the Nation of the tragic human toll from slavery, and the
importance of seeing the work of the war through to a successful close.