"Puck Wants a Strong Man at the Head of Government-- But Not This Kind"

When Grant's Stalwart promoters ridiculed the soft-spoken but extremely honest President Hayes in the final months of his term, Keppler contrasted the current regime to a recent one characterized by a large amount of muscle. "Puck Wants a Strong Man at the Head of Government-- But Not This Kind" is a skillful composite of caricatures which dredges up the Grant administration's entire rap sheet for all to see.

The "Strong Man" showcases his acrobatic ability as he suspends the group of tumblers from a "Navy Ring" and a "Whiskey Ring", both of which were conspiracies involving Navy Secretary George Robeson (center) and Grant's personal assistant Orville Babcock (lower right). The other circus performers include Alexander Sheppard (middle left), a prominent member of the Washington D.C. political machine; Thomas Murphy (lower left), who as Collector of the Port of New York was at the center of one of the historically largest and most egregious sources of corruption in the nation; William Belknap (middle left), the Secretary of War impeached for scandalous dealings with owners of Indian posts; and finally George Williams (lower center), the Attorney-General who "paid household bills from departmental funds and had committed other derelictions" while in office [1]. In spite of the athletic vigor depicted in this scene, it is associated with criminal activity instead of fitness for government service. Henry C. Bunner's editorial comments which accompanied the cartoon state that, while Washington, Jackson, and Lincoln displayed great fortitude in office, "a dungheap is also strong-- in its own way".

The scandals alluded to in this cartoon, as well as a generally disgraceful second term as president, forced Grant to take a three year trip around the world. When he returned to warm and friendly receptions these embarrassments had for the most part faded from the collective memory. With a new campaign brewing, Keppler realized that it would be "important to recall the scandals" to the voters [2]. In this manner the image pillories the political opponent and conveys the liberal sentiment that forceful men and administrations are not the 'best men' for office.