Thomas Nast drew this cartoon in May 1868, but not for Harpers Weekly, for
which he had not worked in more than a year. It was intended for the short-lived Illustrated
Chicago News (April-June 1868), a would-be rival to Harpers Weekly.
The cartoon is a close parody of a painting by J. L.
Gérôme called "The Death of Caesar." Nast obviously thought Johnson would be
impeached, so he showed him lying dead on the floor with his chair upside down and his
vetoes at his side. In the right front, a scroll has "Tenure of Office" written
on it. Johnsons own words "Treason is a crime and must be punished" are
thrown back at him in the sign over his head.
The Republican gladiators with their swords
upraised constituted the Managers to conduct the Impeachment. They are (from the left)
George Boutwell (Mass.), John Logan (IL.), John Bingham (Ohio), James Wilson (Iowa),
Benjamin Butler (Mass.), and Thomas Williams (PA). Thaddeus Stevens (PA) is shown exiting
the scene on the far right. Stevens died in August 1868; it is obvious that this cartoon
was drawn well before his death.
However, Harpers Weekly waited
for the end of Johnsons term before publishing it in the issue of March 13, 1869,
along with a contemptuous editorial. By then Nast was back as a regular contributor and
brought this cartoon with him.