<Go back to the People Index results>

Complete Explanation:
A dramatic prison scene, intended to contrast the clemency of New York's Whig governor William H. Seward with the vindictiveness of the Democrat-controlled New York City prison administration. In the interior of the Halls of Justice, popularly known as "the Tombs," a grim jailer stands blocking the approach of a Catholic priest toward a small cell, saying "You can't Enter." The priest, holding a crucifix and rosary beads, presents a paper marked "Admit the Bearer. W H Seward" and replies, "Here is my authority from Govr. Seward for admission. I shall now see the wretched man."

Meanwhile, in his cell, the "wretched man"--actually, convicted murderer John Caldwell Colt--kneels in prayer, a Bible beside him. He implores, "Must I die without seeing my Priest? How cruel to prevent me from making My peace with my God!"

The print may be based on an actual incident. Interestingly, though, in the closing months of his administration Seward refused to pardon Colt, despite considerable political pressure to do so. Colt cheated the hangman by taking his own life on the day of his scheduled execution.

Website design © 2010 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2010 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com