A great patronage battle came to a head in 1881 when President James Garfield nominated William Robertson to become collector of the Port of New York. Senator Roscoe Conkling, Republican of New York, had depended on that patronage-rich post to maintain his political machine and saw Robertson as an opponent. As arrogant as he was handsome, Conkling resigned from the Senate on May 16 and convinced his quieter New York colleague, Republican Thomas Platt, to follow his lead. Their resignations swung the majority to the Democrats. Conkling expected the state legislature to reelect him and Platt as a rebuke to Garfield and Robertson. In fact, the legislature rebelled and elected neither man.
In this cartoon, which appeared in Puck on May 25, 1881, artist Joseph Keppler rejoiced in the resignation of Conkling, whom he portrayed as a balloon that has burst harmlessly, to the merriment of senators who dance below.