Senators Thomas Hart Benton and Henry S. Foote are paired here in a facetious farewell scene, as Benton departs the "Shop of the Senate." In reality Benton lost his Senate seat in a January 1851 election, largely because of his refusal to honor the Missouri Resolutions on Slavery (also known as the Jackson-Napton Resolutions of 1849). He charged that the resolutions were engineered by John C. Calhoun, Foote, and a few other Senate foes. Benton's term ended on March 3.
In the center stands Benton dressed as a ragged Irishman, a stock character common in Yankee theatre productions of the New York stage at the time. He smokes a cigar, and stands near a mangy donkey which is laden with saddle, pack, and whip, a bundle marked "Life & Times of Thos H. Benton [bound] for California" at his feet. His California destination has several possible explanations. It may be an oblique allusion to Benton's antislavery stance, as Benton was embroiled in the dispute during his last Senate term, on the admission of California to the Union as a free state. He was also a prominent advocate of a transcontinental railroad. Also likely is the artist's association of the recent California Gold Rush with Benton's career-long bullionist ideology.
Benton looks left and shakes the hand of Foote, who is dressed as a New York fireman or street tough, with a visored cap and boots.
Foote: "So, yer goin ter leave us, ha Benton? well if I had my Pocket Hankercher about me I'de cry." Benton: "Thank yer Foote! any other time will do, the fact is I won't work in no Shop where the Boss is all the time a findin fault with me work, & the Fellers in the Shop is all the time a Laughin at me."
At the far left Calhoun and two others watch from a window with the sign "Cabinet Work." Weitenkampf dates the print 1850. But it is unlikely that it appeared long before the March 3, 1851, expiration of Benton's term in the Senate.