Several prospective Democratic presidential candidates travel along a canal in the "Salt River Barge," named after the proverbial river of political defeat. The passengers are (left to right): Lewis Cass, secretary of war William Marcy, Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas, former secretary of state James Buchanan, and Texas senator Sam Houston. Martin Van Buren, pictured as a fox, pulls the barge, saying, "Never fear my Coves. I'll carry you straight, for I am well acquainted with this Road!"
Houston, seated on a barrel of "Cold Water" in the bow of the barge, holds a flag marked "Maine Liquor Law" with a crown at the top of the pole. The Maine Law of 1851 was a prohibition measure subsequently adopted by several other states. Houston says, "We dont travel quite so fast as I did in Texas once!" Behind him, Buchanan looks through a periscope and exclaims, "I dont know but it looks to me as if we had travelled this way before!"
Douglas, noticeably shorter than the rest, complains, "These old Fogies are out of date Young America expects Progress! I am for the annexation of Cuba, Canada, Mexico, and Japan!" Douglas represented the Young America faction of the Democratic party, a youthful element which was, among other things, expansionist in nature. Marcy, with the "50 Cents" trouser patch (see "Executive Mercy/Marcy and the Bambers," no.1838-5), conjectures, "If Matty stands by me now I think with a little manouvering the chances are in my favor!"
Finally Cass, lying on his back in the rear of the barge, instructs Buchanan to "Wake me up . . . if any thing in particular happens I'm going to take a nap." (This may be a comment on Cass's advanced age and/or his physical corpulence in 1852.) From the rear of the boat flies a banner marked "Intervintion," perhaps a reference to the Democrats' advocacy of nationalist and republican movements in Europe and the Caribbean, or more particularly to American efforts on behalf of Hungarian nationalist leader Louis Kossuth in 1850.
The print must have appeared before the Democratic convention in early June 1852, when the aspirations of these hopefuls for the presidency were extinguished by the nomination of dark horse candidate Franklin Pierce.