A Whig vision of the rout of Van Buren in the presidential election of 1840. In a stormy sea Van Buren grasps the mast (labeled "Maine") of a foundering vessel "O.K." (the initials for "Old Kinderhook," a Van Buren nickname derived from his birthplace and home in Kinderhook, New York). In the water are supporters John Calhoun, Amos Kendall, Francis Preston Blair, Thomas Hart Benton, and Levi Woodbury. The gale seems to emanate from three faces which appear in the clouds: William C. Rives, William Henry Harrison, and Nathaniel P. Tallmadge. The image represents the formidable alliance of conservatives and Whigs that Van Buren faced in the election. (Tallmadge and Rives were conservative Democrats-turned-Whigs in opposition to Van Buren's fiscal programs.)
Van Buren: "I can hold no longer to be forsaken at such a time by Maryland & Georgia too. Oh Curse that Cataline to force me to pass the Sub-Treasure Bill."
Calhoun: "If I had minded what [ally and political editor] Duff Green said to me this would not have happend."
Woodbury: "This is worse than getting White Washed."
Kendall: "Oh my dear Babys."
Kendall's remark probably refers to an incident in May of 1840 when a Whig mob discharged a cannon on his front lawn, frightening his children. This, combined with Van Buren's reference to the Independent Treasury Bill, passed by Congress in July 1840, suggests that "The Shipwreck" appeared during the second half of the year.