The second of two particularly well-drawn caricatures by the same artist, on the subject of the 1839 congressional probe of Van Buren's Treasury Department. (See above, nos. 1839-6 through -9.) The inquiry was prompted by the Swartwout embezzlement scandal.
"Symptoms of a Duel" must have appeared early in 1839, since the committee's final reports were tabled by the House on February 27.
Here Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury (left) aims a pistol at investigative committee chairman James Harlan, a bespectacled man who scrutinizes him through a small telescope labeled "Committee of Investigation." Harlan carries several telescopes and optical instruments with his own name and those of Whig members of the committee Edward Curtis and David Douglas Wagener. His largest telescope bears the name of the committee's most vocal member, "Henry A. Wise maker Washington. Night and Day." Harlan addresses Wise (not visible but offstage to the right), "Heavens! Wise. How he looks thro' this glass!" Wise: "Black, or Blue!"
Woodbury's pistol bears the names of Francis Thomas and Samuel Cushman, Democratic members of the committee. Woodbury says "I "challenge" Scrutiny!"
The unidentified artist's drawing style, his handling of the figures, and his relatively spare compositions strongly suggest common authorship with "Called to Account" and "Abolition Frowned Down" (nos. 1839-11 and -12). Weitenkampf erroneously identifies Woodbury here as Van Buren.