Democratic presidential candidate James Buchanan is depicted as a poor bachelor in his squalid quarters. Though indeed a confirmed bachelor, Buchanan in reality was hardly needy. After serving as American minister to Great Britain, he was nominated on June 2 at his party's Cincinnati convention.
Here he sits in a small, dimly lit chamber, on a rickety chair near a small cot. A cracked mirror hangs on the wall in the background, and his foot rests upon a stool with a spool and scissors. A needle and thread in his hand, Buchanan examines a ragged coat on which he has evidently just sewn a patch marked "Cuba." This is probably a reference to his authorship of the Ostend Manifesto of 1854, which proposed that the United States annex or seize Cuba. (On this see also "The "Ostend Doctrine,"" no. 1854-6.)
Buchanan says, "My Old coat was a very fashionable Federal coat when it was new, but by patching and turning I have made it quite a Democratic Garment. That Cuba patch to be sure is rather unsightly but it suits Southern fashions at this season, and then. (If I am elected,) let me see, $25,000 pr. annum, and no rent to pay, and no Women and Babies about, I guess I can afford a new outfit."
Buchanan's words here suggest that the desire to extend American slave territory motivated his Ostend designs on Cuba. His mention of converting a "Federal coat" to a Democratic one refers to his 1828 conversion from Federal party man to Jacksonian Democrat.