A symbolic group portrait eulogizing recent legislative efforts, notably the Compromise of 1850, to preserve the Union. The work is in some respects a memorial to the triumvirate of senior American legislators: Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, who appear in the center of the group. All three were deceased by the end of 1852. (Calhoun died on March 31, 1850, Clay on June 29, 1852, and Webster on October 24, 1852.)
The print's publisher may have sought to take advantage of the optimistic climate which followed passage of the Compromise of 1850. As a commemoration of this legislative achievement, however, its hagiography is faulty--perhaps in the interest of wider appeal. John Calhoun, the central standing figure, opposed the compromise and died well before its passage, whereas key figures in the legislative battle for its acceptance, such as Senator James M. Mason of Virginia, are not shown here at all. Aside from Calhoun, the men portrayed here were generally considered friendly to the compromise, some of them being members of the Senate's Committee of Thirteen, many from the South.
The print may also relate to the debates surrounding the presidential campaign of 1852. Both Whig and Democratic parties formally endorsed the compromise in their respective 1852 platforms. Whig presidential candidate Winfield Scott (prominent at far left) had lobbied strenuously on behalf of the compromise. The absence of Scott's Democratic rival Franklin Pierce may be explained by the fact that the print appeared before the dark-horse candidate's nomination in early June. (The print was deposited for copyright on May 27, 1852.)
The figures pictured here are (front row, left to right): Winfield Scott, Lewis Cass, Henry Clay, John Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and (holding a shield) Millard Fillmore. Calhoun and Webster stand with their hands resting on the Constitution, a bust of George Washington between them. Cass holds a document "Protest [illegible] Treaty." Scott, in uniform, grasps with his right hand a portfolio from which protrude papers and maps recalling his Mexican War victories.
In the left background are (left to right): Speaker of the House Howell Cobb of Georgia, Virginia representative James McDowell, Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, and former secretary of state John M. Clayton of Delaware. In the second row at right: Ohio senator Thomas Corwin, James Buchanan, Stephen A. Douglas, attorney general John J. Crittenden, and senators Sam Houston of Texas and Henry Foote of Mississippi. Behind, beneath a genius carrying a laurel branch and liberty staff, are senators Willie P. Mangum of North Carolina and W. R. King of Alabama. At far right, below an eagle, are Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, Supreme Court justice John McLean of Ohio, and senators John Bell of Tennessee and John C. Fremont of California.
In the background curtains are drawn to reveal a gleaming temple with a colonnade surmounted by a large ball, a figure holding a liberty cap, and a phoenix.