While Democratic and Whig candidates debate strategies to win the presidency, or "shoot the Christmas turkey," Free Soil candidate Martin Van Buren makes off with the bird. At left Democrat Lewis Cass (facing front) and Whig Zachary Taylor (facing left), both in military uniform and holding rifles, quarrel about the turkey which is chained to a stake in the center.
Taylor: "I tell you, Cass, that I prefer coming to close quarters. It will be as fair for you as for me."
Cass: "But I prefer long shots. It will give more chance for the exercise of skill & ingenuity."
Taylor running mate Millard Fillmore enters from the left and sighting Van Buren exclaims, "Blood and thunder! I thought that infernal fox was dead: but he has come out of his hole and carried off the prize, while we have been disputing about the preliminaries!"
On the far right, Van Buren, as a fox, grasps the turkey by the neck as David Wilmot cheers, "Huzza! Huzza! Victory! Victory!" Wilmot holds up the famous and controversial Wilmot Proviso of 1846, which forbade slavery in territories acquired by the United States in the Mexican War. The measure, embraced by Van Buren but sidestepped by Cass and Taylor, was a burning issue in the 1848 campaign.
On the ground in the center of the scene sits New York editor Horace Greeley with a tally sheet marked "Taylor" and "Cass" nearby. Greeley thumbs his nose at Taylor and Cass and says, "Well, Gentlemen, my place has become a sinecure. I need not keep tally for you now." An ardent and powerful Whig spokesman in the 1844 election, Greeley withheld his support for Taylor until late in the 1848 campaign. By that time his New York "Tribune" had become an established and successful newspaper.