The major figures in American national politics in 1838 are gently satirized, each characterized as riding a favorite issue or "hobbyhorse." At the lead (far left) is President Martin Van Buren, riding a horse "Sub-Treasury," which he calls his "Old Hickory nag." The artist refers to Van Buren's independent treasury program, a system whereby federal funds were to be administered by revenue-collecting agencies or local "sub-treasuries" rather than by a national bank. The Independent Treasury Bill was perceived as an outgrowth of predecessor Jackson's anti-Bank program.
Another hobbyhorse, "United States Bank" (center), is shared by Whig senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, leaders of congressional opposition to Jackson and Van Buren's respective fiscal agendas. Clay says, "Either you or I must get off Dan, for this horse wont carry double!" Webster responds, "Dash my Whig if I get off Hal!"
Directly behind Van Buren Democratic Senator Thomas Hart Benton rides a horse "Specie Currency," an allusion to Benton's championing of hard money economics. Benton was identified with administration efforts to curb the use of currency in favor of "specie" or coin, and to increase the ratio of gold to silver in circulation. He says, "My Golden Poney carries more weight than any of them!"
Behind Clay and Webster is South Carolina senator John C. Calhoun, advocate of state's rights and the driver of Southern nullification of the "Tariff of Abominations."
On the right are William Henry Harrison, in military uniform and riding an "Anti-Masonic" hobby, and Massachusetts Congressman John Quincy Adams on his "Abolition" mount. Harrison's horse is named after the party which supported his 1836 bid for the Presidency. When he says, ". . . unless there is another Morgan abduction, I'm afraid he'll [the horse] lose his wind!" he alludes to the suspicious 1826 death of William Morgan (purportedly at the hands of Masons) which fueled considerable anti-Masonic sentiment in the United States. Adams laments, "This horse, instead of being my Topaz, is my Ebony."