<Go back to the People Index results>

Complete Explanation:
Foreseeing political death for the Democrats in the election, the artist imagines a funeral of the party's standard-bearers with a procession of the faithful. Democratic senators (left to right) Sam Houston of Texas, Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, (obscured unidentified man), and South Carolina's John Calhoun carry a litter bearing the bodies of Van Buren, as a fox, and Lewis Cass, as a gas balloon (an unflattering play on his last name). Cass expels clouds of gas from his mouth. Benton carries a slip of paper with the words, "Last of the Family Reign." Calhoun carries an iron collar or manacle labeled "Slavery."

They are followed by a second group of pallbearers: Ohio Senator William Allen, former Van Buren advisor Amos Kendall, New Hampshire Democratic leader Levi Woodbury, and former general William Worth, who carry a stretcher bearing retiring President Polk (with cloven hoofs and a devil's tail). Kendall also carries a document labeled "Latest Despatch" while Worth holds his "Military Comi--- [Commission?]," possibly alluding to his role in the Scott-Pillow controversy. (See "Self-Inflating Pillow," no. 1848-2.) An empty "Sub Treasury" box lies open next to Polk on the stretcher. The Independent or "Sub Treasury" bill was a widely criticized measure passed by the Polk administration in August 1846. All of the mourners wear clerical robes. A tombstone for the newspaper "Washington Union" is at left and a monument "To the Memory of Democracy" at right.

Website design © 2010 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2010 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com