A condemnation of a Van Buren administration plan, put forward by Secretary of War Joel Poinsett, to reform the militia system through creation of a reserve force under regular army officers. The idea was attacked by Whigs as a threat to personal liberty and as a dangerous step toward military despotism. Sarony here reflects this view, and also makes mocking reference to the military's recent, controversial use of bloodhounds in the Seminole Wars in Florida.
Several soldiers, holding muskets with fixed bayonets and wearing helmets decorated with skull and crossbones, seize two civilians.
One soldier, collaring the man, says, "Come along here you tarnal varmint you neednt think you can talk politics as you use to could, when the presidents what dident Know nothin . . . used to take that old stinking sheepskin instrument called the constitution for their guide."
Second soldier: "The bayonet is the instrument what we use old boy."
A bystander: "He dont belong to our party no how."
Another civilian reacts to the scene, asking: "Is this America - with all her boasted rights & privileges that a man cannot in the open air speak his sentiments: where is the constitution - the charter of our-"
Another soldier, seizing him: "Stop, stop sir; you talk of the constitution? its all humbug & federalism. I'll teach you who his excellency the president is: he's the government to deal with I reckon."
In the background a troop of bloodhounds receive instruction from a drill sergeant. A barracks and other rows of drilling soldiers can be seen in the distance.