A swipe at the integrity of the House of Representatives committee investigating the Swartwout scandal under Van Buren's administration (see "Price Current" and "Sub Treasurers Meeting in England," nos. 1838-21 and -20). Here the eight committee members unsuccessfully attempt to literally whitewash a giant Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury. Several apply "virtue" with brushes and a hose, while another pours a bucket of "lucid intellect" over Woodbury's head. Their brushes and hoses are labeled "force," "untiring," and "purity."
Meanwhile they express their frustration in remarks like "I'll lay on enough if that will do any good," "This whitewash is too thin, it will never cover; only look at his hands!" and "The fellow that sold us this virtue is a cheat; there's no substance in it, it won't stick on."
One of the men stands on a chest similar to the one in "Professor Wise . . ." (no. 1839-9).
The efforts are overseen by a man in a high chair who says, "Gentlemen, Your assiduity and devotion are noticed in a certain quarter, and I am directed to say, their reward is sure . . . Is there virtue enough? if not I will send and get more."