Jackson’s America


Digital image via Library of Congress.

David Claypoole Johnston, A Foot-Race. Boston, 1824. Political Cartoon Collection.

Johnston, sometimes called as “the American Cruikshank” was a respected comic illustrator, engraver, and lithographer. This cartoon satirizes the 1824 presidential election.

The 1824 campaign was one of two elections in which the Electoral College failed to select a president, transferring the vote the House of Representatives. (The other was the election of 1800.) The race came down to John Quincy Adams (Secretary of State under President Monroe), Andrew Jackson (who earned national fame through his battle against Creek and conquest of Florida), William Crawford (Minister to France and Secretary of Treasury), and  Henry Clay (the Speaker and one of the great orators of the period). Despite losing the Electoral College to Jackson, the House ultimately selected Adams.

This figurative portrayal shows the four men in a horse race for the presidency, glossed with comments from spectators associated with their coalitions: An Irishman, a Westerner, a Frenchman, former President John Adams, and two African-Americans.

Henry Clay: “D—n it, I cant save my distance—so I may as well draw up.” Man in riding clothes consoles him: “Well dont distress yourself—there’ll be some scrubbing by & by & then you’ll have a chance.”

Westerner: “Hurra for our Jacks-son.”

Former President John Adams: “Hurra for our son Jack.”

Coachmen: “That inner-track fellow [Crawford] goes so well; that I think he must have got the better of the [boss]” and “Like enough; but betwixt you and I—I dont think he’ll ever get the better of the Quinsy.”

Irishman: “Blast my eyes if I dont venter a small horn of rotgut on that bald filly in the middle [Adams].”

Frenchman: “Ah hah! Mon’s Neddy I tink dat kick on de back of you side is worse den have no dinner de fourt of july.”

In the background: the “Presidential Chair” with a purse labeled “$25,000 per Annum” with an imaginative portrayal of the Capitol in the distance.

Digital image via Library of Congress.

[James Akin], The Pedlar and His Pack.Philadelphia, 1828. Political Cartoons Collection.

Believing Andrew Jackson to be an irresponsible tyrant, John Binns, editor of Philadelphia Democratic Press, published a series of “coffin hand-bills” bearing the names of soldiers whom Jackson ordered shot when they quit the service at end of their enlistments during the War of 1812. Binn’s campaign backfired spectacularly. Mobs attacked his house; his paper was discontinued; and his handbills stoked popular sympathy for Jackson. Jackson later secured victories in both the Electoral College (178-83 electors) and popular vote (650,000-500,000 votes).

Akin’s pro-Jackson cartoon satirizes the negative impact of the “coffin handbills” on the John Quincy Adams’s presidential campaign. Binns carries a load of coffins, pleading for monetary support as a compromised Henry Clay (left) urges a stubborn John Quincy Adams (right) to hold on despite popular opposition. Adams, holding Presidential chair, speaks of a pet project that Clay had pressed (sending American delegates to the Panama Congress of Latin-American states).

Binns: “I must have an extra dose of Treasury-pap, or down go the Coffins Harry, for I feel faint already.”

Clay: “Hold on Jonny Q—for I find that the people are too much for us, and I’m sinking with Jack and his Coffins!”

Adams: “I’ll hang on to the Chair Harry, in spite of Coffin hand-bills Harris’s letter Panama mission or the wishes of the People.”

Digital image via Library of Congress.

Anthony Imbert, A New Map of the United States.New York, 1829. Political Cartoons Collection.

In what is likely the first cartoon lithograph in the United States, Imbert satirizes the rise of the Jacksonian Democratic Party and anticipates the emergence of a two-party system—Democrats and Whigs—after the election of 1828.  

Shows the victorious Jackson Party as an alligator tied to the tail of the “administration” tortoise, defeated incumbent John Quincy Adams Party. Jackson supporters debate whether to untie the knot between them and the tortoise. Adams supporters refer to the “coffin handbills,” which critiqued Jackson’s execution of eight militia men under his command during the War of 1812.  Winnebago Indians on a mountain range (an allusion to an 1828 visit to Washington, D.C) share their impressions of the U.S.

Digital image via Library of Congress.

James Akin, A Downright Gabbler.Philadelphia, 1829. Political Cartoons Collection.

During her second visit to the United States during the summer of 1829, British suffragette and abolitionist Frances (Fanny) Wright delivered a controversial abolitionist lecture on “Subjects Applicable to the Day” at the Walnut Street Theater. Akin caricatures Wright, whose name he puns with the title of this cartoon (“downwright” with a crossed out “w”). 

Depicts Wright as a goose eulogizing in a liturgical setting during her 1829 lecture tour. Wright (with the goose head) wears a black dress, white scarf, and stands with a book in her raised hand at a table dressed with candles, a pitcher of water, and texts. Beside her, a well-dressed male attendant holds her bonnet.