Home > 1856 Campaign, 1856-1892 Campaigns > 1856–Sweepstakes Cartoon–Dan Hawvermale

1856–Sweepstakes Cartoon–Dan Hawvermale

The political cartoon I choose is called The Balls Are Rolling – Clear the Track and is an attack on the Buchanan campaign. The theme of the cartoon is to attack Buchanan where he is at his weakest. The cartoon attempts to exploit political issues that have been negative for the Democratic Party as a whole and Buchanan personally. Many of the attacks are ones that have been in the “media” for some time at this point. Some might say that this cartoon had little impact because many of the issues were already known to the public. Many of the arguments against Buchanan stem from his relationship with Franklin Pierce and the Democratic Party.

The way that the cartoon forms these attacks on Buchanan and the Democratic Party is by showing Buchanan being crushed by giant stone spheres. These stone spheres bear and etching of the states that are supposed to crush the Democratic campaign. The stone spheres are Maine, Vermont, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Wisconsin New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, Rohde Island, New Hampshire and Indiana. Under all of these stone sphere states lies Buchanan, half sunk into a hole labeled “Cincinnati Platform.” Buchanan being crushed by the spheres exclaims “Oh Dear!_ Oh Dear! This Platform will be the death of me. I’m nearly crushed out already!” Footnotes in the cartoon explain that the balls may be intended to recall the giant ball of Locofocoism used to the derision of the Democrats in Whig cartoons of the 1840 presidential campaign.

In the back of the cartoon you can see into the distance which shows a burning town in Kansas, with families fleeing for their lives. Also in the distance are the Rocky Mountains, a railroad train going towards California, and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Also on the upper left hand side of the cartoon is an eagle holding a banderole with Republican candidates’ names “Fremont” and “Dayton.” The eagle clutches bundled cartridge with the words “Union,” “Liberty,” and “Constitution” on it. To the right of the eagle is a banner strewn through the sky as if it were a rainbow stating “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Men & Fermont.” This was the Republican Party’s motto at the time of the 1856 election. 

Lying in front of the half sunk Buchanan are a pieces of paper strewn out stating various claims against Buchanan and the Democratic Party. Each of the papers refers to a different negative political event such as Kane Lecompte, Ostend, Polygamy and Slavery, Kansas bogus Laws, Border Ruffianism. Many of these topic refer to the democratic party’s treatment of Kansas regarding slavery. Fillmore is standing by Buchanan saying “Oh James! Erastus! Lying wont scare me, I hear the coming take me off the tack.” He is also holds two documents, the “Fugitive Slave Bill” and an “Albany Speech.” The fugitive Slave bill was a law that made it legal to come bring slaves back from northern free states. Many times southerners would come grab any black man the met the description of their slaves and take them back against their will. This along with the vehement enforcement of the law by Fillmore and his cabinet created a huge amount of resentment from northern states towards both Fillmore and the Democratic Party as a whole.

It is worthy to note that this cartoon aired in a relatively “Democratic newspaper.” The cartoonist normally did not  draw cartoons in favor of Fremont and often drew cartoons depicting him in negative manner. This cartoon may have had a greater effect if it were shown to Northern states in a Republican newspaper.




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