Essay Project #2

15 Points

Political Cartoon Analysis


Directions: Read carefully the brief overview below.  Then choose one of the four political cartoons to analyze.  The term “Analyze” is defined as the examination of components or elements in a cartoon in an effort to determine a relation to an event or person.  After you have analyzed the cartoon of your choice write an essay on your findings.  The guidelines for the essay are located on the cover sheet distributed.



Political Cartoon Overview-

First & foremost understand the purpose of a political cartoon.  A “Political Cartoon,” as it is written in World Book 2002, is an attempt to accomplish, in pictures, what editorials do in words.  A political cartoon encourages a reader to develop an opinion about someone or something prominent in the news.  Most of these cartoons appear as single panels on the editorial pages of newspapers.  Some have captions or titles.  Others consist only of a drawing.  Political cartoons may support an editorial of the day, or they may deal with a news event.  Many editorial cartoonists use an exaggerated form of drawing called a caricature to poke fun at well-known people.

The four political cartoons to follow are all related to the United States’ eighth president, Martin Van Buren.  Martin Van Buren gained political notoriety (fame) in the state of New York as a leader of the Democratic Party.  Born in Kinderhook, New York, Martin Van Buren is considered by many historians to be the “brains” behind the creation of the image of Andrew Jackson as the people’s president from 1828-1836.  He was Jackson’s Secretary of State from 1828-32 and his Vice-President from 1832-1836.  As a result of his ability to manipulate elections, he was nicknamed, at the state level, “Old Kinderhook” or “The Kinderhook Fox” and at the national level he was nick named the “Little Magician.”  Van Buren was thrust into the US Presidency, with the help of Andrew Jackson in 1836, but hard economic times (Depression of 1837) led to his eventual defeat.  "Martin Van Ruin," as the Whigs referred to him as, used “Log Cabin Politics” and “hard cider campaigning  to win the election of 1840.  Van Buren lost reelection to a Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison, who was portrayed by the Whig Party in the very image of Andrew Jackson which was master minded by Van Buren in the 1820’s.

Devastated after leaving the White House, Van Buren ran for the presidency again in 1844, but he was denied the Democratic nomination, and in 1848 as the nominee of the Free-Soil Party which was opposed to the extension of slavery. His third-party candidacy paved the way for a second Whig, Zachary Taylor, to win the presidential office-a poor outcome for a Democrat.





This is a political cartoon from the 1836 US Presidential Election Campaign.  Martin Van Buren (seated on the left) and William Henry Harrison (seated on the right) play cards.  Jackson is peeking at William Henry Harrison's cards to cheat on behalf of Van Buren and Richard Johnson (Van Buren's running mate) is standing near Martin Van Buren in an effort to assist him to victory. The title of the cartoon reads “All Fours- Important State of the Game- The Knave About to be Lost.”  The term “knave” means; a boy servant; a male servant; a man of humble birth or position; a tricky deceitful fellow.  Van Buren won this election, but lost four years later in 1840 to the same Whig candidate, Harrison.  Explain the meaning of this cartoon in relation to what the title is attempting to get across to the public.







This woodcut is a parody (caricature or exaggeration) of Democratic efforts in 1840 to re-elect incumbent Martin Van Buren in the face of broad popular support for Whig candidate William Henry Harrison.  Note in this cartoon that Martin Van Buren appears locked up in a “log cabin” and that Andrew Jackson attempts to pry him out with a “hickory stick.”  Additionally, names of states appear on the log cabin and the fulcrum for Jackson’s hickory stick is a pile of “NG” which means “no go.”  Recall, from the overview presented, that Van Buren lost his bid for reelection in 1840. Explain this political cartoon and how it relates to the outcome of the US Presidential election of 1840.







This political cartoon was created for the US Presidential election of 1840. The title reads “A Hard Road To Hoe! Or, the White House Turnpike, macadamized by the North Benders.”  Please note in the cartoon the parallels to “hard road” & “hard cider” (which is the alcohol that was many times distributed by Whigs at their political party functions to those people that attended).  The term “macadamized” means to construct or complete a road using a solid foundation.  This cartoon is a crude satire on the obstacles facing Van Buren's reelection effort in 1840. Weighed down by a large bundle labeled "Sub Treasury," Van Buren follows the lead of Andrew Jackson toward the White House. His way is blocked by barrels of "Hard Cider" and log cabins, symbolizing the popular appeal of Harrison's candidacy. In the right distance the Capitol is visible, and in the left distance Van Buren's home at Kinderhook. A mischievous youth stands behind Van Buren thumbing his nose.  It also features "OK" which was coined after Martin Van Buren -- "Old Kinderhook."  Explain why, after being the US President for a term (4 years), Van Buren would need guidance to get reelected as this cartoon suggests.  Keep in mind the economic troubles of 1837 as explained in the overview.






The title of this 1844 political cartoon is “The Little Magician Invoked." – It depicts Martin Van Buren summoning spirits to help his party in the 1844 election.  Martin Van Buren is seated in the middle, to his left is Andrew Jackson, and to his right is the Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1844.  James K. Polk, the Democratic Presidential candidate from Tennessee, stands in front of his vice-presidential candidate, George Mifflin Dallas from Pennsylvania, urging on Van Buren and his magic.  Explain the content of this cartoon and why its author would place two former US Presidents, Andrew Jackson & Martin Van Buren, in it to help Polk win in 1844.

For further help on this cartoon click here










World Book 2002