In this undated color print, “Uncle Sam” is seated in a flowered, upholstered armchair, resting and holding a document labeled “Failures.” He is wearing a “Liberty” cap, vest, breeches, moccasins, and an American flag overcoat. Attending to the ill “Uncle Sam,” is “Dr. Hickory”-- Andrew Jackson (characterized as Benjamin Franklin), as well as Missouri Senator, Thomas Hart Benton, and Martin Van Buren dressed as a woman and referred to as “Aunt Matty.” This print is a satire on the state of the United States banking system under the Jackson administration, and employs an extended metaphor of the bank’s failure as an illness throughout the cartoon. Jackson, depicted standing next to a broken statue of “Pater Patriae” (father of the county), George Washington, tells “Uncle Sam” that he is sick because he has been overeating and deserves it. Next to Jackson, Benton holds a clyster enema syringe and suggests that more “mint drops” (coin currency) would cure him of his illness. “Uncle Sam” does not want “mint drops” or “gold pills” however, because they are tying up his bowels and ruining “his Constitution.” He scolds Jackson for ruining his formerly perfect health, and threatens to call on the President of the Second National Bank, Nicholas Biddle to be his Doctor if Jackson and his successor, Van Buren don’t fix the economy. Through the window, “Brother Jonathan,” the personification of New England, can be seen greeting Biddle who is carrying a trunk of “Post notes and bonds.” Brother Jonathan is relieved to see Biddle stating, “Oh Docr. Biddle I’m so glad you’re come. Uncle Sam is in a darned bad way.” The print is undated, but given that “Uncle Sam” is calling “Aunt Matty” his new nurse, holding the paper labeled “Failures” marked with a number of banks and their losses, and that Nicolas Biddle is arriving in the background, this print was most likely a response to the beginning of the Panic of 1837 that happened shortly after Van Buren’s election. Seated behind “Uncle Sam’s” chair, is an Eagle, who states, “I must fly to Texas, for I shall be starved out here.” At the time of this print, Texas was a newly independent nation led by President Sam Houston following the Battle of San Jacinto in April of 1836. Following their independence, the majority of Texans wanted to be annexed by the United States, but neither Jackson nor Van Buren allowed them into the Union. It was not until 1845 under President John Tyler that Texas became a state.
The lithographer of this print is Edward Williams Clay (1799-1857). Clay was a caricaturist, engraver, lithographer, and etcher, as well as a portrait painter. Before his career as an artist, Clay was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar, but quickly left to pursue art in New York City. After losing his eyesight he retired from art and held minor office in Delaware before his death in December of 1857.
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