Distinguished military operations with a hasty bowl of soup
The satire apparently perceives President Polk's reinstatement of Winfield Scott over Zachary Taylor as commander of U.S. forces in the Mexican War in November 1846 as an attempt to squelch the extreme personal popularity won by Taylor through dazzling early victories at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterey. Scott (center) is shown emptying a large tureen of soup onto Taylor, saying "Take that! you're my subordinate!" The "hasty bowl of soup" was a recurring jibe which haunted Scott throughout the rest of his public career. (See also "Battle of Cerro Gordo" and "Battle of Churubusco," nos. 1847-2 and 1847-3.) It originated in Scott's opening comment in a May 25, 1846, letter to Secretary of War William L. Marcy protesting his removal as commander, "Your letter of this date, received at about 6 p.m., as I sat down to take a hasty plate of soup . . ." Here Scott is urged on by Polk (right), who says, "That's right Scott, we must Smother him [i.e., Taylor]!" Scott asks Taylor, "Where were you when I was ordering my hasty plate of Soup?" Taylor, in his customary wide-brimmed hat and simple civilian coat, is in marked contrast to the elegantly uniformed Scott. As a troop of soldiers at attention looks on, Taylor bears the indignity, responding, "Please your Excellency and Commander in Chief I was at the Pallo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, & Monterey." One of the soldiers adds, punning on Taylor'a name, "Aye Aye, the People will put him right, although he's a Taylor he "leads" to danger and dont "follow" suit." Although unsigned the print is quite close in drawing, if not in political bias, to Edward Williams Clay's pro-Scott "Santa Anna Declining a Hasty Plate of Soup at Cerro Gordo" (no. 1847-4). The similarity between the portraits of Scott in the two prints is especially convincing evidence of Clay's authorship.
Polk was born in North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Governor of Tennessee. Polk was the dark horse candidate for president in 1844, defeating Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party by promising to annex the Republic of Texas. Under President Polk vast areas were added to the United States. During his 1845–49 presidency, Polk led the nation to a victory in the Mexican–American War, seizing nearly the whole of what is now the American Southwest. He threatened war with the United Kingdom over the issue of Oregon Country ownership, eventually reaching a settlement in which the British were made to sell the portion that became the Oregon Territory. He built a treasury system that lasted until 1913, oversaw the opening of the U.S. Naval Academy and of the Smithsonian Institution, the groundbreaking for the Washington Monument, and the issuance of the first United States postage stamp. True to his campaign pledge to serve only one term as President, Polk left office and returned to Tennessee in March 1849. He died of cholera three months later. "One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights."
Glimpses of U.S. political campaigns in magazine covers and satire.