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Treeing coons



One of the few satires sympathetic to the Democrats to appear during the 1844 presidential contest. Democratic presidential nominee James Polk is portrayed as a buckskinned hunter who has treed "coons" Henry Clay and Theodore Frelinghuysen. (Clay's nickname "that old coon" had wide currency in the campaign.) Holding a knife in his left hand, Polk grasps the Clay coon by the tail, saying "You've got up the wrong tree this time! Down you must come." At left former President Andrew Jackson stands on a ladder leaning against the "Hickory" tree and chops at the branch holding the two Whigs. He exclaims "Get down from my tree you vermin!" Frelinghuysen says, "from this old man good Lord deliver us!" Clay adds in verse: The state of things is quite surprisin. / Such d--d bad luck my Frelinghuysen. / My struggles are of no avail / For Polk has got me by the Tail. Two other Democrats, John C. Calhoun and Richard M. Johnson, appear as dogs rushing in from the left, saying, "Down with the Coons." Another Democratic ex-President, Martin Van Buren, watches from the right, remarking, "This works according to my wish--The Coons are treed at last." In the right foreground incumbent President John Tyler sets his dogs on the coons, saying, "At them Bobby! Catch them Johnny! Dont let the other dogs get in before you I shall beat them yet." His dogs are son Robert Tyler (labeled "Repeal" for his activism on behalf of the Irish Repeal movement) and John Beauchamp Jones, editor of the newspaper the "Madisonian," organ of the Tyler administration. They also chant, "Down with the Coons."

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.





Bucholzer, H.
Purdy, A.




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calhoun john c
john caldwell
clay henry
frelinghuysen theodore
jackson andrew
johnson richard m
richard mentor
jones j
john beauchamp
polk james k
tyler john
tyler robert
van buren martin
webster daniel
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henry clay
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