Political Cartoon

This cartoon depicts Jackson’s reaction to Pennsylvania’s chartering of the United States Bank, a reputed Third Bank of the United States. On the right side of the image, Biddle stands in front of the former bank with the new charter in hand. Jackson, at left, is frightened by the reappearance of his old nemesis (represented in reality by Biddle, who he calls Old Nick, and in his imagination by the bank, or the two headed monster atop the charter) and flees brandishing what is left of a cane representing his major weapon against the bank, his power to veto federal legislation. Jackson’s vow to “cut stick,” slang for running away, was therefore a pun. “Araby” is an archaic reference to Arabia, a peninsula in the Middle East some 6,500 miles from Washington DC. Used in conjunction with the verb “fly,” in the sense of moving quickly, its use apparently intended to convey Jackson’s deep fear of the new bank.

The character on his backside in the middle of the image is Jackson’s Vice President and heir-apparent, consummate New York politician Martin Van Buren. Reference to the prophet Elisha and use of the word mantle, a caped ecclesiastical garment, suggest that the cartoonist thought adherence to Jackson’s policies more a matter of faith than of reason. Clearly, the cartoonist wonders if Van Buren is willing and/or able to continue Jackson’s policies against the bank (“no monopoly”; “deposits”), banknotes (“specie currency” probably a reference to the Specie Circular), and the national debt (“appropriations”), and in favor of administration-controlled newspapers (“collar presses”; “Globe”).

reproduction