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“An Available Candidate: The One Qualification for a Whig President” Political Cartoon, 1848

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This 1848 political cartoon depicts the Whig Party candidate for president (either Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott) seated atop a pile of skulls while holding a bloodied sword.
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Currier, Nathaniel, New York : 1848


This political cartoon shows a man in a military uniform, with epaulets and a plumed hat, holding a sword and seated on a pile of skulls. The cartoon serves as a scathing attack on Whig principles, as embodied in their selection of a presidential candidate for 1848. Here the "available candidate" is either General Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott, both of whom were contenders for the nomination before the June convention. The figure sits atop a pyramid of skulls, holding a blood-stained sword. The skulls and sword allude to the bloody but successful Mexican War campaigns waged by both Taylor and Scott, which earned them considerable popularity (a combination of attractiveness and credibility termed "availability") among Whigs. The figure here has traditionally been identified as Taylor, but the flamboyant, plumed military hat and uniform are more in keeping with contemporary representations of Scott. The print may have appeared during the ground swell of popular support which arose for Scott as a rival to Zachary Taylor in the few months preceding the party's convention in Philadelphia on June 7, 1848. On June 9, Zachary Taylor captured the Whig nomination.

Source-Dependent Question

  • Using specific evidence from the cartoon, explain how the cartoonist tries to turn the Mexican-American War into a liability for the Whig Party. Do you feel the artist was successful?

Citation Information 

Currier, Nathaniel, New York, 1848. Courtesy of Library of Congress