Feet of Clay

Political cartoon, the Coons of '44



Tune — Rosin the Bow.

Johnny Tyler in good time will know.
By the shouts of the Whigs every where.
Whose voices of thunder will show
Full “how many Clay men are there.”

The Captain will hear the sad news.
Which will his dear Locos all scare.
When the ballots of we Jersey Blues
Say “how many Clay men are there.”

Vermont that is true as the pole,
Will from mountain and valley declare.
That the ball, she as ever will roll,
With many good Clay men yet there.

Mississippi is ready to show.
With Ohio, and stout Delaware,
That all of them very well know
A world of strong Clay men are there,

Kentucky, the gallant and bold;
The weak-headed traitor won’t spare;
She’ll proclaim as she has done of old,
“That none but good Clay men are there.”

There’s Maryland’s voice he will hear.
And Georgia as loudly will dare.
To shout in the imbecile’s ear
How many firm Clay men are there.

Carolina will echo the sound;
Louisiana it onward can bear,
Indiana shall pass it around —
For plenty of Clay men are there.

From New York he shall hear it again;
In her strength she will make him aware,
That through her wide reaching domain
Great hosts of strong Clay men are there.

A voice from far Michigan comes;
Massachusetts and “Rhody” prepare
To tell, with Connecticut’s sons,
That a strong vote of Clay men are there*

Pennsylvania’ll speak bravely for one;
And Virginia is ready to swear
That, though Johnny Tyler’s her son,
Enough of good Clay men are there.


So what’s up with that?  Apparently the phrase “how many Clay men are there?” got under somebody’s skin.  Perhaps the following excerpt will help shed light on the question.

Remarks of Richard W. Thompson, of Indiana’s 7th congressional district, a Whig, addressing the House of Representatives, during discussion of The Bankrupt Law.  To wit:

A BILL to repeal the Bankrupt Act.  Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That an act entitled “An act to establish a uniform system of bankruptcy throughout the United States,” approved on the 19th of August, 1841, be repealed: Provided, That this act shall not affect any case or proceeding in bankruptcy commenced before the 5th of December, 1842, or any pains, or penalties, or forfeitures incurred under said act.

After some discussion: “Mr. Thompson declined to yield the floor, and proceeded to address the House.”

The “self-evident fact” referred to is the veto power of the President.  Mr. Thompson opposes not just the Democrats, but also the President, the traitor Tyler, who had forgotten that he had been elected as a Whig.

Mr. Thompson’s remarks were quite lengthy– I quote but two paragraphs.

“This, said Mr. T., was an open offer to the party constituting the minority on this floor, to prostitute themselves at the foot of the shrine of power.  It remained to be seen whether the gentleman could get a bid for the article he had thus offered for sale.  Judging from the expression of opinion on the part of the organ of the Democratic party of this morning, Mr. T. should incline to think that at least that portion of the party regarded the article offered for sale as somewhat damaged. [Laughter.] He supposed it must be a remnant of an old stock on hand.  But it seemed that there were no bidders on the other side of this House, so far as one portion of the Democratic party was concerned, and the gentleman might find that the President of the United State would again be obliged to exercise this self evident fact.  The gentleman told them that, independent of this fact in the Constitution–this veto power, which was capable of being wielded by the President for the destruction of the legislation of the country–that there is something else in the Executive arm, which ought to strike terror into the hearts of all opposed to the Executive.  What was it?  No more nor less than the system of spoils; than the patronage of the Federal Government, which had been so industriously brought into conflict with the freedom of the elections during the last recess; when all the power of this Administration, from Secretary of War down to the gentlemen of this House, had been brought into active exercise in conflict with the freedom of elections; when they had been told, over and over again, that this Administration had proposed to establish itself on the high ground with the waves of the party dashing at its feet.

“This was but the determination of the President himself, declared to that staunch collector at the port of Philadelphia, of whom he asked how many Clay men there were in his office?  Of whatever complexion they might be, one thing was certain which the gentleman told them, viz. that there were gentlemen connected with the Administration who would be heard on the subject when the proper time came.  They had been heard on it.  If the thunder which they had heard yesterday was but the premonition of the coming storm, let it come, said, Mr. T.; for it had been held out in certain quarters that a mighty storm was brewing, which would break in sunder  the party already destroyed, and that portion of the party, now in the minority, who should refuse to come into the support of this Administration — the bankrupt Administration.”

Read the whole thing here:   National Intelligencer, December 29, 1842, page 2

Ah, back in the day,  Congress was entertaining.

“The Captain” (and the “traitor”) was Tyler.  The ball that’s rolling would have been a Victory Ball, a ten or twelve foot sphere, inscribed with slogans, rolled from rally to rally. The Locos are the Democrats.

Tomorrow:  Whig Song (and for a wonder it isn’t to the tune of Rosin the Beau or Old Dan Tucker!)

2 thoughts on “Feet of Clay

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: