Hunters of Kentucky

Pro-Clay political cartoon, 1844



Tune— “Miss Bailey

Our little Mat, from Kinderhook, no friend to country quarters,
Resolved to rule a second time, or dangle in his garters;
Though Lindenwold grew cabbages, he got but little off it;
‘Twixt Public crib and private crib, there’s a difference in the profit!
Great difference in the profit!

Ye office-seeking sycophants, now ready let each one be ;
The Argus, with its hundred, eyes, looked every way for Sunday;
Mat sung all tunes in double voice — one bass, the other treble,
While in Senate, Silas Wright was playing second fiddle.
Wright playing second fiddle.

Importers and our factories, Mat wished in good condition,
And Slavery, twas a sacred thing, and so was Abolition!
He was for Union and Repeal — ‘more no than yes’ — the Treaty;
He loved Protection and Free Trade, Sub-Treasury Notes and Specie?
All salaries paid in specie!

Then Agriculture — he revered it! himself a happy Tiller,
At first he bought his hay and oats, but past two years was seller,
Had reclaimed twelve acres bog — in the useful was their true vassal,
But for him to talk to farmers, was carrying coals to Newcastle.
Mat carrying coals to New Castle!

And oh! the generous rival; — Calhoun, altho’ Quixotic,
Was an honest Nulifier!— Cass vain, but patriotic,
Johnson, an honorable man — all were in his opinion;
Dick never wrote that mail report, but doubtless killed an Indian!
Dick doubtless killed an Indian!

Now any mortal man but Mat — such studied non committal,
Such twiddling, twaddling, twisting, would very much be-little,
He patted Cass-men on the back, and Johnson and Calhoun men
Soft-soldered all mankind, and bored — Lord ! how he bored the women!
Who doesn’t love the women?

Now Mat had learnt in Jackson times, in Loco-Foco sections,
That soldering, and rub-a-dubs, were just the thing for ‘lections;
But his merit roll was mighty short in service thus exciting,
He “talked of battles”— snug at home while others did the fighting!
Dick Johnson did the fighting!

Quoth Mat, I need the Hickery poles to reach the place assigned me!
I’ll mount the Presidential horse and pillion — Polk behind me!
Old Tennessee can help me more than scores of ‘Accidentals,”
If she’ll rig me out in the Gineral’s cocked hat and regimentals !
Old Hickory’s regimental!

Like bag on bean pole, and such a fit — the tailor tribe were shock’d at;
Old soldiers snickered to see Mat play General in a cock’d hat,
Old Hickory shakes his sides to see how slouchingly his suit sets,
While “Puss in Boots” makes awkward strides to follow in his footsteps.
In his illustrious footsteps!

Then all contributed their mite; the Argus public meetings ;
Old Hickory furnishes rub-a-rubs — John Tyler, double dealings,
Ritchie, to gull the populace, fluttered like a stool-pigeon,
Hoyt furnished funds, Dick Davis wind, and Butler the religion!
Ben Butler the religion.

And Humbug Benton, having heard, though he had never read it,
That Balaam’s Ass had made a speech, reported to his credit,
Came forth in many a windy speech, for he felt some ambition,
Like his great prototype, to show an ass’s condition.
The Ass’s condition.

By British Gold, and Biddle Banks he said he’d never be bought,
“Rumbled his belly full”— [King Lear.]— like tempest in a tea-pot ;
He always thought the popular breath like herrings spoiled in curing,
But their “sober second thoughts,” he hoped, would be for Mat. Van Buren!
For him — and Mat Van Buren !

Prince John, too, fired with patriotic zeal — met with responses hearty,
His honied voice, and spindle-shanks, devoted to ‘The Party;’
Barn Burners, and Old Hunkers’ were dear alike to Matty,
If they’d resolve, nem. con. to vote their ‘Favorite Son’ — his Pappa!
His well-fed, grateful Pappa!

Mat’s nomination now was deemed as past all apprehension,
His rivals — jockey’d off the course, Mat heads them in Convention!
But Henry Clay was waxing strong, while Mat grew faint and feeble;
Huzza for Clay — and exit Mat — cursing the stupid people!
Mat couldn’t gull the people!


Another entry in “The Whigs Really Didn’t Like Martin Van Buren” category.

Unfortunate Miss Bailey, our tune today, is the same tune as The Hunters of Kentucky.  The audience in 1844 would have known this, and given that Henry Clay was “Old Kentucky” (among his many other appellations) I expect it was deliberate.

The first stanza of The Hunters of Kentucky goes:

Ye gentlemen and ladies fair, who grace this famous city,
Just listen, if you’ve time to spare, while I rehearse a ditty;
And for the opportunity conceive yourselves quite lucky,
For ’tis not often that you see a hunter from Kentucky.

Oh, Kentucky! the hunters of Kentucky.

Mat from Kinderhook was Martin Van Buren, whose home town was Kinderhook, New York.  “Resolved to rule a second time”:  He’d been president once, 1836-1840, lost re-election in 1840, and was ready to run again  in 1844.

“The Rubber” means that Van Buren is playing whist; the third game is his third run for president.

Lindenwold was the name of Van Buren’s house in Kinderhook.  The cabbages were an ethnic slur on his Dutch heritage.

The “public crib” was the public coffers.  Government funding.  (H. L. Mencken traced the term to 1853: I can confidently state that it was around a decade earlier.)  Private crib is more obscure; from context I believe that we’re saying that sucking on the public teat is more profitable than working for oneself.

Office-seeking sycophants: Van Buren was an expert practitioner of the Spoils System of rewarding ones’ friends with public jobs (the Civil Service system was a reform to end the spoils system).

The Argus would have been the influential newspaper, The Argus of Western America, edited by Amos Kendall.   “Sunday” is probably a reference to the Sunday Mail Report, by Richard M. Johnson.  The Sunday Mail Report was a reply to the petition that the Federal government stop handling mail on Sunday, due to Biblical prohibitions of working on Sunday.  Johnson’s reports (there were two of them) were to the effect that not working on Sunday would be a lessening the separation between church and state, and therefore the petition was denied.  The slander against Johnson was that he hadn’t written the Sunday Mail Report himself, but that it had been ghost-written by Kendall.

Silas Wright, US Senator from New York, was widely expected to run for vice-president.

Importers and factories — had different views on protective tariffs.  The Whigs  generally favored tariffs while the Democrats favored free trade.

Union and Repeal: specifically the Union of the United Kingdom.   Repeal of the Acts of Union was a hot-button topic among the Irish immigrants.

Sub-treasury notes were paper money, specie was hard currency.

Despite Whig slanders that Van Buren was a strutting-peacock dandy, he was, in fact, a farmer and son of a farmer.

John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, favored nullification: that a state could declare any federal law null and void within its own borders.

General Lewis Cass was then Minister to France.  He had been territorial governor of Michigan and held other offices at the state, territorial, and federal level.

Johnson was Richard Mentor Johnson.  Again the slander that he hadn’t personally written the Sunday Mail Report.  He had killed Shawnee chief Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in the War of 1812.

To “soft-solder” is to flatter.

The Loco-Focos were a radical Democratic off-shoot; applied to the Democrats generally by the Whigs.

Van Buren had been Andrew Jackson’s vice president.  “Rub-a-dubs” are military drums.

The “Hickery” poles — without a boost from Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson, Van Buren supposedly wouldn’t have been elected president to follow Jackson.

“Puss in Boots” because Van Buren was short.   John Tyler’s double dealing was the sense of betrayal by the Whigs when “His Accidency” John Tyler, a Whig, became president after the death of William Henry Harrison, and promptly started vetoing Whig legislation.  Ritchie would have been Thomas Ritchie, of Virginia, editor and publisher of the Richmond Enquirer.  He favored westward expansion, public schools, and slavery.  Jesse Hoyt, Collector of the Port of New York, appointed by Van Buren, was involved in corruption and embezzlement in that office.  Dick Davis would have been congressman Richard D. Davis of New York, who was a powerful and eloquent Van Buren spokesman.  Ben Butler would have been Benjamin Franklin Butler, Van Buren’s old law partner, and Van Buren’s Attorney General.

James K. Polk, “Old Tennessee” before the Democratic convention in 1844 was angling to be Van Buren’s vice-presidential running mate.   The “Accidental” was John Tyler (who some thought would run as a Democrat, but didn’t.)

The “Gineral” would be General Andrew Jackson (the Hero of New Orleans).

“Humbug Benton” would have been Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, a strong supporter of hard currency, and westward expansion.

Balaam’s Ass is a reference to a Bible story (in chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers) involving a talking donkey.  The implication is that Benton was a talking ass.

British Gold is the money reportedly being spent by Britain to bribe US politicians to support free trade.  Biddle Banks refers to the Second Bank of the United States, under Nicholas Biddle (of Philadelphia).  The Democrats favored free trade and opposed a central bank.

“Sober second thoughts” refers to Van Buren’s loss of support by the people who voted for him in 1836 but didn’t in 1840.

“Prince John” was Van Buren’s son, John Van Buren.    The Barnburners were the radical Democrats who opposed slavery and state banks.  The reference is to someone who would burn down his own barn in order to get rid of the rats.  The Hunkers were the conservative Democrats who favored state banks and didn’t care about the slavery question.  They were hunkered down in their positions. Nem. con. is an abbreviation for the legal phrase nemine contradicente, meaning “unanimously.”

The song predicts that Henry Clay will beat Martin Van Buren in the general election.

As it happened, Martin Van Buren was not the Democratic nominee in 1844 when the convention ended.  And Polk, who was, beat Clay.



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