National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Rarely in presidential politics have two men representing the same party been so dissimilar as the 1836 Democratic candidate, Martin Van Buren, and his running-mate, Richard Mentor Johnson. Van Buren was a gentleman of refinement and a savvy New York politician, a master of political circumspection who never gave cause for offense. Johnson, a Kentuckian, paid no heed to the social etiquette of his day and lived openly with his mulatto slave, claiming two children by her, much to the consternation of his constituency. Yet both men, particularly Van Buren, enjoyed the patronage of outgoing president Andrew Jackson, whose popularity influenced the election in their favor. Typical of vice presidents at this time, Johnson never played an active role in Van Buren's single-term administration and became a liability largely because of his lifestyle. This 1840 reelection broadside, however, reminded voters of Johnson's credible military service in the War of 1812.