National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
This cartoon by Nathaniel Currier addresses the 1856 presidential election, which became a political contest among three candidates. The overriding issues were slavery in the states, states’ rights, and the expansion of slavery in the new territories. Former President Millard Fillmore (right), candidate for the new Know Nothing, or American, Party, criticized the abolitionist leanings of the new Republican Party, represented by preacher Henry Ward Beecher, editor Horace Greeley, and western explorer and party candidate John C. Frémont (left). In the end, Democratic nominee James Buchanan, shown as the buck, won the election, benefiting from the sectional divisiveness that was resulting in national discord. Buchanan, a Pennsylvanian and no advocate of human bondage, nevertheless defended the doctrine of states’ rights, which protected the institution of slavery in the South and allowed its expansion in the newly forming states in the West.