The Election of 1860 mirrored the divided nature of the United States both in the presidential candidates and the voting results. The four major candidates represented three parties, a result of sectional discord: Stephen Douglas (northern Democratic party), John Breckinridge (southern Democratic party), Abraham Lincoln (Republican party), and John Bell (Constitutional Union party). This pro-Breckinridge political cartoon shows Douglas (on the left) and Lincoln (on the right) duking in out in a boxing ring, while Breckinridge points towards the White House with one hand and thumbs his nose (a sign of disrespect) at the boxers with the other. The boxers’ coaches reflect the stereotypical perception of their constituency: an Irishman backs Douglas, reflecting the northern Democrats, while a black man coaches Lincoln, the antislavery-Republican candidate. According to the artist, who may have published this cartoon in Cincinnati, Breckinridge could slip into the White House while Douglas and Lincoln were preoccupied with their “political prize fight.” Although the cheering line of gentlemen on the path to the White House would reflect the lower-Southern states’ unanimous support of Breckinridge, the split nature of the Democratic party helped enable Lincoln’s electoral victory.
American Political Prints, 1766-1876 (1991) catalogues Library of Congress’s collections, giving a brief contextual summary as well as the date and place of publication for their political images. The book’s introduction briefly explains the history of American printmaking and also includes a selected bibliography for further research.