The Power of the Rail

The Power of the Rail


Title: The Power of the Rail

Year: 1860

Creator: The Rail-Splitter, Chicago

Old Buck sat in his chair of state,
His face was pale and wan;
The darkets passions of rage and hate
In his sunken eyeballs shone.

Oh! Very uneasy, the Old Man said,
Is the head that wears a crown–
The man who serves the slave-power now,
Must certainly go down

The Covode dogs are on my track,
I hear their loud-mouthed wail;
The treacherous chair begins to crack.
Upheaved by Lincoln’s rail.

A smile played on old Abram’s lips,
He sprang that rail upon
And backward went poor old J.B.,
Down to Oblivion.

–From the Rail-Splitter, (Chicago), September 3, 1860

In this cartoon from The Rail Splitter, a Republican campaign newspaper published in Chicago, Abraham Lincoln uses his rail and the Constitution as leverage to hoist James Buchanan out of the presidential “chair of state” and into political oblivion. In the accompanying poem, “Covode dogs” (third stanza) alludes to a congressional inquiry that found substantial evidence of influence peddling and other wrongdoing in the Buchanan administration.