- Historic Sites
The Speech That Toppled A President
How a Pennsylvania congressman dug Martin Van Buren’s political grave with a golden spoon
August 1964 | Volume 15, Issue 5
I cannot forbear … to read you a description of the great banqueting hall, commonly called the “East Room” … [Reads from the United States Telegraph , which he terms “the Court Journal of the day”]. … who can deny that this room, intended for the comfort of our democratic Chief Magistrate, is adorned with regal splendor far above any of the grand saloons at Buckingham Palace, Carlton House, or Windsor Castle? … Brilliant and princely, however, as the East Room had been fitted up by the late President, it was destined to have its … powers of attraction increased, by the exquisite taste of its present occupant. … The former [wall] paper was a “fine lemon color” … but Mr. Van Buren had doubtless been apprized, either by one of his sons, who at the time was on most familiar intercourse with, if not a resident at, the Court of St. James, or, perhaps, by a more formal communication through the Lord High Chamberlain of Her Majesty’s Household, that wall-paper of the “lemon color” had, during the progress of the last year, become unfashionable. … Hence, Mr. Van Buren … issued his royal mandate on the first day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-nine, that the “paper of the lemon color , with a rich cloth border,” should be forthwith taken off the broad walls of the Eastern room, and that “a rich, chaste, and beautiful paper” should be substituted. … Sir, EVERY PLAIN R EPUBLICAN will now find a set of chairs in that splendid and royal saloon, which took the round sum of SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS of the PEOPLE’S CASH to pay for. … Martin Van Buren— plain , republican hardhanded-democratic-locofoco Martin Van Buren—has it now garnished with gold framed mirrors “as big as a barn-door,” to behold his plain republican self in .
Having paid our respects to the “East Room,” let us … take a view of what is, at the present day, called the “B LUE E LLIPTICAL S ALOON .” … This apartment … in its beautiful shape, rich French furniture, showy drapery, costly gilded ornaments, and general arrangements … has frequently been pronounced, in the judgment of the best connoisseurs, the choicest room of the palace. … furnished very much after the style of the most brilliant drawingrooms at the Tuilleries. … Mr. Van Buren … expended, in “improving” the furniture of that room, during the first ten months of his presidency, the sum of $1,805.55 of the P EOPLE’S CASH .…
Suppose, sir, after you shall have returned to the charming prairies of Illinois, some plain, honest, republican “Sucker” should inquire what use a real genuine hard-handed locofoco democrat like Mr. Van Buren can have for silk covered pillows, footstools and TABOURETS in the “Blue Elliptical Saloon?” How would you reply to that honest Sucker’s interrogatory? Wouldn’t you acknowledge yourself fairly stumped? But suppose he would ask what sort of animals these TABOURETS , or TABBY-CATS , are? … I should like to hear the honest opinions not only of the plain, republican “Suckers,” but also of the “Hoosiers,” of the “Wolverines,” and of the “Buckeyes,” about these tabbycats.…
On each side of the “Blue Elliptical Saloon” [are] the “green” and “yellow” drawing-rooms … a suite of rooms that many of the inferior Monarchs of Europe would feel proud to possess. … I will not detain you, sir, longer in the Green and Yellow Drawing rooms than just to direct your eye in retiring from the latter, first to the elegant mahogany gilt-mounted piano forte, and then to the heavy gilt bronze mantel time-piece. … I shall call your attention … to the “C OURT B ANQUETING R OOM ” … in which I can promise you a sight … a genuine locofoco’s dinner table … this table is not provided with those old and unfashionable dishes, “hog and hominy,” “fried meat and gravy” … with a mug of “hard cider.” … All these substantial preparations are looked upon by gourmands, French cooks , and locofoco Presidents as exceedingly vulgar. … A genuine locofoco furnishes his dinner table … in massive gold plate and French sterling silver services, blue and gold French tambours, compotiers on feet, stands for bonbons, with three stages, gilded French plateaus, garnished with mirrors and garlands, and gaudy artificial flowers .