his cartoon appeared in Vanity Fair on the eve of the 1860
presidential election. It depicts Abraham Lincoln ready to separate surgically James Gordon Bennett, the Democratic newspaper editor, from James Buchanan, the outgoing president. At the time, Bennett was a major supporter of Buchanan and the Democratic party and therefore opposed the election of Lincoln.
Bennett and Buchanan are portrayed as the famous conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker. The original "Siamese Twins," Chang and Eng were born in Siam (1811), toured America and Europe as a human novelty act, and were eventually hired by the 19th-century showman, P. T. Barnum. The Secret Service Fund may refer to corruption uncovered by the Covode investigation, a Congressional inquiry that found substantial evidence of influence-peddling and other wrongdoing in the Buchanan administration.
The portrait on the wall depicts Southern radical Roger Pryor of Virginia as Brutus. March 1860 had seen the end of a tumultuous Congressional session in which the House had taken two months to elect a speaker, most members carried guns on the floor, and verbal barbs flew back and forth with alacrity. During that time Congressman Pryor had challenged Congressman John Potter of Wisconsin to a duel. When the latter chose Bowie knives as the dueling weapon (note the knife on the wall), Pryor rejected it as too barbaric and the duel did not occur.
Sources consulted: Page Chichester, "A Hyphenated Life: The Bunker Twins
Flourished in the N. C. Mountains," www.blueridgecountry.com/twins/twins.htm; Mark W. Summers, The Plundering Generation: Corruption and the Crisis of the Union 1849-1861; Elbert B. Smith, The Presidency of James Buchanan.