"Country Politician," painted soon after George Caleb Bingham was elected a U.S. Congressman for Missouri, depicts American democracy in action. Seated near a stove, a young politician attempts to enlist the support of an older rural farmer, while a businessmanãperhaps a local power brokerãlistens attentively. Bingham's political subject would have resonated with his fellow Missourians, who participated in the intense debates about slavery that dominated American politics prior to the Civil War.
In 1849, the Missouri Senate passed the pro-slavery "Jackson Resolutions," which asserted that it was unconstitutional for Congress to limit slavery in its new territories. Bingham countered by introducing the "Bingham Resolutions," which recommended that the issue of slavery in the territories be decided at the state level. "Country Politician" promotes Bingham's grassroots view that such difficult questions should be left to the "wisdom, intelligence and patriotism of the people of the entire Union"