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The County Election
"The County Election" was an oil painting created by Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham in 1852. This work depicts the civilian experience of democracy with a critique of the developing political system, a theme frequented by Bingham throughout his career. Accordingly, the civilians gathered in this work do so around the front steps of the courthouse from which the politician speaks, but is not seen. Meanwhile, a line forms to cast their ballot under a banner that reads "The Will of The People the Supreme Law". The focus is on the people in the foreground who are in varying stages of their participation in the election, revealing those engaged, waiting, discouraged, and some even intoxicated. Bigham's close friend, James Rollins, identifies the excellence of this piece as its honest depiction of the civilian experience of an election, calling into question "the power and influence which the ballot box exerts over our happiness as a people". Bingham later had this piece engraved by English-American engraver John Sartain in 1864. This particular piece may be a color lithograph print of Sartain's engraving. When Bingham collaborated with Sartain, he requested a few changes that would generalize the scene as an event that occurred nationwide and one that was "illustrative of the manners of a free people and free institutions", although Bingham's motives for depicting the crowd in this manner are still contested to this day.