Lawprof Rick Hills has a new post at Prawsblawg that refers the Panic of 1837: Van Buren to Pennsylvania: Drop Dead. The post also contains links to two articles that I found interesting: Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., Democracy and Laissez Faire: The New York State Constitution of 1846, and Alasdair S. Roberts, "An Ungovernable Anarchy": The United States' Response to Depression and Default, 1837-1848. Both articles are brief (5 and 7 pages respectively) and well worth a look.
Although not its main point, the Roberts article explains the double-whammy nature of the Panic of 1837 - an initial depression that began in May 1837 and eased somewhat in 1838 and 1839, followed by an even deeper downturn that arose out events in 1839 but whose impact was felt beginning in 1840. As I explained in Henry Clay, President, the early timing of the Whig presidential convention - held before the full impact of the second wave of the Panic was felt - probably denied Henry Clay the presidency in 1840.
About the illustration, entitled Specie Claws:
A melodramatic portrayal of the plight of the tradesman during the Panic of 1837, whose financial distress the artist ascribes to Loco Foco politics and the effects of the Specie Circular, or "Specie Clause." Though a product of the Jackson administration, the measure was also associated with the monetary program of Jackson successor and protege Martin Van Buren. Designed to curb inflationary speculation, the circular stipulated that only specie (i.e., gold or silver) be accepted as payment for federal lands. Radical Democrats, or "Loco Focos," of New York supported Van Buren's anti-Bank fiscal policies. The panic depressed the economy for several years, and caused widespread unemployment. A despondent tradesman, or mechanic, sits at a table in his humble dwelling, a copy of radical Democratic newspaper the "New Era" on his lap. On the wall behind him are prints of Jackson and Van Buren. Strewn at his feet are his tools, and his toolbox is empty but for "Loco Foco Pledges." He laments, "I have no money, and cannot get any work." Beside him are his wife and children. His wife, holding an infant, says, "My dear, cannot you contrive to get some food for the children? I don't care for myself." The children speak: "I'm so hungry," "I say Father, can't you get some "Specie Claws?" and "Father can't I have a piece of bread?" The landlord's agents appear at the door with a warrant of "Distraint for Rent." One says, "I say Sam, I wonder where we are to get our Costs." Weitenkampf tentatively dates the cartoon 1838.