(From Punch)
(Improved from “Original Poems for Infant Minds”)

O, who’ll come and play Agitation with me,
My Cobden has left me alone?
Industrious working men, won’t you be free?
Let us get up a row of our own.
O no, Mr. Bright, sir, we can’t come indeed,
We’ve no time to idle away;
We’ve got all our dear little children to feed,
And can do it, we’re happy to say.
Small tradesmen, don’t stick to beef, candles and flour
But kick up a row with me, do;
Those grubs will not fight for political power,
But say, thinking men, will not you?
O no, Mr. Bright, sir, for do you not see
By our shops we’re enabled to thrive;
The way to get on is to work like a bee,
And always be storing the hive.
Intelligent middle class, rise at the blast
Of the trumpet of freedom, I play;
I hope I shall find a disciple at last,
You are not so busy as they.
O no, Mr Bright, sir, we shan’t come to you,
We’re not made to cry but to labour;
We always have something or other to do ---
If not for oneself, for a neighbour.
What then, they’re all busy and happy but me,
And I’m bawling here like a dunce;
O then, I’ll be off to where members should be
And attend to my business at once.
[And my dears, being a strong and clever boy, he
Ran down to his place of business, and helped to
move and carry several things that were wanted in the House.]

Title:Reforming the Reformers


Publication:Accrington Guardian

Published in:Accrington

Date:Sat, March 9th, 1861

Keywords:class, politics, satire


This satirical Punch poem imagines a conversation between the Quaker Liberal MP and reformer John Bright and the working classes in whose interests he campaigned for many years. Bright, and his associate Richard Cobden, had long been famous for their anti-Corn Law campaigns and promotion of free trade policies. By the early 1860s, the popular perception of both had been tarnished in the eyes of some due in part to their opposition to the Crimean War in the previous decade. The poem gives an indication of the Tory view of the relationship between middle class reformers and working people, which was to become complicated by the onset of Cotton Famine. Both Cobden and Bright were Lancastrian industrialists. – SR