John Bull in Trouble

Come friends and listen while I tell
A short and simple story,
About John Bull and what befel [sic]
Him in his pride and glory.
He had a cousin as you know,
Of whom he sometimes boasted;
And often with a deal of show
This cousin’s health was toasted.
Some other friends he had beside,
But these were all forgotten,
Until John’s wishes were denied,
And he could get no cotton.
Then full of grief and deep despair
He turned his eye to “Indy,”
To see if he could get it there,
For fear there’ll be a “shindy,”
For cotton there, it now is said,
He might have had quite plenty;
But through his stupid foolish head,
His workshops now are empty.
Ah! fool, says he, that I have been
In trusting my relations,
For now they treat me as is seen
Far worse than other nations.
They’ve closed their ports to all my ships,
Now on the ocean sailing;
And do not care though we are all
This bitter war bewailing.
I bought the produce of their farms,
Quite full of expectation,
That they would buy my goods and yarns
Without so much taxation.
But here again I was deceived,
And all my neighbours wonder,
For now it is by them believed
I’ve made a shocking blunder.
What I must do I cannot tell,
I’m dying of starvation;
And no one seems to care a fig
About my preservation.
O that my cousins would agree
And now give over fighting;
Their deadly strife will ruin me,
And is there [sic] country blighting.
Let’s send to them some friendly word,
And try once more persuasion;
They may, perhaps, with one accord,
Submit to arbitration.
If so ‘twill not be labour lost,
For we should then have cotton,
To work again, and pay the cost
Of war, when its forgotten.

Title:John Bull in Trouble

Author:S. Wright

Publication:Ashton Standard

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:October 25th 1862

Keywords:cotton, politics, war


This satire on British-American relations in the early years of the Civil War characterises the two nations as cousins and repeats the familiar trope that Britain might be able to arbitrate a peace between the warring factions. There is a direct reference to the losses of the British cotton industry, and the starvation caused by the cotton blockade. – SR