EXTRACTS FROM “PUNCH.” A ROAR FROM JOHN BULL.
Title:A Roar from John Bull
Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter
Date:Jan 18th, 1862
Published in the aftermath of the Trent Affair, the diplomatic crisis which had brought Britain to the brink of war with America, this patriotic Punch poem begins with Britain personified as a bull in reference to the character of ‘John Bull’, with other countries referred to as smaller but aggressive creatures. The attitude of Britain is characterised as neutral but reluctantly drawn into the possibility of a conflict which it would almost certainly win. The second half of the poem largely abandons metaphor and refers directly to the parties involved. There tends to be a strong element of nationalistic wishful thinking in these kinds of poems, and both of these characterisations are less straightforward than they might seem. The Trent Affair revealed that Britain had officially attempted to hold talks with the Confederacy, belying its claims to neutrality, and the Union’s reaction proved that Lincoln very much favoured Britain’s friendship during the war. This became much more evident after the Proclamation of Emancipation of September 1862. The reference to ‘taxation’ in the final stanza reflects the very considerable financial strain the Britain was put under by the war, even beyond the huge burden of the cotton blockade, bringing into focus the unavoidably global nature of the conflict. – SR