The Lion Pawing the Eagle.

There’s a great commotion in Yankeedee—
Seward, Chase and Cameron, the “loyal three,
With Welles and Lincoln, a noble quintette make,
They vow anew, to conquer every State.
All meet at Seward’s, the rebels to defame,
“I’d swear,” quoth Lincoln, “as sure as I’ve a name,
“I will subdue this revolution,
“Will save my Union, and my Constitution;
“My thoughts are full of this great scheme,
“By day my study and by night my dream,
“From Maine to Texas, all, all are my States,
“And if you doubt it, just ask brother Bates.
“The rebels shall know that I’ve a will,
“And though it may prove a bitter pill,
“My Stars and Stripes, in triumph shall wave,
“O’er the North and the South, the Union to save.”
Cameron to Lincoln.— Your Excellence has heard, no doubt,
Their Ministers are on their route
For England, and for France;
Mason to St. James will go,
And Slidell where he’ll make a show.
At the Tuileries he’ll dance.
Seward.—Slidell, the diplomatic knave,
Much keener than the man we have,
Talks French like a Parisian;
He’ll ruin us with Napoleon Third,
Publish our projects as absurd,
And strut in the fields Elysian.
Chase.— And Mason, too, with rebel zeal,
Will represent the Southern weal,
And laugh at our cause;
John Bull will fete the man who dwells
Where Cotton now so cheaply sells.
I dread the Lion’s paws.
Lincoln.— Great God! this must no, shall not be.
We’ll send our ships upon the sea,
To stop these rebel knights;
In Warren they shall safely stay,
Until I make them rue the day
They thought of foreign sights.
So Welles, be quick, send Wilkes to do
This work known only to a few,
For God’s sake keep it quiet;
First blamed old Stringham would retire,
Or I’d make him stand the rebel fire.
‘Twould prove a wholesome diet.
This news has put me out of sorts,
I wish the rebels filled the forts
Of every Northern State.
Come, Seward, let us take a drink,
My head is muddled, I cannot think
Welles must not be too late.
And so Wilkes starts his expedition,
With guns, marines and ammunition,
Upon the boundless Ocean.
He bullies, brags and blusters so,
The sailors swear they do not know
What causes such commotion.
Wilkes takes his glass to spy around,
And see if the Sumter can be found,
Or any rebel vessel.
“I’ll swear I dread those cannon balls,
“And yet the Union loudly calls
“On me to face the wrestle.
Fairfax, the Trent is just in view,
“Let’s see if England will prove true,
“Or leave us in the lurch.
“Call up your men, with bayonets bright,
“Prepare them for a royal fight,
“That vessel must be searched.
“You know we’ve whipped the British twice,
“And now ‘twill be so very nice
“To make John Bull surrender
“Those Ministers from Dixie Land,
“To Warren they'll go, hand in hand,
“To us they’ll tribute render.”
So Wilkes, upon this purpose bent,
Brings to the Royal steamship Trent,
Before the Captain’s eyes
Fairfax, with all his hireling band
Bullies the unarmed Britons, and
Secures the double prize.
When Lincoln hears this glorious news,
He fairly skips from out his shoes
With triumph and delight.
“What more could Wilkes have done for me,
“I’ll swear the ‘contrabands’ to free,
“If he but says ‘tis right.
“Come Seward, let us drink his health.
And wish him a devilish sight of wealth,
“And every thing in keeping.
“Another bumper, Seward, man,
“I’ll drink all night to Wilkes, I can,
“Although I’m fond of sleeping.
“Congress shall pass a vote of thanks
“To Wilkes for all his doughty pranks,
“And Welles shall laud the action.
“The rebel dogs, we have them safe
“No doubt in Warren they will chafe,
“And curse the Yankee faction.
“And yet Wilkes made a slight misstep,
“The Trend and crew he should have kept,
“They were aiding revolution.
“In limbo I should have them now,
“And they shall take my oath. I vow,
“To support my constitution.”
The roaring Lion.— These joyous times too soon are o’er,
John Bull knocks gruffly at the door—
Tells Lincoln to be quiet.
The Envoys of the Southern States,
Are worthy of more glorious fates,
Than prison rule and diet.
So, give them up, at once, to me.
Or I’ll make war with Yankeedee,
And then you’ll knuckle under.
My flag’s unsullied, you shall know,
And, whether it meets with friend or foe,
Its insult makes me thunder.
Lincoln.— Excuse me, Mr. Bull, your humble friend,
I vow I never did intend,
To slight your royal banner.
I’ll kiss your foot— if that won’t do,
I’ll bend my knee, and pray to you
In the most abject manner.
Mr. Bull, I’m much like other folks;
I love to laugh and crack my jokes,
But never meant a crime.
Slidell and Mason, I surrender to you;
The whole affair I condemn, ‘tis true,
And Willis shall put it in rhyme.
‘Tis amusing to see how provokingly cool,
John Bull listens to that cowardly fool,
The butt of all creation.
“’Tis true he’s sent the prisoners to me,
“But I’ll be revenged on Yankeedee,
“That bragging, lying Nation.
“Tons of cotton shall cross the sea,
“With blockade broken, and duty free—
Manchester is my pride.
“Will I stop to parley with Seward or clerk,
“While my laborers there are starving for work,
“And France is on my side?”
He has not uttered, to the full extent,
The words to which his spleen gave vent;
But it is plainly seen,
With cotton, he’ll go hand in hand—
His interests are in Dixie Land,
For John, you know, is keen.

Title:The Lion Pawing the Eagle.

Author:A Maryland Exile

Publication:Charleston Mercury

Published in:Charleston

Date:January 24th 1862

Keywords:cotton, politics, war


This poem, published in the Confederate newspaper, the Charleston Mercury, retells the events of the Trent Affair of November 1861, where a Union Navy ship captained by Charles Wilkes intercepted the British postal vessel, RMS Trent, taking captive the two Confederate diplomats onboard, James Murray Mason and John Siddell. Though Wilkes’s actions were later disavowed by Abraham Lincoln in a move to appease the threat of British intervention, the poem here presents a duplicitous cast of the Union war cabinet plotting the affair. The characters introduced in the opening poetic dialogue are Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War; Salmon P. Chase, the Treasury Secretary; William Seward, the Secretary of State; Gideon Welles, the U.S Navy Secretary; and Abraham Lincoln. The politicking cast are nervous upon hearing the news that the Confederate envoys are being sent to Europe, conceding that Siddell and Mason will likely succeed in their endeavour of diplomatic persuasion. As such, they plan to intercept the Confederate mission, deploying Captain Wilkes, here irreverent towards international law and the British. Through its characterisation of the Union’s arrogance and deceitfulness, the poem looks to elicit the sympathies of the British, ending in a hopeful tone that the South’s cotton diplomacy will ultimately convince John Bull to act: ‘With cotton he’ll go hand in hand - | His interests are in Dixie Land’.

Jack Cottam