Britisher to Beecher.
CONTENT NOTE: This poem contains an offensive racist term.
Title:Britisher to Beecher.
Date:February 4th 1864
Published in Punch magazine, and later reprinted in the Confederate newspaper, the Charlestown Mercury, this poem addresses the American Congregationalist clergyman and abolitionist, Henry Ward Beecher. On 1st January 1863, Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the freedom of all slaves in the rebelling states, and all Federal states, of America. That year, Beecher had been sent on a speaking tour around Europe by President Lincoln to rouse support for the Union cause, looking to appeal to the widespread abolitionist sympathies. Despite the emancipatory sentiment shared by the English, many felt that the Union’s siding with the abolitionist cause was a late strategic attempt to sway international opinion on the war of secession; this satirical poem expresses such a view. As the MP Arthur John Roebuck stated in Parliament on 30th June 1863: ‘the cry in the North in favour of the black is a hypocritical cry, and to-morrow the North would join with the South, and fasten slavery on the necks of the blacks, if the South would only re-enter the Union’. Thus, despite Beecher’s attempts, the poem expresses the ‘Britishers’ resolute position of neutrality: ‘“Strictly neutral will I | Still remain standing by”’.