Britisher to Beecher.
CONTENT NOTE: This poem contains an offensive racist term.

Alas! what a pity it is, Parson Beecher,
That you come not at once, when secession broke out,
As Abraham Lincoln’s Apostle, a preacher
Of the Union; a gospel which Englishmen doubt;
For that Union, you see,
Was a limb of our tree:
Its own braches to break themselves off are as free.
Still, Beecher, if you had been only sent hither,
When at first the Palmetto flag flouted the sky,
Commissioned foul slavery’s faction to wither,
And this nation invoke to be Freedom’s ally,
With your eloquent art
You had won England’s heart;
We were fully disposed towards taking your part.
Instead of a Reverent Beecher, appealing
To our conscience, in Liberty’s name, for the right,
We heard a cool scoundrel advise in the stealing
Of Britannia’s domains, North and South to unite;
And your papers were full
Of abuse of John Bull;
Whilst he bore the blockade which withheld cotton wool.
Malevolence, taking our ill will for granted,
Has reviled us, pursued us with bluster and threat,
Supposing itself the remembrance had planted
In our bosom of wrongs which we couldn’t forget,
And should take, in its case
Of misfortune, as base
A revenge as itself would have ta’en in our place.
Tirades against England, with menace of slaughter,
Never yet have your Sumners, and such, ceased to pour,
Your bards talk of blowing us out of the water,
And threaten to “punish John Bull at his door.”
Now this isn’t the way
To make Englishmen pray
That the Yankees may finish by gaining the day.
An afterthought only is “Justice to Niggers,”
‘Tis a cry which those Yankees raised not till they found
That they for a long time had been pulling triggers
At their slaveholding brothers, and gained little ground.
First Abe Lincoln gave out
That he’d fain bring about,
The re union with slavery too, or without.
So don’t waste your words in attempts at persuasion,
Which impose on no Briton alive but a fool,
But husband your resources for another occasion,
That is, Beecher, keep it your porridge to cool.
“Strictly neutral will I
Still remain standing by.”
Says Britannia: “d’ye see any green in my eye?”

Title:Britisher to Beecher.


Publication:Charleston Mercury

Published in:Charleston

Date:February 4th 1864

Keywords:politics, war


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”’.

Jack Cottam