Message of Old Abe

Once more, Representatives, Senators, all,
You come to my Capitol, swift at my call.
‘Tis well: for you’ve something important to do
In this most disagreeable national stew;
For since I came hither to run the machine,
Disguised in Scotch Cap and in full Lincoln green,
There’s the devil to pay in the whole d---d concern,
As from Cameron, Seward and Chase you will learn:
Yet, though everything here of burst-up gives warning,
I’m certain you’ll put it all right in the morning:
So to do as I tell you, be on the alert,
For the panic’s fictitious and nobody’s hurt.
I have started no war of invasion, you know,
Let who will pretend to deny it—that’s so;
But I saw from the White House an impudent rag,
Which they told me was known as Jeff. Davis’s flag,
A waving above Alexandria high,
Insulting my Government, flouting the sky;
Above my Alexandria (is’nt [sic] it Bates?
Retrocession’s a humbug; what rights have the States?)
So I ordered young Ellsworth to take the rag down,
Mrs. Lincoln she craved it to make a new gown—
But young Ellsworth, he kinder got shot in the race,
And came back in a galvanized burial case;
But then Jackson, the scoundrel, he got his desert;
The panic’s fictitious and nobody’s hurt.
It is true I sent steamers which tried for a week
To silence the rebels down there at the Creek;
But they had at Game Point about fifty or more
Rifled cannon set up in a line on the shore,
And six thousand Confederates practised to fire ‘em,
(Confound these Virginians, we never can tire ‘em!)
Who made game of our shooting and crippled our fleet,
So we prudently ordered a hasty retreat;
With decks full of passengers, dead heads, indeed,
For whom of fresh coffins there straightway was need.
And still later at Gresham’s they killed Captain Ward
In command of the Freeborn, ‘twas devilish hard—
But in spite of all this, the rebellion’s a spurt,
The panic’s fictitious and nobody’s hurt.
Herewith I beg leave to submit the report
Of Butler, the General, concerning the sport
They had at Great Bethel, near Fortress Monroe,
With Hill and Magruder some four weeks ago;
And here let me say a more reckless intruder
never have known than this Colonel Magruder;
He has taken the Comfort away from Old Point,
And thrown our peninsular plans out of joint;
While in matters of warfare to him Gen’l Butler
Would scarce be thought worthy to act as a sutler,
And the insolent rebels will call to our faces
The flight at Great Bethel the “New Market Races:”
Then supercede Butler at once with whoever
Can drive this Magruder clean into the river;
And I shall be confident still to assert
That the panic’s fictitious and nobody’s hurt.
‘Tis my province, perhaps herein briefly to state
The state of my provinces, surly of late,
Missouri and Maryland—one has the paw
Of my Lyon upon her, and one has the law
Called martial proclaimed through her borders and cities,
Both are crushed, a Big Thing, I make bold to say, it is.
St. Louis is silent and Baltimore dumb,
They hear but the monotone roll of my drum.
In the latter vile seaport I ordered Cadwallader
To manacle Freedom, and though the crowd followed her,
Locked up in McHenry, she’s safe, it is plain,
With Merryman, Habeas Corpus and Kane.
And as for that crabbed old dotard, Judge Taney,
For much, I would put him on board of the Pawnee,
And make his decisions a little more curt,
For the panic’s fictitious and nobody’s hurt!
And now I’ll just say what I’d have you to do
In order to put your new President through—
First, three hundred millions is wanted by Chase,
He cannot run longer the Government’s face;
And Cameron wants, for the use of Old Scott
Some three hundred thousand more men than he’s got;
Then sixty new iron-plate ships to stand shells
Are loudly demanded (must have ‘em) by Welles;
For England, the bully, won’t stand our blockade,
And insists that we shall not embarrass her trade;
But who fears the British? I’ll speedily tune ‘em
As sure as my name is E Pluribus Unum,
For I am myself the whole United States.
Constitution and Laws, (if you doubt it, ask Bates.)
The Star Spangled Banner’s my holiday shirt—
Hurrah for Abe Lincoln, there’s nobody hurt!

Title:From the Richmond Whig. Message of Old Abe, To The Federal Congress, 4th July, 1861.


Publication:Fayetteville Observer

Published in:

Date:July 8th 1861

Keywords:politics, war


This satirical poem from the Fayetteville Observer, originally published in the Richmond Whig, mimics the voice of Abraham Lincoln giving an address to Congress in the early months of the American Civil War. Lincoln is presented as a political megalomaniac, believing himself to be wholly representative of the will of the country. The poem lists many of the events which occurred in those febrile months, but interestingly ends with Lincoln promising to stand up to England ‘the bully’ through the cotton blockade. This mocks the Union fear that the British government might support the South’s right to secession, and indeed all this came to a head a few months later with the Trent Affair, which brought the nations close to war. – SR