Bull v Bird.

Ah! poor old father Bull,
Have you got your belly full
This December afternoon?
Aren’t your cheeks a deeper red,
At the thought of being fed
With your ony dony spoon?
Please to take the little pill!
Tisn’t sugar coated –still
It will do to sleep upon.
True, it is a bitter dose,
For a patient so morose,
But it’s good for naughty John.
The account we had with you
Was a good deal over-due,
But us settled without lead:
The acquittance is in full
Of arrearages, John Bull,
And your right of search is dead.
With a pair of rebel knaves
We have freed a million slaves,
And are tickled with our trade;
For we think, as matters stood,
That ‘tis just about as good
As the best we ever made.
Now the time is near at hand,
When throughout this western land
Shall be no more human chattels;
For one stroke of Seward’s pen
Has redeemed a race of men,
And prevented many battles.
We have got you where we wished,
And your previous scheme is dished
By a foolish greed for gain:
You had digged a fumous pit,
But yourself fell into it,
And must suffer all the pain.
Your act has shut your mouth,
And you’ve lost your prestige South,
With what right of search you had.
No— the engine will not back,
You are butted off the track,
And are travelling to the bad.
See your friend across the way—
Like a tiger after prey
He is watching you with glee;
And a sudden kick from him,
If administered with vim,
Will hurry you to the D.
There’s a story, Johnny dear,
That a certain engineer
Was hoist with his own petard;
And the moral of my tale
Is, that by a cotton bale
You are likely to be jarred.

Title:Bull v Bird.


Publication:Hartford Daily Courant

Published in:Hartford

Date:December 30th 1861

Keywords:politics, satire


Written in December 1861 amidst a context of the tense diplomatic standoff between Britain and the Union, the poem is expressive of a view widely shared in the Northern states at the time of the Trent Affair: indignation over British hypocrisy. In November 1861, a Union navy ship, captained by Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British postal vessel, RMS Trent, and took captive the Confederate diplomats onboard, James Murray Mason and John Sliddell, allowing the ship to continue on its journey without the seized passengers. What ensued was an intense legal-diplomatic debate between Britain and the Northern States on the rights of belligerent vessels to intercept neutral ships in search of contraband; the ‘right of search’ as referred to in the poem. As the poet suggests in an infantilising opening address to John Bull, British claims of illegality were contrary to their historical practices of naval interception and impressment; proverbially put, the speaker mocks John Bull at ‘the thought of being fed | With your ony dony spoon?’. In the poem, the English intervention in the affair is taken as an affront to the Union cause and is attributed to John Bull’s ‘foolish greed for gain’. Ultimately, the poet warns, John Bull’s lust for cotton will likely result in a further self-inflicted injury, just as the Trent Affair has exposed his hypocrisy and damaged his ability to ever exercise the right of search again. JC.