Mr Cheetham and Cotton.

“COTTON knows no Politics;”
Don’t believe such knavish tricks:
Look to England’s best of labour
Mortgaged to a jealous neighbour
To the tune – Per Cent Fifteen,
As in tariff may be seen.
Ask the men on England’s strand
Going to unknown Queen’s Land –
Driven from their native soil –
Faithful, honest sons of toil.
This Free Trade, so free and bright,
Puts, indeed, silk looms to flight.
Then, again, there’s Belgian woollen,
Patronised to England’s ruin.
Don’t it look more like Protection,
Under scheming French direction?
Gladstone’s reciprocity
Here, indeed, no man can see.
Is this called fair play? Again
Can you no longer trust such men!
Do not have this Old League treat
Branching off into Cross Street;
At the poll be quick to meet ‘m,
Then, for sure, you’ll surely “CHEAT’M!”

Title:Mr Cheetham and Cotton.


Publication:Manchester Courier

Published in:Manchester

Date:August 10th 1861

Keywords:cotton, politics


The ‘Mr Cheetham’ referred to in the title of this poem is John Cheetham (1802-86), who was a cotton manufacturer and MP for South Lancashire. Cheetham was a vociferous supporter of Free Trade policies in parliament but this poem rails against the strains on the textile industry represented by competition from French and Belgian manufacturers. Of course, the unspoken pressure being brought about was the recently begun blockade on American cotton, and during the Cotton Famine Cheetham was influential in organising the sourcing of alternative supplies of raw cotton from India. The ‘Cross Street’ referred to is a street in the central Manchester where many textile businesses had their offices. In fact this area of the city was still associated with textile until relatively recently; I worked in a textile warehouse on Cross Street in the 1990s! SR