Johnny Bull.

That same Old Bull who sits ensconced upon his fog-wrapt island,
Who vainly claims to own the seas as well as all the dry land,
Who sports a flag whose waving folds creation doth astonish,
Whose morning drum beats round the world the nations to admonish,
Whose lordly boasts an kingly threats are heard throughout creation,
Who looks with proud contempt and scorn on every other nation,
And claims by kingly right divine with most intense devotion
To search the deck of every ship that floats upon the ocean,
To twine about a tyrant’s brown another ill-earned laurel
Has set his head and horns to work to seek another quarrel.
But better men than Johnny Bull have missed their calculation,
And found they had not in the end improved their situation.
As up and down our coast his eye was making wide extension,
Rebellion rankling in our midst arrested his attention,
And Bully shook his horns and said, “No power on earth shall turn me,
Again I’ll boldly interfere and make this thing concern me.”
Then Bully kissed the South, and laid his soothing hand upon her,
And vowed that all she said or did was Justice, Law and Honor;
But fearing that old Uncle Sam might meditate resistance,
He bowed before the rebel chief and tendered his assistance.
And then he sent his royal yacht, let it not be forgotten,
To bring the representatives of Carolina Cotton,
Who bore a traitor’s edict bold, a traitor’s base commission,
To bring from Bully’s royal court the promised recognition.
But Wilkes with promptness interfered, and checked this bold aggression,
And told the Bull to count the cost before he took possession.
But Bully swore that forty long apologies were due him,
And thought of course that Uncle Sam would surely knuckle to him.
Now one of Bull’s peculiar traits in such a situation
Is when he fails by blustering threats to try negotiation;
And so he has his treaties made in such ambiguous jargon,
That when it suits his case he can repudiate the bargains.
And then he sent a pampered pet, a chosen British scion,
Who though he was not king of boasts, had dubbed himself a Lyon,
To advertise Old Uncle Sam and all his Yankee nation,
That Bull had got a title-deed to all this wide creation;
That what he said was always right in every situation,
That what he did would not admit of any alteration;
To urge his manufactured claim and make a grave suggestion,
And then on Bull’s behalf decide this all-important question:
Whether Uncle Samuel’s rights to nothing down be dwindled,
Or whether he again shall be by British tyrants swindled.
Shall he relinquish all his rights and be disgraced forever?—
But HARK! I hear the Nation should in thunder-toned “No! NEVER!”
Then, Seward “cocked his eye askance,” a wished for boon descrying,
And laid his plans in double quick, the Bull’s own laws applying,
And by a well-directed stroke of diplomacy clever,
Has laid a plaster where ‘twill stick, and where ‘twill stick forever.
Now should he draw his blood-stained sword, by all the Lanes of Lundy,
We’ll meet his proud usurping horde from Fuca’s Straits to Fundy.
That sable spot, that damning stain, entailed by Polk’s surrender,
Shall be expunged, whate’er the cost we may be called to tender.
No cramped or pent-up boundaries shall then contract our powers,
For all this broad-spread continent most surely will be ours.
Our natural boundaries we shall gain, despite all British malice,
Though they extend, as once has claimed, “from Hell to Borealis!”

Title:Johnny Bull.

Author:O. P. Q.

Publication:Morning Oregonian

Published in:

Date:May 8th 1862

Keywords:politics, satire, war


Published in May 1862, the Union-sympathising poem offers a scathing attack of the entitled and hypocritical meddling of Britain in international affairs during the Trent Affair. In November 1861, a Union navy ship, captained by Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British postal vessel, RMS Trent, and took captive the Confederate diplomats on-board, 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. The poem targets Britain’s twisted application of international law, given their previously proclaimed right ‘to search the deck of every ship that floats upon the ocean’. Indeed, as Union advocates indignantly put forward during the Trent Affair, British claims of illegality were contrary to their historical practices of naval interception and impressment. The poem recounts the diplomatic tale of the Affair with the protagonists Lord Lyon, the British minister to the US, and William Seward, the United States Secretary of State who steered the Union’s response to ultimately release Mason and Sliddel. The concession of the Union to release the prisoners and withdraw their support from Wilkes was met with conflicted feeling in the Northern states, yet the poet presents it as a victory and an act of Seward’s diplomatic mastery: ‘And by a well-directed stroke of diplomacy clever / Has laid a plaster where ‘twill stick, and where ‘twill stick forever.’ JC.