CONTENT NOTE: This poem contains an offensive racist term.

Old King Cotton one raw morning got on
His fluffy throne – in a huff was he,
As he looked askance there was scorn in his glance,
And all gazed with awe on his Majesty.
“Bobbins and Jenny and Mules, though many
May groan, lock up with this iron key.
None shall work,” quoth he, “in my territory
Till North and South live in amity.”
A Royal Speech is, history teaches,
A soothing potion certainly,
So lull’d by poppies, the King did drop his
Head and dreamt – like you or me,
Of war-hounds panting and one hound wanting
His clench’d ear to be set free,
Their red tongues showing hatred glowing,
And the biggest brute named “Unity.”
Bunkum spouters, Government touters
Shouted with ferocity,
“List, ye darkies – that loud bark is
The death-knell of slavery.”
A French observer cried with fervour,
“This sight is shocking, mon ami.”
When a Yankee rowdy answer’d loudly,
“Pinch my dog’s tail, and then – you’ll see.”
An Intervention prudent men shun,
King Cotton started nervously.
“Call my daughters, I’ll change my quarters,
What a horrid row about Unity!
Up, Bobbins and Jenny! No longer any
Shall pine till North and South agree,
With Briton’s Lion, new soil we’ll try on
Which to plant our royal tree.”
So old King Cotton is now quite hot on
His Indian throne and sings with glee: -
“Peace inviting – what is fighting
But Sense reduced to Bankruptcy.
Ropes of sand, boys, will firmer stand, boys,
Than Union without Liberty.
But to take advice gratis such a State is
The very worst Patient that can be.”

Title:Old King Cotton


Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:24th January 1863

Keywords:america, cotton, war


There are many poems which use the figure of ‘King Cotton’ published on both sides of the Atlantic, and their number increased during the Civil War. This satirical poem, which includes an offensive racist term, treats the figure of King Cotton as an actual character and recounts the events of the Cotton Famine up to that point in comical and pointed terms. There is an interesting reference to the effects on the French cotton industry, which is quite rare in British newspaper poetry. There is also the suggestion that ‘King Cotton’ now has an ‘Indian throne’ – a reference to replacement cotton imported from the Surat region of the state of Gujarat in India. – SR