How We’ll Break The Blockade.

Cousin Jonathan, listen, and don’t make a row,
Nor fancy you’ll see the B. lion afraid,
We beg to inform you we’ve taken a vow,
On the earliest occasion to break your blockade.
We’ll do it, old hoss, we’ll have cotton, yes, Sir,
Though your old lying Herald may splutter and rave,
If we don’t, say the Lion aforesaid’s a cur,
And bid Mrs. Britannia stop ruling the wave.
Would you like to know how, Sir? Then don’t be an ass,
Ground rifle, old hoss, leave that bowie alone:
A quarrel wants two, and in spite of your sarce
We won’t be the party to shy the first stone.
But we’ll break your blockade, Cousin Jonathan, yet,
Yes, darn our old stocking, C.J., but we will.
And the cotton we’ll have, and to work we will set
Every Lancashire hand, every Manchester mill.
We’re recruiting to do it – we’ll make no mistakes;
There’s a place they call India, just over the way;
There we’re raising a force which, Jerusalem, snakes:
Will clean catawompus your cruisers, C.J.
And we won’t have our eggs in one basket, dear boy,
There’s a place called Brazil, which you know’s real jam,
The order’s gone out, and the word’s to employ
All hands that can help us to wop Uncle Sam.
More power to our elbow, have you ever heard
Of Venezuela? – come, answer us, du;
There, Cousin, we hear from a nice little bird,
That a nice little rod is in pickle for you.
Ex nihilo nihil, but that won’t be said
Of a certain rich valley which nurses the Nile:
We’re recruiting, there too, hoss, so hang down you head,
As if you’d no end of a brick in your tile.
You immortal old goney! you reckon to lick
The web-footed Lion that swims every sea!
We rather imagine he knows of a trick
That will turn on your backs both yourself and Legree.
You needn’t be nervous, no war flag shall flaunt,
Nor powder nor steal will we trouble for aid,
But we’ll have all the cotton our mill-people want,
And so- and so only – we’ll break the Blockade.

Title:How We’ll Break The Blockade.


Publication:The Bristol Mercury

Published in:Bristol

Date:November 16th 1861



This version of this Punch poem was published in Bristol in November 1861 but it was also republished in Littell's Living Age (which was published between 1844-1896) on December 28th of that year. The poem’s expression of a belligerent attitude to the Unions cause by elements in Britain in cahoots with the cotton producers of the Confederacy gives an indication of how close the two (or perhaps at this stage, three) nations came to international conflict. The blockade of cotton exports by the Union was predicted to cripple Britain’s economy, and this had interests beyond just the industrial areas of Lancashire very worried. Below is a more detailed analysis from Suzy Crowson from the University of Exeter. – SR

This anonymously-written poem of ten four-line stanzas (quatrains) articulates the Lancastrian people’s feelings of resentment against the Union blockade of all Southern ports in the American Civil War. The refrain, “we’ll break the blockade,” creates a pulsing return to the speaker’s “vow” to eradicate any barrier to the free trade of cotton with the Confederate States in the South. The quatrain instils a sense of unity and solidity as the lines are arranged in orderly convoy, all lines close but not converging with their neighbours. The simple ABAB rhyme scheme suggests assuredness and conviction as each line anticipates its partner creating a sense of momentum that is explicit in the speaker’s insistent call to abolish the barricade. Further, the cross-rhyme imparts an anthem-like musicality which arouses the poem’s jingoism. “Cousin Jonathan” is used by the speaker in addressing America, specifically the Northern states. What would be a phrase indicative of closeness is made goading and discomforting by the speaker’s threats: “cousin, we hear from a nice little bird, / That a nice little rod is in pickle for you.” The warning to Northerners of a punishment in reserve, ready for future use when and if deemed necessary eliminates the suggestion of friendship or kinship that is implied in the familiar term of address, “cousin.” The poem does not espouse or condemn the cause of either side in the Civil War on an explicit level. That said it does reveal declining sympathies with loyalists of the Union. The blockade was an immediate cause of this decline, as was the anti-British attitude of the Northern press after England declared itself neutral. The poem touches on the issue of anti-British reportage in the North when the speaker quips, “your lying old Herald may splutter and rave” personifying and simultaneously denouncing newspapers such as the New York Herald as the ramblings of an outraged but frankly deluded person. Suzy Crowson, University of Exeter