King Cotton in the Vocative.
Title:King Cotton in the Vocative.
Publication:The Evening Post
Published in:New York
Date:February 28th 1862
Published in the Evening Post during the Union’s blockade of the Confederate cotton supply, the poem presents a mocking characterisation of a desperate King Cotton, once imperious, now pleading for the intervention of John Bull. ‘King Cotton’ was a term used to describe the diplomatic strategy adopted by the seceding States in early 1861, where the Southern States withheld supply of raw cotton in an effort to force the commercial hand of Britain. Despite these efforts, the British maintained diplomatic neutrality, and Abraham Lincoln subsequently issued orders for a Union Blockade of Confederate ports in April 1861. The poem, with its sardonic tones, exposes bare the mercenary nature of the Confederacy’s diplomatic offering: the promised continuation of chattel-slavery to satisfy the profiteering greed of John Bull - the caricature of British commercial interest. King Cotton, with a weakened negotiating position, begs John Bull with the prospect of a lucrative future trading relationship, underpinned by the common currency of exploitation. The personified voice of the Confederacy offers unfettered transactions, tempting John Bull to ‘bring in, untariffed, all the sweat |Of your white slaves, and bear away, untaxed, |The bloody filth of my four million black.’ JC