Cotton is King.

COTTON is King.
Tired of her Queen,
Britain is seen
Gazing far o’er
To Columbia’s shore ;
Where, lying prone,
Hurled from his throne,
Robbed of his power,
Brought to his hour,
Changed to a thing,
Lies the old King.
Cotton is King ;
And Albion’s throne,
Now scarce her own,
Rocks in a swing
Spun by the King
She in her pride
Was wont to deride ;
Crying with scorn,
“ Lo ! the base-born
Have chosen the thing
Cotton for King !”
Cotton is King.
Let her beware
Lest, caught in a snare
While she bends low
Homage to show,
Far o’er the main
Should sweep the refrain,
Britain is down,
Robbed of her crown,
And the base thing
Cotton is King !”

Title:Cotton is King.

Author:M. A.

Publication:The Independent

Published in:New York


Keywords:trade, war


This poem characterises the already fraught relationship between the American government and Britain in the months leading up to the Trent Affair that autumn with particular emphasis on the role of the cotton industry. The ‘Cotton is King’ policy was first used by the Confederate states to put pressure on the UK to support secession, and then by the Union to cripple southern commerce and starve Britain of one of its major raw material imports. The resulting British Cotton Famine was powerful reminder of the negative potential of Victorian globalisation. – SR