King Cotton.

King Cotton looks from his window
Toward the westering sun,
And he marks with an anguished horror
That his race is almost run.
his form is thin and shrunken,
His cheek is pale and wan,
And the lines of care on his furrowed brow
Are dread to look upon.
But yesterday a monarch
In the flush of his pomp and pride’
And not content with his own broad lands,
He would rule the world beside.
He built him a mighty palace,
With gold from beyond the sea,
And laid with care the corner-stone,
And he called it Slavery.
He summoned an army with banners
To keep his foes at bay,
And, gazing with pride on his palace walls,
He said, “They shall stand for aye!”
But the palace walls are shrunken,
And partly overthrown,
And the storms of war, in their violence,
Have loosened the corner-stone.
Now Famine stalks through the palace halls
With her gaunt and pallid train:
You can hear the cries of famished men,
As they cry for bread in vain.
The King can see from his palace walls
A land by his pride betrayed—
Thousands of mothers and wives bereft,
Thousands of graves new-made,
And he seems to see in the lowering sky
The shape of a flaming sword,
Whereon he reads with a sinking heart
The anger of the Lord.
God speed the time when the guilty King
Shall be hurled from his blood-stained throne;
And the palace of Wrong shall crumble to dust,
With its boasted corner-stone!
A temple of Freedom shall rise instead
On the desecrated site,
And within its shelter alike shall stand
The black man and the white.

Title:King Cotton.


Publication:The Liberator

Published in:

Date:February 26th 1864

Keywords:cotton, hunger


This anonymous poem taken from Harper’s Weekly but republished in the abolitionist Liberator newspaper takes the familiar personification of the cotton trade, ‘King Cotton’, and suggests that his reign is over due to the failure of the South to use cotton as a justification for slave labour. The poem also makes reference to famine, and the fact that the collapse of the cotton trade precipitated an international economic crisis. – SR