John Bull Turned Quaker.
CONTENT NOTE: This poem contains an offensive racist term.

I’m much surprised to hear it, John,
I am, upon my life,
You mean to join the Quakers, John,
And turn away from strife.
A Quaker, or a Nazarene,
You say, were never known,
In any row to intervene—
Not even in their own!
And so you doff the bloody red,
To don the sober drab,
And tame your snorting war-horse down,
To drive him in a cab!
You’ll hide that bluff old face of oak,
Beneath an ample brim,
And if a Yankee takes your cloak,
You’ll give your coat to him;
Or if a Frenchman smites your cheek,
As Quaker rules decide,
You’ll bear it with submission meek,
And turn the other side!
You’ll never more profanely swear,
when people rail and scoff—
When they revile and spit on you,
You’ll wipe the spittle off!
Of course you’ll give up boxing, John,
That good old manly play;
And settle all your quarrels in
Some amicable way.
You’d just as well renounce, you know,
The art of self-defence;
Likewise beef, ale and brandy—so—
Productive of expense.
No doubt a placid lakelet, John,
Lies waveless in that breast,
Where once flamed a volcano, John,
That never was at rest.
Your thoughts are now so holy, John,
You don’t regard at all,
The slaughter of your kith and kin,
By bayonet and ball.
You’ve chastened down your spirit, John,
So unconcerned to stand,
And view the woes of those who drew
Their lineage from your land.
Their words and deeds are English, John,
As yours once used to be,
Of “Freedom from Oppression,” John,
Of “Death or Liberty!”
Those words rang out at Hastings,John,
Their very tone is like your own—
Oh! very much indeed!
You used to help the weaker side,
With many a stalwart blow;
And always took a manly pride,
To lay oppressors low.
I scarcely think your calmness, John,
Consistent with that dress;
Though Quakers are non combatants,
They feel for man’s distress.
Dear me! its awful! now don’t swear!
To hear you curse and damn!
It don’t become your dress at all—
It seems some horrid sham!
You say you’re standing in duress,
You are, upon your soul;
You’re acting under stringent stress
Of Petticoat control!
You say your dear old woman is
A mistress absolute;
And when she joined the Quakers, you
Were forced to follow suit!
You say that she would have it so—
Oh! shame beyond description!
To keep you safe and sound at home,
And keep you from conscription.
You say she will not send a man,
Nor pull a single trigger,
To succor those she understands,
Make subjects of the nigger.
But yet she helped the Sultan, John,
“That Pagan, full of pride,”
To keep his slaves, and heresies,
His concubines beside.
You can’t expect us, Johnny Bull,
To hear these things with patience;
If you think nothing of yourself,
Consider your relations!
Your mistress shall not hear it, John,
You need not be afraid,
So tell me why this mummery—
This shameful masquerade!
You whisper that if even now,
This dreadful drab were off,
You’d rather be in any row,
Were it the Malakoff.
Then five some better reasons, John,
For these will never do;
They don’t at all explain away,
The change come over you.
And so you were a mariner,
Of credit and estate;
And all the world was ruled by you,
In passengers and freight!
But now you say your merchantmen,
No more may sail the deep;
When freights are shipped in blacksmith-shops,
With crews of chimney sweeps.
Steam ships of war are iron-clad.
And cannon balls defy;
While unprotected ships of trade
Can neither fight nor fly,
You say you hear a foreign craft
Crept up with a slung-shot,
And struck two frigates, fore and aft,
And sunk them on the spot.
You fear some monster is afloat,
If you a cruising dare go,
May slip behind you and garrotte
Your ship and crew and cargo.
You almost fear to send abroad
To Canada for bread;
Lest some one rob your messenger,
Or knock him on the head.
Your groceries are ordered from
Some Corsair comes and gobbles them—
Of course you’ll be a Quaker!
And so those fools their mouths may shut,
Who in their folly deem,
That you are bull enough to butt
With Rams that butt by steam.
You will not live in such a state
Of risk, from day to day;
Your gold in Australia, and
Your cotton in Bombay.
A crop of tea you cannot get,
Though Madam Bull may long;
But all the way you are beset,
From home unto Hong Kong.
You cannot keep your credit up,
You are growing very poor;
With piracy and robbery,
Around your very door.
You say retaliation is—
All very well for talk;
As well propose to partridges
Reprisals on a hawk.
You think the world is changing war
From what it used to be,
When you were domineering o’er
Mankind by land and sea.
You think that France would like to have
The fortresses of Malta;
While Spain, no doubt, is plotting to
Recover back Gibraltar.
Even Portugal is waking up,
And that eternal Czar,
Has got him a round-jacket, and—
Pretends to be a tar!
Though Yankee Sam and neighbour Nap,
O’erwhelm you with affection,
You know they would enjoy much more
Attending your dissection.
They need not think to baffle you,
With words as soft as butter;
One has his eye on Canada,
The other wants Calcutta.
And Russia, too, would like a share
Of your dominions sunny;
Because we know that every bear
Is very fond of honey.
And so if you should intervene,
Where other folks are fighting;
What is to hinder them, in turn,
Against you from uniting?
Pursuing you from pole to pole,
Till you lose every acre,
And so you think, upon the whole,
It best to be a Quaker.
The sight I cannot bear;
I’d rather see you a –
With that chopfallen air.
I’d rather see you as you stood
At Antwerp, or at Ghent,
All bleeding, worn and spent;
Yet bravely fighting for a cause,
Approved by God and Right;
Sustaining freedom, peace, and laws,
With all your honest might,
Than hiding basely, like a mole,
Beneath the world’s contempt;
While warring nations call the roll
And mark “John Bull exempt.”

Title:John Bull Turned Quaker.

Author:W. M. Burwell

Publication:The Southern Literary Messenger

Published in:

Date:April 1st 1863



This Confederate satirical poem published in the Southern Literary Messenger castigates British hypocrisy during the American Civil War, at a stage where it was clear that any chance of official British military assistance to the South was long gone in the face of abolitionist rhetoric. The length of the poem is testament to the author’s anger in relation to the topic, but also the editor’s support of this political attack. The poem is intensely aware not just of the current geopolitical situation but also displays a deep knowledge of British military and imperial history. It lists many sites of British violence and colonial exploitation, and also notes international rivals to Britain’s imperial ambitions. The cotton trade is alluded to several times, initially in the idea that a ‘Yankee takes your cloak’ (referring of course to the Union blockade of Confederate exports, particularly cotton). The reference to the personification becoming a Quaker relates to that religious denomination’s traditional and ongoing prevalence in abolitionist rhetoric. – SR