Oh! JONATHAN, my dearest friend!
My heart bleeds for your trouble;
Aside.—(But, at the same time, Heaven send
That it may just be double!)
My love towards your country was
A Father’s to his daughter;
Aside.—(Yes, I love free Republics, as
Satan loves holy water.)
Ah! it is downright suicide
Your happy land to sever;
Aside.—(God grant the gap may be so wide
That it shall last for ever!)
I wish, my friend, I only knew
How I could mend this matter;
Aside.—(So, twixt you and your rebel crew,
I think I’ll aid the latter.)
As neutrals—‘tis not fair, I know,
To take part in this tussle;
Aside.—(Therefore, for Traitors I will go,--
Like the Times’ Mister RUSSELL.)
But, Freedom is so dear to me,
I cannot aid Secession;
Aside.—(Unless my way I clearly see
To profit by Oppression.)
No Slave can breath where’er my flag
In glory is unfurling;
Aside.—(Unless to fill my cotton bag,
Or bring me in pounds sterling.)
Poor negroes! millions have I spent,
To be their freedom-maker;
Aside.—(The apes! to this day I repent
I ever freed Jamaica.)
How oft for Freedom have I fought,
Led by such men as BROUGHAM!
Aside.—(‘Twas earnestness, perhaps you thought,
Aha! you didn’t know ‘em!)
For the Poles too—and Italy
My sympathy how willing!
Aside.—(But when—like France—did they e’er see
Me give one man or shilling?)
No—no—for Freedom you can’t show
A tongue more full of honey;
Aside.—(But Freedom mustn’t touch, you know.
My cotton or my money!)
Dear JONATHAN! you make me weep;
You fill me with emotion;
Aside.—(Therefore, your flag I’ll try to sweep,
By Pirates, from each ocean!)
I hope you’ll end, on sea and land,
In quelling this sedition;
Aside.—(And so, I’ll help the rebel band
To hurl you to perdition!)
Yes JONATHAN, your cause is just;
You shield your country’s glories;
Aside.—(But, soon, may she be in the dust—
Ruled by my Lords and Tories!)



Publication:Vanity Fair (1859-1863)

Published in:New York


Keywords:cotton, politics, slavery, war


This satirical poem from the pages of the New York Vanity Fair magazine quite neatly encapsulates a particular American attitude towards British neutrality at the beginning of the Civil War. It is figured as an address from the personification of the UK (perhaps more properly England in this case), ‘John Bull’, to the personification of the US, ‘Jonathan’. Various figures are alluded to here including the famous Times journalist, William Howard Russell, who moved to Washington in 1861 to cover the war, and Henry Brougham, the Lord Chancellor of the UK from the 1830s who had been responsible for the law abolishing slavery in British colonies. However, the poem is sceptical about the conditions of freed Jamaican workers, and recognises the hypocrisy of the British position, and its true cause – the centrality of cotton to British economic interests. – SR