Roll Over, Beethoven

Nullification crisis: John C. Calhoun reaching for
The Brass Castle


Tune. — The Bonny Boat.

When in the south dread civil war
Rose like a storm of night.
And nullifiers near and far,
Braced for the field of fight;
Then sons of those illustrious sires.
Who bled at Bunker Hill,
Rushed madly forth to light their fires,
Their brother’s blood to spill.

When from the vault of Vernon first,
A cry was heard aloud,
And words of “Peace” in thunder burst.
From fallen freemen’s shroud.
When swords leaped to the hero’s hand.
And glittered in our gaze,
When terror reigned throughout the land.
As in young freedom’s days.

When Clay, the nation’s Solon stood
Alone and undismayed,
To save the flow of freemen’s blood,
The flag of Peace displayed;
Loud and through the land afar,
His bold voice hushed the blast,
Calhoun fell from the battle car,
The storm of war was passed.

Then Clay’s bright eloquence still broke,
Upon the nation’s ear.,
The Senate shouted as he spoke,
While thousands rushed to hear.
They saw that hope again was nigh,
And hailed the happy day,
The dangers in the Southern sky,
At Clay’s voice rolled away.

The statesmen of the west arose,
And with our hero’s tongue,
They hush’d the voice of freedom’s foes,
A rainbow round them hung.
A thankful nation blest the deed.
And flags of peace unfurled,
And envious nations gave the meed
Of an admiring world.

Her pen of gold, the hand of Fame,
From her high temple took —
And wrote Clay’s never dying name,
In Time’s eternal book.
Like all the fathers of the state,
He in that chair shall rest,
To guide and make our nation great,
And through all ages blest.

No marble monument he needs,
To crumble and decay,
The memory of his mighty deeds,
Can never pass away.
Within the people’s hearts enshrined
He’ll dearer grow each day,
Free from distress each state shall bless,
The hallow’d name of Clay.


The tune is indeed by Beethoven: Op. 108, No. 19: O Swiftly Glides the Bonny Boat.

The original words are:

O swiftly glides the bonny boat
Just parted from the shore,
And to the fisher’s chorus note
Soft moves the dipping oar.
His toils are borne with happy cheer
And ever may they speed,
That feeble age and helpmate dear
And tender bairnies feed.

We cast our lines in Largo Bay,
Our nets are floating wide,
Our bonny boat with yielding sway
Rocks lightly in the tide.
And happy prove our daily lot
Upon the summer sea,
And blest on land our kindly cot
Where all our treasures be.

The mermaid on her rock may sing,
The witch may weave her charm,
Nor watersprite nor eldritch thing
The bonny boat can harm.
It safely bears its scaly store
Through many a stormy gale,
While joyful shouts rise from the shore,
Its homeward prow to hail.

“When in the south dread civil war…”?  They had no idea.  No idea.

The “nullifiers” were the South Carolinans, led by John C. Calhoun (Andrew Jackson’s vice-president).    The root cause was the “Tariff of Abominations,” that is, a high protective tariff on imported goods.  (Folks who have been following along with the Election of 1844 will recall that a protective tariff was a favorite Whig position.)  As may be:  the tariff generally helped the industrialized north, while harming the agricultural south by increasing the prices of manufactured goods while at the same time decreasing the market for cotton.  Calhoun’s suggestion was that since the federal government only existed through the consent of the states, that the states could nullify any federal laws, with which they disagreed, within their own borders.

Despite a new, lower tariff, South Carolina passed the “Ordinance of Nullification” in 1832 that declared the tariff did not apply in South Carolina.  Jackson requested and received congressional authorization to use Federal troops to enforce the tariff.  Things looked grim.

Henry Clay, however, ramrodded through a new, compromise, tariff that prevented an armed confrontation.

Solon, called “The Lawgiver,” was an ancient Greek statesman and orator.

“Vernon” is Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, and tomb.

Not from “The National Clay Minstrel” but rather a broadside from 1832 (the tune is apparently Yankee Doodle):

Jackson and the Nullifiers

Why Yankee land is at a stand,
And all in consternation;
For in the South they make a rout,
And all about Nullification.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy,
Our foes are few our hearts are true,
And Jackson is quite handy.

These Southern knaves are blustering blades,
Their cash they think is handy,
But we of the North are the right sort,
And the Union is the dandy.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy;
Stand to your arms nor fear alarms,
Just play Yankee doodle dandy.

It was the pill at Bunker Hill,
For which old Warren fought there,
From Southern boys, though they make a noise,
We can have nought to dread here.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy,
They know their slaves the silly knaves,
Will soon find freedom handy.

Nat Turner’s plan, the daring man,
May soon reach South Carolina,
Then would the black, their bodies hack,
Caesar, Cato, Pomp, and Dinah,
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy.
These Southern folks, may crack their jokes,
If northerners are so handy.

When dire oppressed by British laws,
They sent for our protection,
We sent them aid in Freedom’s cause,
Nor thought of their nullification.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy,
Our hands are strong, the way not long,
And submission is the dandy.

Their cotton bags, may turn to rags,
If Eastern men don’t buy them,
For all their gold, they may be sold,
Or their slaves may yet destroy them.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy,
If their cotton bags don’t find a sale,
Their cash won’t be so handy.

When we our glorious Constitution form’d
These Southern men declined it,
But soon they found they were unarmed,
And petitioned to sign it.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy,
Now like the snake torpid in brake,
They think Nullification it is handy.

Without their trade we are not afraid,
But we can live in peace and plenty,
But if to arms they sound alarms,
They may find it not so handy.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy,
For Jackson he is wide awake,
He says the Union is so handy.

Our country’s cause, our country’s laws,
We ever will defend, Sir,
And if  they do not gain applause,
My song was never penned, Sir.
So sound the trumpet, beat the drum,
Play Yankee doodle dandy,
We Jackson boys will quickly come,
And be with our rifles handy.

The Wellington invincibles
At New-Orleans were beat, Sir,
And do the Southerns think their pills,
Will frighten us to a retreat, Sir.
Sing Yankee doodle doodle doo,
Sing Yankee doodle dandy,
We love our friends, but secret foes
May find our courage is handy.

Tomorrow:  Harry of Kentucky.

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