Whigs in Blackface

Treeing Coons



Tune — “Sittin on a rail

As I walked out dis arternoon,
To get a drink by de light ob de moon,
Dar I see dat “same Old Coon,”
A sittin’ on a tree,
A sittin’ on a tree,
A sittin’ on a tree,
A sittin’ on a tree,
And lookin’ werry glad.

Says I to him, “wot make you grin?
De Lokies say you’re dead as sin;
But dar you is — de same old skin,
A sittin’ on de tree, &c.

“Ob course I ar,” says he, “and soon,
De Whigs will sing de good old tune,
About dis werry same Old Coon,”
A sittin’ on de tree, &c.

When Massa Harrison — bless his soul,
Begun de great big ball to roll,
Why here I sot, and see de whole,
A sittin’ on dis tree, &c.

One ting dere was in dat campain,
I hope to neber see again.
It gibes dis Old Coon so much pain,
A sittin’ on de tree, &c.
Lookin’ werry bad.

De way Old Weto’d take you in,
I oilers thought would be a sin:
It almose make me shed my skin,
While sittin’ on de tree, &c.
Lookin’ mighty mad.

Now when you get into de fray,
Dat will be fout ‘fore many a day,
And end in ‘lectin’ Harry Clay.
I’ll sit upon dis tree, &c.
Lookin’ werry glad.

And den I hope, if you put on,
Your flag, de name ob any one,
Wid his’n, ’twill be an honest John,
Or else not none all!
So says dis SAME OLD COON.


Dialect was a thing in the 1840s, and this is an example. “Sittin on a rail” comes from the blackface minstrel tradition.  The author of this piece was William G. “Parson” Brownlow.   For far more on the subject of the minstrel show in America, see Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture by John Strausbaugh.

That “same old Coon” was Henry Clay, Whig candidate for president in 1844.

The “Lokies” are the Loco Focos, the radical Democrats.

“Massa Harrison” was William Henry Harrison, Whig candidate (and eventual winner) in 1840.  The “great big ball” was a Victory Ball, rolled from campaign rally to rally, to gather support.

“Old Weto” (old Veto) would have been John Tyler, Harrison’s vice president, who became president on Harrison’s death one month into his presidency.  Tyler vetoed Whig legislation.

Clay is promising to pick a vice-presidential candidate who will continue Whig policies, or pick no running mate at all.  (There was precedent for this:  in 1840 Van Buren ran without a vice president on his ticket.)

Tomorrow: The Moon Was Shining Silver Bright (with Old Dan Tucker!)

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