Song for the North Staffordshire Electors - Broadside ballad from the Enoch Wood scrapbook

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Date:1830 - 1840 (c.)

Description:At election time in the early 1800s, the colour blue was used to stand for hope, faith in God and sincerity.

It was also becoming more associated with the reforming 'Whig' Liberals of the time.

The lyrics of this song, printed on blue paper, were meant to be sung to Robert Burns' patriotic tune of Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled.

Although the song is quote pro-reform, it is also strongly independent-minded and condemns the reformer Lord John Russell as a Tory:

Tories of the Charles-street band,
Canvas busily the land;
Russell's one! against him stand,
and yet staunch Reformers be.

Can we hope our smiles to share?
Can we greet him any where?
O! the danger, men beware,
To incur the infamy.

Never us shall this befall,
Prompt at Freedom's sacred call,
We swear to stand by one and all,
Mosley, Buller, steadfastly.

Have we hopes they can't fulfill?
Will they not stand by us, till
England feels and fears no ill?
Trust them, and be wise and free.

Tories boast their bags of gold;
Freemen, live we to be sold?
Have we hands the bribe to hold?
Spurn the tempter scornfully.

Can we dig our Freedom's grave?
Barter birthrights of the brave?
Shall we not our country save,
In the dangers yet to be?

On, till Freedom's work be done,
Well complete what's well begun;
On a glorious course to run,
To a glorious destiny.

The song ends with the rallying cry, "Laurel and blue forever!"

Broadside ballads

Broadsides or broadsheets were a popular way of distributing and publishing songs.

It was a practice that had been growing in popularity since the birth of the printing press in the 1500s and carried on until the early 1900s.

These ballads covered many different subjects including romance, nationalism, famous individuals, current affairs and, in this case, politics.

Ballad singing was not only used as a form of entertainment. In this period there was a high level of illiteracy amongst the working classes. Ballad singing became a good way to spread news, ideas or propoganda.

The tune orair referred to at the top of the broadsheet would have been a well known melody that had been retained through oral tradition and passed on through generations and across communities. So, desptie being mass produced it still retains some folk music traditions.

Broadsides were often sold by street hawkers who would also sing the songs.

About this document

This document is part of the collections at Stoke-on-Trent Museums.


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