Portrait of John Thelwall

John Thelwall on political sheep shearing (1795)

Found in: The Tribune

The radical English journalist John Thelwall (1764-1834) was imprisoned for supporting the French Revolution at a time when Britain was at war with France. He gave many lectures for the London Corresponding Society and at their meetings political songs like this one about “political sheep shearers” were sung:

Rhetoric of Liberty

COME to a song of rustic growth List all my jolly hearers, Whose moral plainly tends to prove That all the world are sheerers, How shepherds sheer their silly sheep, How statesmen sheer the state, And all when they can sheer no more Are sheer’d themselves by fate. Then a sheering we will go, &c.

But these are petty sheerers all, And fleece a little flock; Behold where haughty ministers Fleece the whole nations stock: The while pretended patriots, A still more venal race, With liberty and bawling cant, Would fleece them of their place— When a fleecing they, &c.

But cease ye fleecing senators Your country to undo— Or know we British Sans Cullottes Hereafter may fleece you, For well we know if tamely thus We yield our wool like drones Ye will not only fleece our backs, By God you’ll pick our bones— When a fleecing ye, &c.

Since then, we every rank and state May justly fleecers call, And since Corruption’s venal pack Would fleece us worse than all, May we Oppression’s out-stretch’d sheers With dauntless zeal defy, Resolv’d fair Freedom’s golden fleece To vindicate or die. When a fleecing they do go.