McClellan campaign lyrics by a pop superstar

SATURDAY Last week we looked at some anonymous McClellan campaign doggerel from 1864; this week I'd like to spend a little time with campaign lyrics written by the equivalent of a pop music superstar. 

As I mentioned last week, these political pieces contain a lot of "issue themes" that are far beyond the understanding of modern ACW readers, since any loyal critique of Lincoln's Administration has long beeen lost to the common discourse. 

The central Democratic Party issue can be compressed into Clement Vallandigham's famous fighting slogan, "The Constitution as it is, the Union as it was." McClellan was perceived to embody that slogan, although I believe from reviewing his correspondence and speeches that he was against "the Union as it was" by 1864 - McClellan had fully accepted emancipation by the time of his run for the presidency (I'll leave that discovery to future scholarship). 

Some of the other persistent themes of the Democratic press centered on mismanagement of the war and profiteering by Republican contractors. These themes were developed in the campaign verse presented last week. (The idea that a Republican administration could mismanage a war of survival while its corporate friends profited from the struggle is so completely unimaginable to us today - isn't it? -  that we disregard this strain of Democratic criticism and exclude it from accounts of the election of 1864). 

What makes this week's piece so interesting to me is the 1864 Party peace plank that it takes seriously and affixes to McClellan even after he publicly repudiated it. 

Let's heal dissentions and unite, 
Then, stronger than before,
We'll bear our banner through the world, 
The flag our fathers bore. 
The composer of this piece was a Kentuckian revelling in the name of William Shakespeare Hays. He had a life we would expect of a western man of the arts, one involved in captaining riverboats, writing for newspapers, and penning hit music (his Molly Darling achieved three million pieces of sheet music in print - which means there is nothing in music sales in our lifetimes that we can compare that to). 

This McClellan piece was written in Hays' twenties, before he peaked commercially, and it is very hymnodic (to hear the campaign music click on the upper left notation on this page). Hays has modern followers who keep his music alive, although I don't know if they get many requests for McCLELLAN IS THE MAN. 

Well, we don't need to put out a request: we have the music and here's the lyric. 

Words and music by William Shakespeare Hays

The cruel war must have an end;
I'll tell you what we'll do;
We'll cast our votes for "Little Mac,"
We're bound to put him through.
The widow's wails and orphan's tears
Prevailing o'er the land
Pray heaven to send a rare relief--
McClellan is the man.

CHORUS: Shout! boys, shout! 
and rally all you can,
We'll have another Washington-- 
McClellan is the man!

Corruption sits in places high, 
And Shoddy rules the roost;
"Fight on!" is still Corruption's cry, 
"More spoils!" is Shoddy's boast.
But we, the people, sov'reigns all, 
Declare our righteous cause;
"The Constitution as it is,  The Union as it was."


This cruel war will never cease 
Until the South comes back;
The only man to do the work 
Is glorious "Little Mac.
"Then let us put him in the chair, 
And he will give us peace;
For "Peace in Union" is his sin, 
And war's alarms will cease. 

Let's heal dissentions and unite, 
Then, stronger than before,
We'll bear our banner through the world, 
The flag our fathers bore.
In many stripes and golden stars 
Shall give the people ease;
And all th'opressed of every clime 
Will hail our happy peace.


The hot-heads South cried
"Let's secede," 
But find it doesn't pay;
The hot-heads North cried "Confiscate, 
And then we'll have our way. "
But both have failed and always will; 
There is a better plan:
We'll choose a righteous President-- 
McClellan is the man!