Although British in origin, this song was popular among American crews. After a British sailor sung Blow, Boys, Blow, which notes the brutalities aboard Yankee ships, a Yankee sailor may have countered with this ballad.
From the album notes of the compilation CD Sailor's Songs and Sea Shanties:
The trial of Captain James Rogers for cruelly misusing members of his crew took place in 1849. Following the trial, this ballad was made by an unknown London pub poet and issued by the broadside printers A Ryle & Co of Seven Dials. Senseless cruelty was all too common on English ships, even as late as the 1850s.