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The Revolution & Before

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Military Songs

American Revolution and Before
- The Liberty Song

Between 1761 and 1773, Parliament passed of series of acts the American colonists believed trampled on their rights as British citizens.  In 1761, a series of Writs of Assistance were put into effect that were, in effect, blanket search warrants.  The Proclamation of 1763 forbade colonists from crossing the Appalachian Mountains.  The Revenue Act of 1764 all but eliminated New England The Stamp Actshippers from transporting molasses, and that same year, the Sugar Act placed a tariff on sugar, wine, and coffee. The colonists found the Stamp Act of 1765 especially odious as it required a tax stamp to be purchased for every official document, legal instrument, license, newspaper, and similar piece of paper.  The resentment was compounded when it became apparent that the money raised from the tax was to support a standing army on American soil, which the colonists feared would be used to suppress their dissent.  Although the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, an even more distasteful law, the Declaratory Act quickly followed that stated Parliament could tax anything and everything within America as it saw fit, and it did; Townshend Taxes were levied on paint, glass, lead, paper, and, of course, tea.  In response, American patriots throughout the colonies who opposed these measures began to refer to themselves as Sons and Daughters of Liberty after they were described as such in Parliament by Isaac Barre, a supporter of the American cause.

John Hancock, vehemently protested these new taxes, and continued to import tea without paying the duty.  As a result his ship, Liberty, was seized, its cargo of tea confiscated, and he was arrested and charged with smuggling.  John Adams mounted a rigorous defense in court, and the case was eventually dropped, but anger swelled in Boston.  Hancock then organized an incredibly successful boycott of East India tea, and over the next several years the company's sales
The Boston Tea Party
dropped from 320,000 pounds to 520 pounds.  In 1773, the infamous Tea Act was passed, giving the East India Tea Company what amounted to a monopoly on the colonial tea trade, and in late November three British ships, the HMS Dartmouth, HMS Beaver, and HMS Eleanor, arrived with shipments of tea.  Sam Adams and a group of Sons of Liberty met the vessels with a series of protest rallies that prevented anything from being unloaded.  Then on the evening of 16 December, a number of Sons of Liberty left a gigantic protest rally, very thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians, and headed to Griffin's Wharf were the ships were moored.  There, they boarded the vessels and dumped 342Burning of the Peggy Stewart chests of tea worth nearly 10,000 pounds sterling into the sea.  After cleansing themselves of all traces of evidence, the men marched off in defiance, their fife playing, right past the home where they knew the British Admiral Montague had been staying to spy on their work.  As they marched passed, Montague yelled, "Well boys, you have had a fine, pleasant evening for your Indian caper, haven't you? But mind, you have to to pay the fiddler yet!" Montague's threat was far from hollow, for following the Boston Tea Party, Parliament imposed what have come to be known as the Punitive or Intolerable Acts upon all of the colonies to force them--especially Massachusetts--to submit to its will.  These acts, which included the closing the port of Boston, gave rise to a number of radical responses--to include the burning of a tea ship in Annapolis.

John DickinsonWhat, one may wonder, does all this have to do with music.  The answer is that during this period, Americans expressed their frustration and anger publicly in songs that were published in and distributed by newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides.  Some of these songs were plaintive and pleading, however for more were assertive and demanding.  The songs were all in traditional British style and frequently based on old English tunes.  By far, the most famous of these protest songs was written by John Dickinson in 1768 as a response to the Declaratory Laws and Townshend Taxes The Liberty Song Dickinson titled the work, "The Liberty Song," and its words--written to be sung to the tune "Hearts of Oak," a patriotic air associated with the Royal Navy--were first published in Boston newspapers.  The most famous phrase in the song is “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”  The song was an immediate hit in Boston and spread like wildfire throughout the colonies, soon becoming a standard at any protest meeting.  It was adopted as a rallying song by The Sons of Liberty preceding the Boston Tea Party, and no doubt was one of the tunes that Admiral Montague "enjoyed" as the "Mohawks" marched by.  The Liberty Song was sung throughout the colonies as the most popular protest anthem until independence was declared in 1776.

The Liberty Song
  (to the tune of Hearts of Oak)

Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America's name.

In Freedom we're born and in freedom we'll live,
Our purses are ready,
 Steady, friends, steady,
Not as slaves, but as freemen our money we'll give.

Our worthy forefathers, let's give them a cheer,
To climates unknown did courageously steer;
Thro' oceans to deserts for freedom they came,
And dying, bequeath'd us their freedom and fame.


The tree their own hands had to Liberty rear'd,
They lived to behold growing strong and revered;
With transport they cried, now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.


Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.


To The Old Woman Taught Wisdom