The Liberty Song
A short time after the refusal of the Massachusetts Legislature to rescind the Circular Letter of February 11, 1768, relating to the imposition of duties and taxes on the American Colonies, John Dickinson of Delaware, the celebrated author of a series of essays entitled “The Farmer’s Letters,” wrote to James Otis of Massachusetts, as follows: “I enclose you a song for American freedom. I have long since renounced poetry, but as indifferent songs are very powerful on certain occasions, I venture to invoke the deserted muses. I hope my good intentions will procure pardon, with those I wish to please, for the boldness of my numbers. My worthy friend, Dr. Arthur Lee, a gentleman of distinguished family, abilities and patriotism, in Virginia, composed eight lines of it. Cardinal De Retz always enforced his political operations by songs. I wish our attempt may be useful.” This song was published in the Boston Gazette of July 18, 1768, to which paper Mr. Otis, and other early advocates of political and religious liberty, often contributed. It also appeared in the various newspapers of New England, where it soon became very popular.
On the sixth of July, two days after the date of his first letter, Mr. Dickinson wrote again to Mr. Otis, saying, “I enclosed you the other day a copy of a song composed in great haste. I think it was rather too bold. I now send a corrected copy which I like better. If you think the bagatelle worth publishing, I beg it may be this copy. If the first is published before this is come to hand, I shall be much obliged to you if you will be so good as to publish this with some little note, ‘that this is the true copy of the original. In this copy I think it may be well enough to add between the fourth and fifth stanzas these lines:
How sweet are the labors that freemen endure,
That they shall enjoy all the profit, secure –
No more such sweet labors Americans know,
If Britons shall reap what Americans sow.
In freedom we’re born -”
A SONG NOW MUCH IN VOGUE IN NORTH AMERICA 1768
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 free men,
Our money we’ll give.
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.
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.
Their generous bosoms all dangers despis’d,
So highly, so wisely, their birthrights they priz’d;
We’ll keep what they gave, we will piously keep,
Nor frustrate their toils on the land or the deep.
The Tree, their own hands had to Liberty rear’d,
They lived to behold growing strong and rever’d;
With transport then cried, – ” Now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.”
Swarms of placemen and pensioners soon will appear,
Like locusts deforming the charms of the year:
Suns vainly will rise, showers vainly descend,
If we are to drudge for what others shall spend.
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.
All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,
Of the courage we’ll show in support of our laws;
To die we can bear, – but to serve we disdain,
For shame is to freemen more dreadful than pain.
This bumper I crown for our sovereign’s health,
And this for Britannia’s glory and wealth;
That wealth, and that glory immortal may be,
If she is but just, and we are but free.
In freedom we’re born, &c.
BICKERSTAFF’S BOSTON ALMANACK, FOR THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1769, BEING THE FIRST YEAR AFTER LEAP YEAR. Boston: Printed by Mein and Fleeming. 1768, 44 pp.