Other historical characters of the day were commemorated. When Lafayette returned to America in 1824 and 1825 many songs and instrumental pieces were written in his honor, but some were composed in the latter eighteenth century too. Young’s Vocal and Instrumental Miscellany, published in Philadelphia in 1794, contained Lafayette, “a new song”. When John Hancock died in 1793, there was published a Sonnet, “For the Fourteenth of October, 1793; the entombed remains of his Excellency John Hancock, Esq., late Governor and Commander in Chief of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The music taken from an oratorio by the famous Groun of Berlin. The lines written and adapted by Hans Gram, Organist of Brattle Street Church, in Boston.”
A number of songs were devoted to Major André – Major André’s Complaint, printed at Carr & Co.’s Musical Repository in 1794; Major André, a song which appeared in the American Musical Miscellany, (1789), and several others.
In the final decade of the century much music was written which harked back to the Revolution. Descriptive “sonatas”, and “overtures” were very popular in those days, and composers tried to write music which would be descriptive of events and scenes, much in the fashion of modern writers of so-called “program” music. One of these pieces achieved considerable vogue in America, The Battle of Trenton, a sonata for pianoforte dedicated to General Washington, and first published in 1797. The composition was the work of James Hewitt, an English musician who came to America in 1792 and became active in the musical life of New York and Boston. The various sections of this piece were elaborate in their descriptiveness:
Introduction-The Army in motion-General Orders – Acclamation of the Americans – Drums beat To Arms.
Attack – cannons – bomb. Defeat of the Hessians – Flight of the Hessians – Begging Quarter – The Fight Renewed – General Confusion – The Hessians surrender themselves prisoners of War – Articles of Capitulation Signed – Grief of Americans for the loss of their companions killed in the engagement.
Yankee Doodle – Drums and Fifes – Quick Step for the Band – Trumpets of Victory – General Rejoicing.
Much music of a general patriotic nature was written and published in these years. Benjamin Carr’s Federal Overture, first played at the Cedar Street Theatre, Philadelphia, September 1794, was important because its published version (1795) is the earliest known printing of Yankee Doodle in America. Several popular airs were included in the Overture – Marseilles hymn; Ca Ira; O dear, what can the matter be?; Rose tree; Carmagnole; President’s March, and Yankee Doodle.
Reinagle’s America, Commerce and Freedom was frequently sung. It praised the life of the sailor, and toasted American shipping. This song was published in 1794, and was advertised as “sung by Mr. Dailey, junior, in the Ballet Pantomime of The Sailor’s Landlady.”
There were other “Federal Overtures”. In Providence, Rhode Island, the New Federal Overture “composed by Mons. Leaumont” was advertised for performance at the New Theatre (1795). P. A. Van Hagen, in Boston, composed a Federal Overture which was played at the Haymarket Theatre in October, 1797.
One of the most elaborate works was the setting by James Hewitt of some verses by a Mr. Millns, The Federal Constitution and the President Forever, “adapted to the joint tunes of Washington’s March and Yankee Doodle.” This was published in 1798. A few of the stanzas suffice to show the author’s good intentions, if not his skill as a poet:
Poets may sing of their Helicon streams,
Their Gods and their Heroes are fabulous dreams;
They ne’er sang a line
Half so grand, so divine,
As the glorious toast,
We Columbians boast,
The Federal Constitution boys, and Liberty forever.
Montgomery, Warren still live in our songs,
Like them our young heroes shall spurn at our wrongs –
The world shall admire
The zeal and the fire
Which blaze in the toast
We Columbians boast
The Federal Constitution and its advocates forever.
Fame’s trumpet shall swell in Washington’s praise
And time grant a furlough to lengthen his days;
May health weave the thread
Of delight round his head –
No nation can boast
Such a name – such a toast –
The Federal Constitution boys, and Washington forever.