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AMERICA'S SEARCH FOR LIBERTY IN SONG AND POEM
Compiled by W. J. Sidis
Mimeographed pamphlet, 24 pages, found in Helena Sidis's files, 1977.
This collection of poems of America's search for liberty is selected mainly to show that America has always been fighting hard for the principle of liberty and human rights, and has never allowed "orders from above" to bar the way, but has fought all the harder on account of the obstacles.
Unfortunately, too many Americans consider the search for liberty as at an end, as if it had been secured and made safe for all time by the founding fathers. To the contrary, the struggle for liberty is one requiring eternal vigilance and today is perhaps more in danger than at any other period in our history.
Various historical stages of America's fight for freedom are pictured in these poems and songs. The reader will note that material has been excluded which tended to give the idea that whereas it was glorious to fight for freedom in the past, those days are irrevocably over.
We have excluded also material of the "atrocity story" type―the sort of material which simply paints a horrible picture without bringing in the bright goal which has always been the most prominent feature of America's search for liberty.
We hope that this collection of songs and poems will make an appeal to Americans who are interested in making further progress in the direction of the goal pictured in our Declaration of Independence.
AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE SOCIETY
July 4, 1935
* * *
FIGHT FOR FREEDOM
* * * * * * * * * * * *
THE PREAMBLE TO THE
Of old, when Freedom dwelt in this her land,
An important emblem in America's fight for liberty at varying periods has been the Pine Tree, originally the emblem of Penacook Federation. The Pine Tree is the prototype of the Liberty Tree, which, as well as its abbreviation the Liberty Pole, has come to represent freedom all over the world. The "red pine-tree banner," referred to in "Fight for Freedom," above, was used extensively during the early part of the American Revolution, especially in Massachusetts, where the Revolution started.
The following poem by Whittier is a powerful appeal based on the Fine Tree emblem. The reference to Andros alludes to the overthrow of New England's absolute dictator, Sir Edmund Andres, by a surprise popular uprising at Boston, [Monday] April 18, 1689, the quickest and most effective revolution known in the world.
THE PINE TREE
Lift again the stately emblem on the
Bay State's rusted shield,
Oh, my God, for that free spirit, which of old in Boston town
Where's the man for Massachusetts? Where's the voice to speak her free?
In the middle of the 17th century, the newly formed Quaker
sect frequently used to interrupt meetings and other public functions in New England by calling out prophecies of disaster, or laying curses in Biblical style, but often with and undercurrent of predicting the ultimate triumph of the right. Thin particular prophecy concerns a well-known historical building in Houston, and was on the occasion of the entry of five Quaker women into a church on Sunday, July 8, 1677. It started out as a prophecy of the triumph of equality and of its enemies' fall,―then, as
the attempt was made to throw out the Quaker women, it closed, as they disappeared, with the prediction that the spirit of liberty would remain in that building.
MARGARET BREWSTER'S PROPHECY
[By W. J. Sidis]
Thus saith the Lord, with equal feet
Repent! Repent! 'ere the Lord shall
And, so long as Boston shall Boston be,
In 1658, the authorities of Massachusetts
Bay decreed the banishment of
all Quakers, and many other penalties in the same connection; and, through the Quakers themselves generally admitted to punishment and preferred to be martyrs, it was the Puritan population that, in many instances, revolted against its own authorities and prevented enforcement of the punishments. Thus it became a fight, not so much between Puritans and Quakers, as between the Puritan people and their own authorities. It was in this connection that much of America's
contest for religious liberty was fought.
In one case, it was attempted to sell into slavery two Quaker children, brother and sister, whose parents had been exiled; this was prevented by the refusal of the ship captains to carry out the order, and by a popular support which resulted in freeing the children. This was a sort of quiet revolt which considerably advanced the cause of religious freedom in the world, and which had all the characteristics of an incipient popular uprising against the authorities. For the purpose of the following poem, only the girl is considered, and, by a sort of poetic license, through the girl's name was actually Provided Southwick, her mother's name, Cassandra, is substituted. The girl herself is supposed to be telling the story, in the style supposed to have been used by zealous New England Quakers of that period.
To the God of all sure mercies let my blessing rise today,
I thought of Paul and Silas, within Philippi's call,
Grim and silent stood the captains; and when again
A weight seemed lifted from my heart, a pitying friend was nigh,
"Pile my ship with bars of silver, pack with coins of Spanish gold
Another incident of this popular revolt on behalf of religious freedom came a couple of
years later, in 1660, when three Quaker women from Dover were ordered exiled by the process of being dragged from town to town at the tail of a cart, and given ten lashes at each town till they were out
of the jurisdiction of the province. The warrant was executed at Dover and
Hampton, but at Salisbury the prisoners were released, and the officers
made to take their places at the whipping-post.
HOW THE WOMEN WENT FROM DOVER
The tossing spray of Cocheco's fall
"God is our witness," the victims cried,
Once more the torturing whip was swung,
A murmur ran round the crowd. "Good folks,"
"Show me the order, and meanwhile strike
In the disputes with the authorities that led up to the American Revolution, the old Pine Tree emblem became known as the "Liberty Tree," and many of whom were planted through New England as rebel rallying-posts, and the red pine-tree banner of the old-time Penacooks became the emblem of America's fight for liberty.
In a chariot of light from the regions of day,
The celestial exotic struck deep in the ground,
The soldiers posted by the authorities to occupy Boston got into an argument with a crowd of laborers returning from work on the afternoon of
[Monday] March 5, 1770, on the very spot where once a popular revolt overthrew New England's dictator Andros. The soldiers fired into the crowd, killed a few and wounded many more. This, under the name of the "Boston Massacre," was one of the items that worked up rebel spirit for the Revolution which was to follow.
The first victim, Crispus Attucks, was a mulatto slave, and this circumstance is made use of in the following poem to teach a lesson in human equality. The poem itself was recited at the dedication of the obelisk to the memory of the Boston Massacre victims, now standing on Boston Common, and on which Crispus Attucks' name lends the list of victims. This monument is the "Stone of Resistance" referred to in the poem.
Where shall we seek for a hero, and where shall we find a story?
Another important incident in the development of the chain of secret and semi-secret organizations that clustered around the Liberty Tree, was when it proved necessary to force one of their elements, the New England smuggling ring, into line with the rebel movement. This group made a big fuss about paying the British tax on tea, but faced with the issue, in the shape of an actual load of tea from China, they begged for delay, but finally decided that nothing was left but submission. Meanwhile, the rebel groups of other organizations of the Liberty Tree chain forced their hand, and put them where they were classed willy-nilly, as rebels, when a number of these rebels, in Indian dress, marched through Boston and tomahawked the tea-chests, and threw the contents into Boston harbor. This action, commonly called the Boston Tea Party, was a last-minute action, and not only consolidated rebel ranks but forced the issue between Massachusetts and England, that led to civil disobedience and rebellion in Massachusetts, followed by a general revolution in America. This act of defiance, on the night of [Thursday] December 16, 1773, did not actually start the revolution, and was not even an issue directly in rebellion, but it did crystallize the forces of rebellion in Massachusetts as well as elsewhere in America.
A BALLAD OF THE BOSTON TEA PARTY
No! never such a draught was poured
An evening party,―only that
Another important part of the fight for liberty in America was the movement for abolition of chattel slavery. This was abolished in the North during and after the Revolution; but the Revolution in the South was mostly by aristocrats after more land, and it established slavery all the firmer there. The "fugitive slave" provisions of the Constitution, whereby a fugitive slave could be returned from a non-slave state, brought the issue of slavery home to the North with increasing frequency, and resistance to enforcement of that law began to be organised―first as a spontaneous movement of the people, later as an organised abolition movement.
One of the first cases of this issue to attract public attention was that of George Latimer, who escaped by boat from Norfolk, Virginia, to Boston. While the citizens of Norfolk stormed and threatened all sorts of dire consequences, Massachusetts petitioned for constitutional amendments abolishing the fugitive slave laws.
Whittier's poem, "Massachusetts to Virginia" composed on this occasion, can be considered a historic poem, as it was the appeal which started agitation against slavery all over the North on an active basis.
MASSACHUSETTS TO VIRGINIA
The blast from Freedom's Northern hills, upon its Southern way,
From rich and rural Worcester, where through the clam repose
When, in 1855, the territories of Kansas and Nebraska were placed on a local-option basis as regards the question of slavery, it was the signal for both North and South to pack these territories with their own settlers, and the issue of freedom versus slavery was brought to a head in a different form. In Kansas, especially, actual battles between Southern and Northern settlements were frequent.
The song of the Kansas Emigrants, sung by the wagon-trains which went to Kansas from the North, show what the spirit of Kansas settlement was, and may throw some light on the crusading and missionary spirit still frequently found in Kansas.
THE KANSAS EMIGRANTS
We cross the prairie as of old
No pause, no rest, save where the streams
During the civil war came the abolition of chattel slavery in the South―first, in the form of a declaration by the Northern army that slaves were "contraband," and, as such, subject to confiscation in enemy possession; then by a more general but still very limited presidential proclamation.
Along the front there arose many songs of freedom among the Negroes, two versions of which we give here.
SONG OF THE NEGRO BOATMEN
Oh, praise an tanks! De lord he come
De yam will grow, de cotton blow,
We pray de Lord; he gib us signs
We know de promise nebber fail,
De yam will grow, de cotton blow,
Say, darkies, hab you seen de massa, wid de muffstash on his face,
He's six feet one way, tree feet t'other, an he weigh tree hundred poun.
(CHORUS)De oberseer he gib us trouble, and dribe us round a spell.
We lock him up in de smoke-house cellar, wid de key trown down de well.
De whip is lost, de han-cuff broken, but de massa il hab his pay.
He's big enough, old enough, ought to know better, dan to went an run away.
De darkies fine it mighty lonesome in de ole log-cabin home;
The next three poems form a sort of New England historical series, each tracing the development―and permanence―of the spirit of the fight for liberty in some definite locality. Name of places are disguised in this series, either by slight alterations, or by use of Indian names of the places; likewise, historical events narrated in this series of poems are given in rather general terms; but there is no difficulty in understanding the general idea of the spirit of Freedom sticking to its old lands and places, and lasting to where it will yet guide New England―and, through New England, the world―out of oppression of every sort into freedom at last.
In a certain bay there lies an island, on the old New England shore.
When the Puritans were persecuting call who dared to disagree,
There were thoughts and creeds not tolerated, that would over oceans flee,
When tyrants pushed New England's charters of liberty aside,
When the nation won its independence, yet New England's landlords stayed,
And, while Red Island took such measures, all to humble right men's pride,
When, in neighb'ring regions, workers' forces in defeat were sorely pressed,
But the nation's financiers were frightened, as they started soon show,
So the rich men's new regime was started, which Red Island still defied,
The years passed by o'er half a hundred, with that turmoil far behind,
Though that rebellion was defeated, the example elsewhere held;
And even now, though dark reaction grips the island and the bay.
Red Island's rebels fight no longer, but the spirit lingers on.
New England holds a Bay Land
The people's spokesmen were pursued
The Bay Land's people more and more
But slav'ry to the Bay Land
When under guise of
Though these attempts were beaten,
And, from the mountains down to where
This spirit shows where Merrimac
Where like a bent, defying arm,
By John W. Shattuck [Sidis]
(Tune: Joe Bowers)
There is a place in Merou, New England called by name,
Where runs a swift, wide river, a stream, well known to fame.
From Agiochook's high mountains to ocean's salty foam,
The backbone of New England, the heart of Freedom's home.
To red men 'twas the bulwark that kept their people free,
The river to the wesaward, and on the east, the sea.
Its whirling rush of waters of Freedom spoke, 'twould seem;
They called it Quinnitucket, the long, unending stream.
Full many a time and often, when danger was at hand,
New England's red men gathered along their river strand.
And Quinnitucket's water protected liberty,
As, holding off intruders, it kept its people free.
The great Hodenosaunee came from the setting sun,
Five independent nations, with councils all in one.
They came to Quinnitucket, where rushing torrents flow,
But into old New England they could no farther go.
For, while the danger threatened, New England's red men met
Along their river's valley, the menace to upset.
Full many a tribal council together sat that day
Beside the Quinnituket, to keep the foe away.
As five great hostile nations, by single council led,
Reached Quinnitucket's waters, New England's red men said
They should by that example to join in union learn,
That Freedom's hope might ever in old New England burn.
The Penaoooks came foremost, through danger still serene.
From where the lofty mountains of Agiochook are seen.
Their tribal council's chieftain for Freedom led the way,
New England's high Bashaba, great Passaconaway.
And next the Narragansetts, from round Red Island's shore,
Where Freedom's hope was destined to live forevermore.
Abenakis came also, from that far eastern strand,
By many a cove indented, with woods throughout their land.
The Pequots, Freedom's fighters, joined in this council too,
From where the Quinnitucket meets ocean's vasty blue.
And red men of Misadahu in council sat that day
From where, by Shawmut' s valley, great hills o' erlook a bay.
And then the Piscataqua, from swift Cocheco came
To Quinnitucket's waters, their freedom to reclaim.
From up the Quinnitucket, from lofty hills of green,
The red men of Winooski in council too were seen.
The Saugus came to council from ocean's roar and foam;
The Naticks came to join them, defending Freedom's home;
The Wampanoags attended, from out their cape of sand;
And Nipmucks, too, were present, from Quinnitucket's strand.
And Freedom's greatest guardians, by foes of Freedom shunned,
Came from betwixt the ocean and Lake Quinsigamond,
The tribe on whom the mantle of Freedom's spirit falls,
The Okamakammessets, the prompt when duty calls.
These tribes, like many others, a federal council made
By Quinnitucket's waters, in union strong arrayed.
Each nation, independent, retained its freedom still;
But, for concerted action, the council had its will.
The great Hodenosaunee still more their efforts bent,
The great Hodenosaunee back to Shatemuck went,
When first a fed'ral union, by Freedom's peoples planned
Along the Quinnitucket, for freedom took its stand.
But now New England' s red men had new and dangerous foes,
As whites from o'er the ocean in mighty power arose.
From ocean's side was threatened the red men's liberty,
So Quinnitucket's waters could no protection be.
But still for their own freedom the whites kept up the fight,
Preserved in old New England the spirit of the right,
And, plans of joining councils from red men taking o'er,
First joined in fed'ral union on Quinnitucket's shore.
When tyrants o'er the ocean the country would oppress,
The people rose against them, to win their own redress;
But first rebellion started in Freedom's native home,
Betwixt the Quinnitucket and eastern ocean's foam.
New England thus revolted; and so the country o'er,
From Apalachee's mountains to ocean's salty shore,
Men rose against the tyrant; and fed'ral union made,
As once by Quinnitucket the red men were arrayed.
And, with defeat impending, in Freedom's darkest hour,
The mountaineers descended and crushed the tyrant's power,
From out those hills where Freedom for years had made its stand,
O'erlooking Quinnitucket and guarding o'er its strand.
The foreign tyrants beaten, the lords of wealth and land
Their tyrant power established, and ruled with heavy hand.
Their tyranny continued, and in the land 'twould stay;
But first by Quinnitucket did protest see the day.
And, when the new exploiters would hold their courts of law
By Quinnitucket's waters, to strike the poor with awe,
The people rose against them, arising in their might,
As, for the first time, workers for their own rights did fight.
The rebels fought for Freedom, and victory they spread,
As almost to the ocean their triumph forged ahead.
But not for long it lasted; they lost their upper hand,
And on the Quinnitucket made Freedom's final stand.
That spirit, which for freedom in those past days first struck
Beneath the mount which red men of old named Nonotuck.
Beside the Quinnitucket, still lives upon the earth,
Still centers in New England, the country of its birth.
And thus New England's people, who erst for Freedom fought,
Were by the wealth tyrants into subjection brought.
But still the rebel spirit pervades New England's ground,
And still by Quinnitucket is Freedom's spirit found.
And wealth's new power established its mills throughout the land,
While Quinnitucket's waters, by Freedom's native strand,
Lie dammed and subjugated, and chained its spirit free,
Together with its people, from mountains to the sea.
But still the rebel river, when swelled by heavy rains,
Bursts through its dams and barriers, and swoops aside its chains.
The river's rushing torrent swirls onward to the sea.
'Tis Quinnitucket's waters, still fighting to be free.
Most of the characteristically American institutions, and especially the ideas of freedom, democracy, federation, are derived from the governments the red men organized in this country before us. The following poem brings out this idea as to what New England derives from its former inhabitants.
THE RED AND THE WHITE
In the later days, when red men lived no longer in
Many years passed since those councils, and the
pit was covered o'er,
The following poem, though not dealing directly with America's fight for freedom, indicates another way in which the Red Race, the original founders of liberty and equality, have left their impress on modern America.
That noble race and brave,
That their light canoes have vanished
From off the crested wave,
That mid the forests where the roamed
There rings no hunter's shout;
But their name is on your waters,
Ye may not wash it out.
'Tis where Ontario's billow
Like ocean's surge is curled;
Where strong Niagara's thunder wakes
The echoes of the world;
Where red Missouri bringeth
Rich tribute from the West,
And Rappahannock sweetly sleeps
On green Virginia's breast.
Ye say their conelike cabins
That clustered o'er the vale
Have fled away like withered leaves
Before the autumn's gale;
But their memory liveth on your hills,
Their dialect of yore.
Old Massachusetts wears it
Within her lordly crown,
And broad Ohio bears it
Mid all her young renown;
Connecticut hath wreathed it
Where her quiet foliage waves,
And bold Kentucky breathes it hoarse
Through all her ancient caves.
Wachusett hides its lingering voice
Within his rocky heart,
All Allegheny graves its tone
Throughout his lofty chart;
Monadnock on his forehead hoar
Doth seal the sacred trust;
Your mountains build their monument,
Though ye destroy their dust.
(Typed by Jow, Dan Mahony)
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