Loyalist Songs and Poems of the American Colonial

During the time of the American Revolution of 1776, there were colonists known as Patriots and Loyalists. The Loyalists retained their support of Great Britain and King George, while the Patriots were those who had defended and continued to support the American way of life and freedom. If it were possible now, a background check on Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and the founding fathers of our country would reveal their identities as Patriots. The most notable Loyalist was Benedict Arnold.

The songs and poetry of this period varied by geographical location, religious affiliation, and even social class, and included hymns, classical music, and traditional folk songs. The sentiments of the Loyalists were expressed in the southern colonies by folk songs such as Barbara Allen and Black Is the Colour of My Lover’s Hair. Regardless of the location in Colonial America, you could find people throughout who considered themselves loyal Americans.

The following collection of known songs and poems was printed during the period, although many were rewrites of older songs, depicting the views and emotions of the Loyalists.      

This poem used the speech from Hamlet, To Be or Not to Be, as its premise and deals with the Loyalists who were hesitant to sign an oath of allegiance, asked for by the Continental Congress. Continuing pressure from other colonists succeeded in causing more rebellion from the Loyalists. It was printed in the Middlesex Journal on January 30, 1776.

The Pausing American Loyalist

To sign, or not to sign? That is the question,
Whether 'twere better for an honest man
To sign, and so be safe; or to resolve,
Betide what will, against associations,
And, by retreating, shun them. To fly-- I reck
Not where: And, by that flight, t' escape
Feathers and tar, and thousand other ills
That loyalty is heir to: 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To fly-- to want--
To want? Perchance to starve: Ay, there's the rub!
For, in that chance of want, what ills may come
To patriot rage, when I have left my all--
Must give me pause: --There's the respect
That makes us trim, and bow to men we hate.
For, who would bear th' indignities o' th' times,
Congress decrees, and wild convention plans,
The laws controll'd, and inj'ries unredressed,
The insolence of knaves, and thousand wrongs
Which patient liege men from vile rebels take,
When he, sans doubt, might certain safety find,
Only by flying? Who would bend to fools,
And truckle thus to mad, mob-chosen upstarts,
But that the dread of something after flight
(In that blest country, where, yet, no moneyless
Poor wight can live) puzzles the will,
And makes ten thousands rather sign-- and eat.
Than fly -- to starve on loyalty.--
Thus, dread of want makes rebels of us all:
And thus the native hue of loyalty
Is sicklied o'er with a pale cast of trimming;
And enterprises of great pith and virtue,
But unsupported, turn their streams away,
And never come to action.

The following Loyalist song was written for King George’s birthday in 1777. The British Army occupied Philadelphia for nine months, and this was printed at the onset, in the Pennsylvania Ledger, October 22, 1777. It was sung to an earlier British tune entitled, When Britain First at Heaven’s Command.

Tradesmen’s Song

Again, my social Friends, we meet

To celebrate our annual display

This great, this glorious Natal Day:

'Tis George's Natal Day we sing,

Our firm, our steady Friend and King.

For Britain's Parliament and Laws

He waves his own Imperial Power,

For this (Old England's glorious Cause)

May Heaven on him its blessings shower,

And Colonies, made happy, sing,

Great George, their real Friend and King.

Since Britain first at Heaven's command

Arose from out the Azure Main,

Did ever, o'er this jarring land

A Monarch with more firmness reign?

Then to the Natal Day we'll sing,

Of George, our sacred Friend and King.

To Charlotte fair, our matchless Queen,

To all his blooming heavenly Line,

To all their Family and Friends,

Let us in hearty chorus join,

And George's Natal Day let's sing,

Our gracious Father, Friend, and King. ine,

While we with loyal hearts implore

That one of his most sacred Line

May rule these Realms till time's no more.

And we, with cheerful voices sing,

Great George, our steady, natal King.

The following song was a parody of the original Vicar of Bray and was printed in the Royal Gazette, June 30, 1779. The author made a mockery of the colonists switching loyalties during the Revolution.

The American Vicar of Brays

When royal George ruled o'er this land and loyalty no harm meant

For Church and King I made a stand and so I got preferment

I still opposed all party tricks for reasons I thought clear ones

And swore it was their politics to made us all Presbyterians

  And this is the law that I'll maintain until my dying day, sir

  That whatsoever King might reign, I'll still be Vicar of Bray, sir

When Stamp Act passed the Parliament to bring some grist to mill, sir

To back it was my firm intent, but soon there came repeal, sir

I quickly joined the common cry that we should all be slaves, sir

The House of Commons was a sty, the Kings and Lords were knaves, sir

Now  all went smooth, as smooth as can be, I strutted and looked  big, sir

And when they laid a tax on tea, I was believed a Whig, sir

I laughed at all the vain pretense of taxing at a distance

And swore before I'd pay a pence, I'd make a firm resistance

A Congress now was swiftly called that we might work together

I thought that Britain would, appalled, be glad to make fair weather

And soon repeal the obnoxious bill, as she had done before, sir

That we could gather wealth at will and so be taxed no more, sir

But Britain was not quickly seared, she told another story

When independence was declared, I figured as a Tory

Declared it was a rebellion base, to take up arms - I cursed it

For faith, it seemed a settled case, that we should soon be worsted

The French alliance now came forth, the Papists flocked in shoals, sir

Friseurs, marquis, valets of birth and priests to save our souls, sir

Our "good ally" with towering wing embraced the flattering hope sir

That we should own him for our King and then invite the Pope, sir

Then Howe with drum and great parade marched through this famous town, sir

I cried, "May fame his temples shade with laurels for a crown," sir

With zeal I swore to make amends to good old constitution

And drank confusion to the friends of our

But poor Burgoyne's announced my fate the Whigs began to glory

I now bewailed my wretched state, that e'er I was a Tory

By night the British left the shore, nor cared for friends a fig, sir

I turned the cat in pan once more and so became a Whig, sir

I called the army butchering dogs, a bloody tyrant King, sir

The Commons, Lords a set of rogues that all deserved to swing, sir

Since fate has made us great and free and Providence can't alter

So Congress e'er my King shall be, until the times do alter

The following lyrics have been attributed to Welsh poet, John Dyer (1700-1758) and were put to traditional Irish music.

Down Among the Dead Men

Here's a health to the King, and a lasting peace

May faction end and wealth increase.

Come, let us drink it while we have breath,

For there's no drinking after death.

    And he who would this toast deny,

    Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

    Down, down, down, down;

    Down among the dead men let him lie!

Let charming beauty's health go round,

With whom celestial joys are found.

And may confusion yet pursue

That selfish woman-hating crew.

    And he who'd woman's health deny,

    Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

    Down, down, down, down;

    Down among the dead men let him lie!

In smiling Bacchus' joys I'll roll,

Deny no pleasures to my soul.

Let Bacchus' health round briskly move,

For Bacchus is the friend of love.

    And he that would this health deny,

    Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

    Down, down, down, down;

    Down among the dead men let him lie!

May love and wine their rights maintain,

And their united pleasures reign.

While Bacchus' treasure crowns the board,

We'll sing the joy that both afford.

    And they that won't with us comply,

     Down among the dead men, down among the dead men,

    Down, down, down, down;

    Down among the dead men let them lie!

The following song is famed for its thorough description of the Loyalist viewpoint. The sarcastic lyrics display anger. Its original printing was in 1778, in the Pennsylvania Ledger. Sung to the tune of Black Jack, the lyrics are attributed to Captain Smyth, who wrote them at the Battle of Crooked Billet, during the Philadelphia occupation of the British, May 1, 1778.

The Rebels

Ye brave honest subjects who dare to be loyal,

And have stood the brunt of every trial,

Of hunting shirts and rifle guns;

Come listen awhile and I'll tell you a song;

I'll show you those Yankees are all in the wrong,

Who, with blustering look and most awkward gait,

'Gainst their lawful sovereign dare for to prate,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

The arch-rebels, barefooted tatterdemalions,

In baseness exceed all other rebellions,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns:

To rend the empire, the most infamous lies,

Their mock-patriot Congress, do always devise;

Independence , like the first rebels, they claim,

But their plots will be damned in the annals of fame,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

Forgetting the mercies of Great Britain's King,

Who saved their forefathers' necks from the string,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns,

They renounce all allegiance and take up their arms,

Assemble together like hornets in swarms,

So dirty their backs, and so wretched their show,

That carrion-crow follows wherever they go,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

With loud peals of laughter, you sides, sirs, would crack,

To see General Convict and Colonel Shoe-Black,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

See cobblers and quacks, rebel priests and the like,

Pettifoggers and barbers, with sword and with pike,

All strutting the standard of Satan beside,

And honest names using, their black deeds to hide,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

This perjured banditti, now ruin this land,

And o'er its poor people claim lawless command,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

Their pasteboard dollars prove a common curse,

They don't chink like silver and gold in our purse,

With nothing their leaders have paid their debts off,

Their honor's, dishonor, and justice they scoff,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

For one lawful ruler, many tyrants we've got,

Who force young and old to their wars, to be shot,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns.

Our good King, God speed him! never used men so,

We then could speak, act, and like freemen could go,

But committees enslave us, our liberty's gone,

Our trade and church murdered; our country's undone,

By hunting shirts and rifle guns.

Come take up you glasses, each true loyal heart,

And may every rebel meet his due dessert,

With his hunting shirt and rifle gun.

May Congress, Conventions, those damned inquisitions,

Be fed with hot sulphur from Lucifer's kitchens,

May commerce and peace again be restored,

And Americans own their true sovereign lord,

Then oblivion to shirts and rifle guns.


Additional Resources

·         Loyalist Music of the United Kingdom – prior to entering this site, an audio file of a rousing Loyalist poem with Scottish music in the background can be heard. Upon entry there is an awesome display of graphics and vast resources for Ulster and Loyalist Patriotic songs.

·         Songs & Ballads of The American Revolution – the original book, digitized by Microsoft and available for leafing through the entire contents.

·         Revolutionary Music – a lesson plan site with a table of Patriot and Loyalist ballad links.

·         Loyal American Songbook – a PDF version of the Loyal American Regiment songbook used during the colonist rebellion post-war period.

·         E-Keltoi – is a study by Michael Newton of the University of Virginia, entitled, Past Jacobite, Present Loyalist. Within are several songs and poems, both in the original Celtic and translated to English, which were written and sung during the Colonial Era.