J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

“Then let Adams be sung by each patriot tongue”

Today is John Adams’s birthday (under the Gregorian Calendar, as he observed most of his life).

In his honor, here are the lyrics that Jonathan Mitchell Sewall (1748-1808) wrote in President Adams’s honor in 1798. Sewall followed the tune of “Hail, Columbia,” composed in 1789 and originally titled “The President’s March.” (It’s now the entrance music for the Vice President.)

AMERICA, shout! thy own Adams still lives!
The terror of traitors and pride of our nation!
’Mid clouds of detraction, still glorious survives,
Sedition’s dread scourage, and his country’s salvation
Let his fame then resound
The wide universe round,
’Till Heaven’s starry arch the loud chorus rebound!
Such honors, pure worth must from gratitude claim,
Till the Sun is extinct and the Globe all on flame!

As bright Sol, whom the planets exulting obey,
Darts thro’ clouds those glad beams that enliven creation,
So Adams, midst tempests and storms, with mild sway,
Of our system the centre and soul, holds his station.
Tho’ dire comets may rise,
Let them meet but his eyes.
And in tangents they whirl, and retreat thro’ the skies.
Our Sun, Regent, Centre! then ever extol,
Till yon Orb cease to shine and those Planets to roll.

As gold try’d by fire leaves the dross all behind,
So, slander’d by Jacobin sons of sedition,
Adams bursts forth refulgent as Saints are refin’d
From the furnace of Satan, that Son of perdition!
Then let Adams be sung
By each patriot tongue,
And Columbia’s loud lyre be to exstacy strung!
These honors such worth must from gratitude claim
Till the Sun is extinct and the heavens on flame!

On Neptune’s vast Kingdom where oceans can flow,
Display’d is our Standard, our Eagle respected,
This change to great Adams and wisdom we owe—
Now our Commerce rides safe, by our Cannon protected.
Then three cheers to our Fleet!
May they never retreat
But with prize after prize their lov’d President greet!
And ne’er may Columbians grow cold in his praise
Till the Sun is extinct and the Universe blaze! 

But while our young Navy such rapture excites,
Our heroes by land claim our warm admiration.
With manhood and youth, ev’n the infant unites,
Sons of Heroes! boast, pride and defence of our Nation!
Such a spirit’s gone forth
Of true valor and worth,
’Twould be arduous to tame it, all pow’rs upon earth!
’Twas Adams inspir’d it—to him be the praise
Long as Cynthia shall shine or the Sun dart his rays!

But turn us to Europe—how fares it with France?
What! confounded, amaz’d, such astonishment ne’er rose!
From the North bursts Suwarrow! I see him advance,
That Victor of victors, that Hero of heroes!
Hardy Russian, Mon Dieu!
If this course you pursue
You will leave Mighty Washington nothing to do.
At that name the Muse kindles, and twining fresh bays
Blends with Adams’s glory, great Washington’s praise!

Not a nation on earth would we fear with such aid
(Heav’n save us alone from internal commotion!)
Not Britain, France, Europe—Columbia would dread
Their forces by land, their proud fleets on the ocean,
Our Heroes prepar’d
Would their progress retard,
Sage Adams to guide and great Washington guard.
Their Glory increasing as nature decays
In Eternity’s Temple refulgent shall blaze!
Sewall was raised by his uncle, Massachusetts Justice Stephen Sewall, and started his legal training under his cousin Jonathan Sewall, once a close friend of Adams but later a Loyalist opponent. The young man then moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for further training with John Pickering. He was an ardent Federalist in the early republic, best known for his verse “War and Washington.”

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