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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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Yet Another “Liberty Song” in 1770

On 13 Feb 1770, Josiah Flagg gave a concert in Boston. According to his newspaper advertisements, Flagg had a house near the Old North Meetinghouse and a store on Fish Street. Having started as a silversmith, he got into engraving, publishing, and selling music, particularly religious music. One of his ads added that he “teaches Psalmody, on Monday and Thursday Evenings.”

Flagg didn’t advertise his February 1770 concert, so far as I can tell. We know about it only because the printers Edes and Gill referred back to that event in their North-American Almanack and Massachusetts Register, for the Year 1770. That almanac offered readers the lyrics to “A New Song, compos’d by a Son of Liberty, and Sung by Mr. Flagg at Concert-Hall, Boston, February 13, 1770.”

Of course, those lyrics were just one item in that almanac. In advertisements that appeared in multiple Boston newspapers starting the week after Flagg’s concert, Edes and Gill laid out its full contents in detail:
CONTAINING, A Prospective View of the Town of Boston the Capital of New-England; and of the Landing of Troops in the Year 1768, in Consequence of Letters from Gov. Bernard, the Commissioners, &c. to the British Ministry—Eclipses—Extract from the Life of Publius Clodius Britano Americanus, continued—A List of the Importers and Resolves of the Merchants &c. of Boston—A Table in Sterling, Halifax, Massachusetts L.M. & O.T. [Lawful Money and Old Tenor,] Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New-York Currencies—Courts in Massachusetts-Bay, New-Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode-Island—Judgment of the Weather, Suns and Moon’s Rising and Setting, Time of High Water, Feasts and Fasts of the Church of England, &c.—A List of the Hon. His Majesty’s Council, and the Honorable House of Representatives—Judges of the Superior and Inferior Courts, Judges of Probate, Registers of Deeds, High Sheriffs and their Deputies—Officers of the Admiralty and Custom-House—Notaries Public—Post-Office—Justices of the Peace thro’out the Province, and for each County—Barristers at Law—President, Overseers, &c. of Harvard College—Ministers, Churches and Religious Assemblies thro’ the Province—Officers of the 14th & 29th Regiments in Boston—Officers of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, with the Names of the Captains of said Company, from its Incorporation—Officers of the Troop of Horse Guards—Officers of the Boston Regiment—Field Officers of the several Regiments through the Province—Officers of Castle William, and the Batteries in Boston—Coroners—Officers of the Town of Boston—Fire-Engine Men—List of Commissioners and other Officers of the Revenue, WITH THEIR SALARIES!——Liberty Song—Parody Parodiz’d—A New Song, to the Tune of the British Grenadier, by a Son Of Liberty—Public Roads, with the best Stages or Houses to put up at—Quakers Yearly Meetings in New-England—Difference of the Time of High Water at several Places on the Continent, &c.
The “Prospective View of the Town of Boston,” shown above, was a woodcut that Paul Revere made for Edes and Gill based on the larger cityscape that he and Christian Remick had created.

The “New Song, to the Tune of the British Grenadier” was the song that Flagg had introduced a few days before the almanac’s publication. As the contents list shows, it came after “The Liberty Song,” with lyrics by John Dickinson and Arthur Lee; and the “Parody Parodiz’d‚” also known as “The Massachusetts Liberty Song,” with lyrics by Dr. Benjamin Church.

Eventually the song debuting in February 1770 got the title “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song,” just to confuse matters further.

COMING UP: The lyrics and the lyricist.

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