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, January 03, 2022

“The ’Vention did in Boston meet”

In 1782 Eleazer Oswald founded the Independent Gazetteer newspaper in Philadelphia with the help of a local printer named Daniel Humphreys.

A couple of years later Humphreys left and relaunched the Pennsylvania Mercury, and Universal Advertiser

Oswald was able to publish daily while Humphreys put out issues three times a week. Either way, that was a big jump over the weekly newspapers both men had worked on before the war.

While Oswald opposed the new U.S. Constitution of 1787, Humphreys became one of many Federalist printers supporting that reform.

On 19 Feb 1788, Oswald poked fun at the parade the Boston Federalists organized after Massachusetts ratified the new Constitution, as I quoted yesterday. Three days later Humphreys ran this response:
Mr. Humphreys,
The Independent Gazetteer has been long famous for its Attic salt; and it now lays a claim to Parnassian wit. I am sorry, however, that an Hibernian muse should be invoked to give an account of the proceedings at Boston; for, however meritorious Dean Swift’s “O my kitten, my kitten, my deary,” may be, yet Yankee doodle seems best adapted to this country, and you know we ought to encourage our own spiritu as well as manu factures. So please to accept the following from

The ’Vention did in Boston meet,
But State-house could not hold ’em,
So then they went to Fed’ral-street,
And there the truth was told ’em–
Yankee doodle, keep it up!
Yankee doodle, dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
They ev’ry morning went to prayer,
And then began disputing,
’Till opposition silenc’d were,
By arguments refuting.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
Then ’squire Hancock like a man,
Who dearly loves the nation,
By a concil’atry plan,
Prevented much vexation.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
He made a woundy fed’ral speech,
With sense and elocution;
And then the ’Vention did beseech
T’ adopt the Constitution.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
The question being outright put,
(Each voter independent)
The Fed’ralists agreed t’ adopt,
And then propose amendment.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
The other party seeing then
The people were against ’em,
Agreed like honest, faithful men,
To mix in peace amongst ’em.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
The Boston folks are deucid lads,
And always full of notions;
The boys, the girls, their mams and dads,
Were fill’d with joy’s commotions.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
So straightway they procession made,
Lord! how nation fine, Sir!
For ev’ry man of ev’ry trade
Went with his tools——to dine, Sir.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
John Foster Williams in a ship,
Join’d in the social band, Sir,
And made the lasses dance and skip,
To see him sail on land, Sir.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
Oh then a whapping feast begun,
And all hands went to eating;
They drank their toasts, shook hands and sung,
Huzza! for ’Vention meeting.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
Now Politicians of all kinds,
Who are not yet decided;
May see how Yankees speak their minds;
And yet are not divided.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
Then from this ’sample let ’em cease,
Inflammatory writing,
Is better far than fighting.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! &c.
So here I end my fed’ral song,
Compos’d of thirteen verses,
May agriculture flourish long,
And commerce fill our purses!
Yankee doodle, keep it up!
Yankee doodle, dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
While the Independent Gazetteer implied the Boston Federalists’ parade deserved questionable Irish praise, this song parodied common Yankee speech—a stereotype carrying the aura of Patriotism.

Pennsylvania’s Federalists didn’t like how their Anti-Federalist neighbors kept arguing their case weeks after they had lost decisively at the state ratification convention. That’s why this song emphasized not being “divided” by “fighting.” Federalist newspapers approvingly quoted the Massachusetts delegates who had voted against the Constitution but then pledged fidelity to the new government.

Of course, the voices of those reconciled Anti-Federalists reached Philadelphia mostly through the Federalist press. I doubt Massachusetts politics looked so peaceful and unified close-up.

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