Spirit & Heritage In Song – ‘American Taxation’ – 1765


Spirit & Heritage In Song is a series highlighting Traditional American Music.

In the last half century many of these traditional songs have been forgotten in a flood of contemporary music and international cultural influences. Yet these songs, ballads, melodies and hymns reflect the events, cultural backgrounds, aspirations, land and faith that make up the soul of the American People far more than the strains of moderne music that have washed upon the nation’s shores. This series is offered as a reminder of the Spirit of America as given voice in song.


” I’ll rally all my forces, By water and by land,
My light dragoons and horses, Shall go at my command;
I’ll burn both town and city, With smoke becloud the day,
I’ll show no human pity, For North America.
(King George III) “

“American Taxation” by Peter St. John


American Taxation

Stamp Act - Library of Congress

Some issues weave their way through America’s evolution. Taxation and “public” spending has been a passionate and devisive matter that has led the nation’s citizens in appeal, debate and conflict from the colonial period until now. Generally no more dangerous than heated words fired at opponents, but there was a time that government’s hand dipping into the public’s purse by privilege followed by force, inspired to great deeds our Founders and thousands of fellow citizens to move from appealing Britain’s King George III for relief and representation to Heaven. The debate was eventually settled on the battle field by British and German invaders against American colonists and French troops.

Liberty Tree

“American Taxation” was a song born of this tumultous and nation birthing period, written in 1765 by Peter St. John a school teacher about the Stamp Act which he thought was “an unconstitutional attempt upon our liberties.” It reminds us today of the sentiments and passions of Americans, the plots and devices of Britain at that formative period in world history, of the creation of America. This song is a most valuable reminder of America’s founding, and of the prime matter that directed our founding generation’s thoughts and efforts in creating this nation. An issue and forces yet this day forging the destiny of America.


“No part of His Majesty’s dominions can be taxed without their consent… this would seem to [contradict] the theory of the constitution.”
—James Otis, Massachusetts legislator National Constitution Center


Colonists protesting the Stamp Act

Peter St. John, the author of the following excellent ballad, was a native of Norwalk, Connecticut. During the early struggles of the Revolution, he kept a school in his native town, where he won much renown for the bold principles he avowed and inculcated. He wrote many pieces during the war, some of which are the finest of that period. At a later time he composed a poem entitled the “Death of Abel,” in which are related “many things which might probably take place both before and after that barbarous fratricide.”

Read more about this song at AmericanRevolution.org

For further information about this and other songs written during the American Revolution visit Traitors, Seamstresses, and Generals: Voices of the American Revolution


Lyrics below


The American Revolution: The Conflict Ignites


The History of American Taxation


Causes of the American Revolution


See other songs of the American Spirit in History and at Music


New York protesters burning stamps



To the tune of “The British Grenadiers”

While I relate my story, Americans give ear;
Of Britain’s fading glory, you presently shall hear.
I’ll give a true relation, attend to what I say,
Concerning the taxation of North America.

2. The cruel lords of Britain, who glory in their shame,
The project they have hit on they joyfully proclaim;
Tis what they’re striving after our rights to take away,
And rob us of our charter in North America.

3. There are two mighty speakers who rule in Parliament,
Who ever have been seeking some mischief to invent;
‘Twas North, and Bute his father, the horrid plan did lay,
A mighty tax to gather in North America.

4. These subtle arch-combiners addressed the British court,
All three were undersigners of this obscure report–
There is a pleasant landscape that lieth far away,
Beyond the wide Atlantic in North America.

5. O King, you’ve heard the sequel of what we now subscribe,
Is it not just and equal to tax this wealthy tribe?
The question being asked, his majesty did say,
My subjects shall be taxed in North America.

6. Invested with a warrant, my publicans shall go,
The tenth of all their current they surely shall bestow;
If they indulge rebellion, or from my precepts stray,
I’ll send my war battalion to North America.

7. I’ll rally all my fores by water and by land,
My light dragoons and horses shall go at my command;
I’ll burn both town and city, with smoke becloud the day,
I’ll show no human pity for North America.

8. O George! you are distracted, you’ll by experience find
The laws you have enacted are of the blackest kind.
I’ll make a short digression, and tell you by the way,
We fear not your oppression in North America.

Boston Tea Party, Dec. 16, 1773

9. Our fathers were distressed, while in their native land,
By tyrants were oppressed, as we do understand;
For freedom and religion they were resolved to stray,
And trace the desert regions of North America.


Gen. John Burgoyne

” Surely we were your betters, Hard by the Brandywine;
We laid him fast in fetters, Whose name was John Burgoyne;
We made your Howe to tremble, With terror and dismay;
True heroes we resemble, In North America. ”
–For more lyrics to this song visit AmericanRevolution.org


The Revenue Act of 1764 (The Sugar Act)
“If taxes are laid upon us in any shape without ever having a legal representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the character of free subjects to the miserable state of tributary slaves?”
—excerpts from a Boston Town Meeting, May 24, 1764


America remember and honor your history – it will give direction,
purpose and security to your future.


Plow & Hearth


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