A War Song in 1775 -
"What can those British tyrants think?"

April 21, 2009

by David A. Leas

Traditional history lessons say that the reasons for the Revolutionary War were:

* The American people struggled and worked hard to create a home in
untamed portions of the North American continent and as a result of
these struggles and hardships they became strongly independent. They
soon began to resent the British telling them what to do and how to
live their lives. After all, Great Britain was an ocean away.

* The Americans felt the sting of new taxes as Great Britain tried
to pay for the cost of the French and Indian War.

* The Americans were also subjected to the taxes of the Sugar Act
and Stamp Act. Yet they were denied a voice in Parliament, coining
the rallying call of, "taxation without representation".

* The Americans, especially those settlers who moved away from the
established cities, found their weapons to be irreplaceable tools for
keeping their families safe and for putting food on their tables.
When the British established laws limiting the possession of guns and
ammunition, the Americans deeply resented these intrusive laws.

While all of these factors contributed to motivating our ancestors to
join the Revolutionary War effort, I have been thinking about other
things that may have also caused our grandfathers to enlist.

This line of thought started while listening to music. I almost
always have music playing in the background while I am working on the
computer. A few days ago I asked my computer load the top 100 songs
of 1966. I was in the mood for such groups as the Righteous
Brothers, Four Tops, Monkees, Supremes, Mama & the Papas and of
course some Beatles. When the songs were ready to play I was
surprised to find that the number one song of 1966 was "Sgt Barry
Sadler - The Ballad Of The Green Berets".

This song always hits me directly in my heart. Here is a man who
sacrifices everything for his country, yet he still asks his wife to
encourage his young son to make the same sacrifices. Here is a man
who understands the cost of freedom and who is willing to personally
pay that price. How many young people joined the military as a
result of this song?

This made me wonder if there were similar songs during the time of
the American Revolution.

The answer is yes, there were! In fact I found one that my great,
great, great, great grandfather, John Leas probably heard in the
weeks leading up to his enlistment in the war effort. This song is
entitled, "The Pennsylvania Song".

It appeared originally in 1775 in the "Poet's Corner" of the
newspaper, Dunlap's Pennsylvania Packet, as the "Pennsylvania March,"
to the tune of the Scots' song, "Sandy O'er the Lea." This newspaper
was published in Philadelphia until the war started when it was then
temporarily moved to Lancaster.

The lyrics of the song are as follows:

We are the troop that ne'er will stoop
To wretched slavery,
Nor shall our seed, by our base deed
Despisèd vassals be;
Freedom we will bequeathe to them,
Or we will bravely die;
Our greatest foe, ere long shall know,
How much did Sandwich lie.

And all the world shall know,
Americans are free;
Nor slaves nor cowards we will prove,
Great Britain soon shall see.

We'll not give up our birthright,
Our foes shall find us men;
As good as they, in any shape,
The British troops shall ken.
Huzza ! brave boys, we'll beat them
On any hostile plain;
For freedom, wives, and children dear,
The battle we'll maintain.

And all the world shall know,
Americans are free,
Nor slaves nor cowards we will prove,
Great Britain soon shall see.

What ! can those British tyrants think,
Our fathers cross'd the main,
And savage foes, and dangers met,
To be enslav'd by them?
If so, they are mistaken,
For we will rather die;
And since they have become our foes,
Their forces we defy.

And all the world shall know,
Americans are free,
Nor slaves nor cowards we will prove,
Great Britain soon shall see.

Did this song motivate John Leas to enlist? If he heard it, it may
have, especially the chorus:

And all the world shall know,
Americans are free,
Nor slaves nor cowards we will prove,
Great Britain soon shall see.

This song was published 234 years ago yet it still had the power to
move me and all I had were the lyrics. I needed to hear this song!
So off to the internet I went and I found the song on Amazon.com! It
cost me 99¢, but I downloaded it. I listened to the song over and
over. Yet I felt I needed to do something more.

That is why I decided to make a shockwave movie about this song and
at the same time create a tribute to John Leas, Revolutionary War
soldier. This movie is located at:


Before you click on the song, be sure to turn up your computer's
volume a little bit.

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