The Liberty Song

Background of the American Revolution

Following the Massachusetts Legislature’s refusal to rescind a circular letter written by James Otis, John Dickenson, along with Arthur Lee, writes one of the earliest songs of the coming revolution; published in the Boston Gazette—and the Pennsylvania Chronicle—, July, 1768.

In freedom we’re born and in freedom we’ll live.

To James Otis.

PHILIDELPHIA, July 4th, 1768.


johndickinsonI INCLOSE you a song for American freedom. I have long since renounced poetry. But as indifferent songs are frequently very powerful on certain occasions, I venture to invoke the deserted muses. I hope that my good intentions will procure pardon with those I wish to please, for the boldness of my numbers.

My worthy friend, Dr. Arthur Lee, a gentleman of distinguished family, abilities and patriotism, in Virginia, composed eight lines of it.

Cardinal de Retz always inforced his political operations by songs. I wish our attempt may be useful. I shall be glad to hear from you, if you have a moment’s leisure to scribble a line to, dear sir, your most affectionate, most obedient servant,



To Hon. James Otis.

PHILIDELPHIA, July 6th, 1768.


I INCLOSED to you the other day the copy of a song composed in great haste, I think it was rather too bold, I now send a corrected copy, which I like better. If you think the bagatelle worth publishing, I beg it may be this copy. If the first is published before this comes to hand, I shall be much obliged to you if you will be so good as to publish this with some little note, “that this is a true copy of the original.”

In this copy I think it may be well enough to add between the fourth and fifth stanzas, these lines;

How sweet are the labours that freemen endure,
That they shall enjoy all the profits secure.
No more such sweet labours Americans know,
If Britons shall reap what Americans sow.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

I am, dear sir, with the utmost sincerity, your most affectionate and most humble servant,



TUNE—Hearts of Oak.


COME join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty’s call;
No tyrannous acts, shall suppress your just claim,
Nor stain with dishonor America’s name.
In freedom we’re born, and in freedom we’ll live;
Our purses are ready,
Steady, Friends, steady,
Not as slaves, but as freemen our money we’ll give.

Our worthy forefathers—let’s give them a cheer—
To climates unknown did courageously steer;
Thro’ oceans to deserts, for freedom they came,
And, dying, bequeath’d us their freedom and fame.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

Their generous bosoms all dangers despis’d,
So highly, so wisely, their birthrights they priz’d;
We’ll keep what they gave, we will piously keep,
Nor frustrate their toils on the land or the deep.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

The Tree, their own hands had to Liberty rear’d,
They lived to behold growing strong and rever’d;
With transport then cried,—“Now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.”
In freedom we’re born, &c.

How sweet are the labors that freemen endure,
That they shall enjoy all the profit, secure,—
No more such sweet labors Americans know,
If Britons shall reap what Americans sow.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

Swarms of placemen and pensioners* soon will appear,
Like locusts deforming the charms of the year:
Suns vainly will rise, showers vainly descend,
If we are to drudge for what others shall spend.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

Then join hand in hand brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For Heaven approves of each generous deed.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,
Of the courage we’ll show in support of our laws;
To die we can bear,—but to serve we disdain,
For shame is to freemen more dreadful than pain.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

This bumper I crown for our sovereign’s health,
And this for Britannia’s glory and wealth;
That wealth, and that glory immortal may be,
If she is but just, and we are but free.
In freedom we’re born, &c.

—John Dickinson.

* The ministry have already begun to give away in pensions the money they lately took out of our pockets, without our consent.


Courtesy of America—Heart & Soul.

Courtesy of Democratic Thinker