This broadside is the program for a service on April 30, 1814, that Isaiah Thomas and his wife attended; Thomas noted in his diary that Mrs. Thomas came from Worcester to Boston in the coach (225). It probably was not among the broadsides that Thomas picked up at the Coverly shop in June. Thomas evidently simply added it to the top of the stack to be bound as volume 2, along with seven English prints (see The Sailor’s Departure from His True Love Susan).
Although President George Washington had cautioned in his farewell address that men should avoid political parties, the Federalists introduced political clubs known as Washington Benevolent Societies. Several hundred were formed from 1808 into the 1820s. The Washington Benevolent Society of Massachusetts held its first meeting in Boston in 1812 and a special march was written for the group and published by Graupner (Wolfe, Secular Music #9614-14a). It is interesting to note that in 1814 all three vocal selections consisted of old British tunes with new texts, as might be expected for a Federalist audience.
According to the program, the first ode was adapted to the tune of “Roderick Dhu” by John Pierpont. A native of Connecticut, Pierpont (1785-1866) was a Unitarian clergyman in Boston, a Federalist who in later years wrote antislavery poems (1843). He had read his poem “The Portrait” before the Washington Benevolent Society of Newburyport in 1812, and was called on again in 1814 to read the first ode on Washington for the Boston meeting (Wegelin 1903; Newburyport [MA] Herald, May 10, 1814; Concord [NH] Gazette, May 17, 1814).
“Roderick Dhu” is the march from the boating scene honoring Sir Roderick Dhu, a rebel Highland chief, in James Sanderson’s musical play The Lady of the Lake (1812). It may be derived from an old Gaelic melody, but it is best known today as “Hail to the Chief” from the opening line in the Sanderson work. It was already very popular when a band played it from a barge for the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on July 4, 1828, in the presence of John Quincy Adams, then the president. The White House Historical Association notes the song is traditionally played to announce the arrival of the president at state functions.
Selecting “Ye Mariners of England” as the tune for the second ode was a specific choice. The lyric is modeled on a popular patriotic war song by Glasgow poet Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), set to music by John Wall Callcott (1766-1821). Campbell’s text had already inspired parodies that were printed in American songsters in 1812 and 1813; the text appeared in four songsters between 1801 and 1805 (R. Keller, Early American Songsters). The writer of this song used Campbell’s warlike ideas with somewhat more religious language, and used many of the words of Campbell’s chorus.
The original song, of which Campbell’s text is itself a parody, is an old song of the sea dating back to the late seventeenth century:
You gentlemen of England, who live at home at ease,
How little do you think upon the dangers of the seas;
Give ear unto the mariners, and they will plainly show,
All the cares, and the fears, when the stormy winds do blow;
All the cares, and the fears, when the stormy winds do blow. (Ritson, Select Collection 3: #37; Simpson 768-69)
From that time on, many new lyrics were based on the easily parodied text and in this use, the parody is given new music. Those that survived in oral tradition retained the older opening line, “Ye gentlemen of England who live at home at your ease” (Laws 141-42; Roud #18526).
The final musical number in the program was a new text to the familiar tune “Old Hundred,” and according to the line in the title, the entire audience was expected to join in.