The Life and Times of the Star-Spangled Banner

The Congress

Like a few other songs in this site, this song is actually from the Revolutionary War period, rather than the early Federal period. The War of 1812 is sometimes also called the Second War of Independence and the first presidents were leaders of the revolution. So there is a continuity between the pre-independence and post-independence times.

One thing that did change was the way that independence was seen. Was it legitimate or not? The Revolutionary Congress was an outrageous group of people doing unimaginable things, or so thought those who were loyal to the British king. While this song is not as apocalyptic as An Appeal To Loyalists, it expresses the way that Loyalists felt about the Congress.

The tune for The Congress came about as the result of an accident. When an actor is about to go on stage, it is polite to tell him or her to "break a leg." The idea is that you don't want to jinx their success by wishing them good fortune. Sometimes, however, an actor or dancer actually is injured. This happened in 1760 during a revival of the Beggar's Opera (See Newgate's Garland). The understudy, Nancy Dawson, took over the role of the injured actor, and made a huge smash of it. A song was written celebrating her success. As happened frequently in those days, the tune then was used for a number of other songs. We know a descendant of the first part of this tune as Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.

The Continental Congress signs the Declaration of Independence

The Congress


Ye Tories all rejoice and sing

Success to George our gracious King,

The faithful subjects tribute bring

And execrate the Congress.

These hardy knaves and stupid fools,

Some apish and pragmatic mules,

Some servile acquiescing tools,

These, these compose the Congress.

Then Jove resolved to send a curse,

And all the woes of life rehearse

Not plague, not famine, but much worse

He cursed us with a Congress.

When peace forsook this hopeless shore

Then cannons blazed with horrid roar

We hear of blood, death wounds and gore,

The Offspring of the Congress.

With poverty and dire distress

With standing armies us oppress,

Whole troops to Pluto swiftly press;

As victims of the Congress.

Time-serving priests to zealots preach,

Who King and Parliament impeach;

Seditious lessons to us teach

At the command of Congress.

Prepare, prepare, my friends prepare

For scenes of blood, the field of war;

To royal standards we'll repair,

And curse the haughty Congress.

Huzza, huzza, and thrice huzza!

Return peace harmony and law!

Restore such times as once we saw

And bid adieu to Congress.

Nancy Dawson

Of all the girls in our town,

The black, the fair, the red, the brown,

That prance and dance it up and down,

There's none like Nancy Dawson.

Her easy mien, her shape so neat,

She foots, she trips, she looks so sweet,

Her very motion's so complete,

I die for Nancy Dawson.

See how she comes to give surprise,

With joy and pleasure in her eyes,

To give delight she always tries,

So means my Nancy Dawson;

Was there no task t'obstruct the way

No Shuter bold, nor House so gay, [Shuter, House: entertainers, lovers of Dawson.]

A Bet of fifty pounds I'd lay,

That I gained Nancy Dawson.

See how the Opera takes a run, [Opera: Beggar's Opera.]

Exceeding Hamlet, Lear and Lun, [Lun: original producer of Beggar's Opera]

Tho' in it there would be no fun,

Was it not for Nancy Dawson:

Though Beard and Brent charm every night [Beard, Brent: actors in the 1760 production.]

And female Peachum's justly right, [Peachum, Filch, Lockit: characters in Beggar's Opera.

And Filch and Lockit please the sight,

'Tis kept up by Nancy Dawson.

See little Davy strut and puff [Davy: David Garrick, manager of the rival Drury Lane theater.]

Pox on the Opera and such stuff

My House is never full enough,

A curse on Nancy Dawson:

Though Garrick he has had his day

And forc'd the town his laws t'obey

Now Johnny Rich is come in to play [Manager of the theater in this production.]

With the help of Nancy Dawson.