Friday, July 4, 2008

Colonial Independence Day

George Washington used this chair for nearly three months of the Federal Convention's continuous sessions. James Madison reported Benjamin Franklin saying, "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I... know that it is a rising...sun."
Made by John Folwell in 1779
Mahogany, height: 153.5 cm, width: 77.5 cm, depth: 58.2 cm
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA

Information and picture courtesy of

Before The Star Spangled Banner's "Land of the free and the home of the brave," written during the war of 1812.

Long before America the Beautiful's "spacious skies" and "amber waves of grain," written in 1895.

Even longer before Grand Old Flag and Yankee Doodle Dandy had us waving straw hats and soft-shoeing our patriotic sentiment.

Before all of those, there was this, written most likely in three-part, shape-noted harmony -- four parts apparently a more recent concession to changing times. And I sang this today with a group of a hundred or so sacred harp singers of all ages -- probably age 7 to age 90 -- from around the country who had come to Anniston, Alabama for two weeks of singing camp.

They opened the singing to the public today -- four hours of one-after-another a cappella songs resounding throughout a wooden-floored church much the way they must have sounded 200 and more years ago.

Including this paean to the young America -- remember that a half-sun was carved on the chair George Washington used during the Constitutional Convention in 1787 -- generally accepted as the turning point in the young country's development. Haven't quite figured out the 'Science' part, but it was, after all, the Age of Reason and humanism is not a new invention.

Didn't notice if the two singers attending from Great Britain
joined in the singing on this one . . .

Ode on Science
by Jezaniah Sumner, 1798

The morning sun shines from the east,
And spreads his glories to the west,
All nations with his beams are blest,
Where’er the radiant light appears.

So science spreads her lucid ray
O’er lands which long in darkness lay:
She visits fair Columbia,
And sets her sons among the stars.

Fair freedom her attendant waits,
To bless the portals of her gates,
To crown the young and rising states
With laurels of immortal day:

The British yoke, the Gallic chain,
Was urged upon our necks in vain,
All haughty tyrants we disdain,
And shout, “Long live America.”


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