Liberty Tree

This beautiful ballad was written by Thomas Paine, the author of "The Age of Reason," and published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of July, 1775, while he was editor of that periodical. He composed and published many songs and elegies during his connection with the Magazine. Among them "The Death of Wolfe, on the plains of Abraham," is uncommonly pathetic and graceful.


In a chariot of light from the regions of day, The Goddess of Liberty came;
Ten thousand celestials directed the way, And hither conducted the dame.

A fair budding branch from the gardens above, Where millions with millions agree,
She brought in her hand as a pledge of her love, And the plant she named Liberty Tree. 1

The celestial exotic struck deep in the ground,
Like a native it flourish'd and bore -
The fame of its fruit drew the nations around, To seek out this peaceable shore.
Unmindful of names or distinctions they came, For freemen like brothers agree;
With one spirit endued, they one friendship pursued, And their temple was Liberty Tree.


Beneath this fair tree, like the patriarchs of old,
Their bread in contentment they ate
Unvex'd with the troubles of silver and gold,
The cares of the grand and the great.
With timber and tar they Old England supply'd,
And supported her pow'r on the sea;
Her battles they fought, without getting a groat, For the honor of Liberty Tree.


But hear, O ye swains, 'tis a tale most profane,
How all the tyrannical powers,
Kings, Commons and Lords, are uniting amain, To cut down this guardian of ours;
From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms,
Thro' the land let the sound of it flee,
Let the far and the near, all unite with a cheer, In defence of our Liberty Tree.

1 Liberty Tree. During the Stamp Act excitement there arose a practice of signifying public sentiment in a very effectual way; though without any responsible agent, unless the inanimate Liberty Tree may be so considered. This tree was a majestic elm that stood in front of a house opposite the Boylston market, on the edge of the "High street," in the town of Boston. On the 14th of August, 1765, an effigy representing Andrew Oliver, a gentleman appointed to distribute the stamps, was found hanging upon this tree, with a paper before it, on which was written in large characters,

Fair freedom's glorious cause I've meanly quitted,
For the sake of pelf;
But ah ! the Devil has me outwitted,
And instead of stamping others, I've hang'd myself

"P.S. Whoever takes this down is an enemy to his country." On the right arm was written " A. O." and on the left,
"What greater pleasure can there be, Than to see a stamp man hanging on a tree !"

On another part of the tree a boot was suspended: the emblem of the Earl of Bute, first Lord of the Treasury, from which the devil, with the Stamp Act in his hand, was looking out. Chief Justice (afterwards governor) Hutchinson, directed 'the sheriff to remove this exhibition, but his deputies, from a fear of the popular feeling, declined. In the evening the figures were taken down by the people and carried in procession through the streets. After demolishing the stamp-office, in State street, they proceeded to Fort Hill, where a bonfire was made of the pageantry in sight of Mr. Oliver's house. It being intimated to Mr. Oliver that it would conduce to the quiet of the public, if he would go to the tree and openly resign his commission, he appeared the next day, and declared, in the presence of a large concourse of people, that he would not continue in office. It was thenceforward called the Liberty Tree, and the following inscription was placed upon it, "This tree was planted in the year 1614, and pruned by the order of the Sons of Liberty, February, 14, 1766." On future occasions there was seldom any excitement on political subjects, without some evidence of it appearing on this tree. Whenever obnoxious offices were to be resigned or agreements for patriotic purposes entered into, the parties were notified to appear at the tree, "where they always found pens and paper, and a numerous crowd of witnesses, though the genius of the tree was invisible. When the British army took possession of Boston, in 1774, Liberty Tree fell a victim to their vengeance, or to that of the persons to whom its shade had been disagreeable." Liberty Trees were consecrated in Charlestown, Lexington and Roxbury, Mass., and also in Charleston, S. C., Newport and Providence, R. I. - Tudor's Life of Otis