Burgoyne’s Proclamation | American Revolution War Song

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Frank Moore
Frank Moore

Frank Moore was a journalist and Revolutionary historian. He published a number of books on the American Revolution during his career in the mid-19th century, including Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution, Diary of the American Revolution and The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution.

On the fourth of July, 1777, General Burgoyne issued a proclamation from his camp, near Ticonderoga, intended to spread terror among the Americans. But it was so pompous and bombastic, that, instead of producing the desired effect, it became the subject of ridicule and derision. The subjoined version of it, is attributed to Francis Hopkinson.

Burgoyne’s Proclamation

By John Burgoyne, and Burgoyne, John, Esq.,
And grac’d with titles still more higher,1
For I’m Lieutenant-general, too,
Of George’s troops both red and blue,
On this extensive continent;
And of Queen Charlotte’s regiment
Of light dragoons the Colonel;
And Governor eke of Castle Wil –
And furthermore, when I am there,
In House of Commons I appear,
[Hoping ere long to be a Peer.]
Being a member of that virtuous band
Who always vote at North’s command;
Directing too the fleet and troops
From Canada as thick as hops;
And all my titles to display,
I’ll end with thrice et cetera.

The troops consign’d to my command
Like Hercules to purge the land,
Intend to act in combination
With th’ other forces of the nation,
Displaying wide thro’ every quarter
What Britain’s justice would be after.
It is not difficult to show it,
And every mother’s son must know it,
That what she meant at first to gain
By requisitions and chicane,
She’s now determin’d to acquire
By kingly reason; sword and fire.

I can appeal to all your senses,
Your judgments, feelings, tastes and fancies;
Your ears and eyes have heard and seen,
How causeless this revolt has been;
And what a dust your leaders kick up;
In this rebellious civil hickup,
And how, upon this curs’d foundation,
Was rear’d the system of vexation
Over a stubborn generation.

But now inspired with patriot love
I come th’ oppression to remove;
To free you from the heavy clog
Of every tyrant demagogue.
Who for the most romantic story,
Claps into limbo loyal Tory,
All hurly burly, hot and hasty,
Without a writ to hold him fast by;
Nor suffers any living creature,
[Led by the dictates of his nature,]
To fight in green for Britain’s cause,
Or aid us to restore her laws;
In short, the vilest generation
Which in vindictive indignation,
Almighty vengeance ever hurl’d
From this to the infernal world.

A Tory cannot move his tongue,
But whip, in prison he is flung,
His goods and chattels made a prey.
By those vile mushrooms of a day,
He’s tortur’d too, and scratch’d and bit,
And plung’d into a dreary pit;
Where he must suffer sharper doom,
Than e’er was hatched by Church of Rome.
These things are done by rogues, who dare
Profess to breathe in Freedom’s air.
To petticoats alike and breeches
Their cruel domination stretches,
For the sole crime, or sole suspicion
[What worse is done by th’ inquisition ?]
Of still adhering to the crown,
Their tyrants striving to kick down,
Who by perverting law and reason,
Allegiance construe into treason.
Religion too is often made
A stalking horse to drive the trade,
And warring churches dare implore,
Protection from th’ Almighty pow’r;
They fast and pray: in Providence
Profess to place their confidence;
And vainly think the Lord of all
Regards our squabbles on this ball;
Which would appear as droll in Britain
As any whim that one could hit on;
Men’s consciences are set at naught,
Nor reason valued at a groat;
And they that will not swear and fight,
Must sell their all, and say good night.

By such important views there pres’t to,
I issue this my manifesto.
I, the great knight of de la Mancha,
Without ‘Squire Carleton, my Sancho,
Will tear you limb from limb asunder,
With cannon, blunderbuss and thunder;
And spoil your feathering and your tarring;
And cagg you up for pickled herring.
In front of troops as spruce as beaux,
And ready to lay on their blows,
I’ll spread destruction far and near;
And where I cannot kill, I’ll spare,
Inviting, by these presents, all,
Both young and old, and great and small,
And rich and poor, and Whig and Tory,
In cellar deep, or lofty story;
Where’er my troops at my command
Shall swarm like locusts o’er the land.
(And they shall march from the North Pole
As far, at least, as Pensacole,)
So break off their communications,
That I can save their habitations;
For finding that Sir William’s plunders,
Prove in the event apparent blunders,
It is my full determination,
To check all kinds of depredation;
But when I’ve got you in my pow’r,
Favor’d is he, I last devour.

From him who loves a quiet life,
And keeps at home to kiss his wife,
And drinks success to king Pigmalion,
And calls all Congresses Rabscallion,
With neutral stomach eats his supper,
Nor deems the contest worth a copper;
I will not defalcate a groat,
Nor force his wife to cut his throat;
But with his doxy he may stay,
And live to fight another day;
Drink all the cider he has made,
And have to boot, a green cockade.
But as I like a good Sir Loin,
And mutton chop whene’er I dine,
And my poor troops have long kept Lent,
Not for religion, but for want,
Whoe’er secretes cow, bull or ox,
Or shall presume to hide his flocks;
Or with felonious hand eloign
Pig, duck, or gosling from Burgoyne,
Or dare to pull the bridges down,
My boys to puzzle or to drown;
Or smuggle hay, or plough, or harrow,
Cart, horses, wagons or wheelbarrow;
Or ‘thwart the path, lay straw or switch,
As folks are wont to stop a witch,
I’ll hang him as the Jews did Haman;
And smoke his carcase for a gammon.
I’ll pay in coin for what I eat,
Or Continental counterfeit.
But what’s more likely still, I shall
(So fare my troops,) not pay at all.

With the most Christian spirit fir’d,
And by true soldiership inspir’d,
I speak as men do in a passion
To give my speech the more impression.
If any should so harden’d be,
As to expect impunity,
Because procul a fulmine,
I will let loose the dogs of Hell,
Ten thousand Indians, who shall yell,
And foam and tear, and grin and roar,
And drench their moccasins in gore;
To these I’ll give full scope and play
From Ticonderog to Florida;
They’ll scalp your heads, and kick your shins,
And rip your —–, and flay your skins,
And of your ears be nimble croppers,
And make your thumbs tobacco-stoppers.
If after all these loving warnings,
My wishes and my bowels’ yearnings,
You shall remain as deaf as adder,
Or grow with hostile rage the madder,
I swear by George, and by St. Paul
I will exterminate you all.
Subscrib’d with my manual sign
To test these presents, John Burgoyne.

  1. Titles still more higher. In his proclamation the General announced himself as “John Burgoyne, Esq., Lieutenant-general of his Majesty’s armies in America, Colonel of the Queen’s regiment of light dragoons, Governor of fort William in North Britain, one of the representatives of the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament, and commanding an army and fleet employed on an expedition from Canada, &c. &c. &c.” On the surrender of the British army in the autumn of 1777, Governor William Livingston, of New Jersey, proposed to exchange Burgoyne, “in such a manner as would, at the same time, flatter his vanity, and redound to the greatest emolument of America.” He proposed to detain him until “we can get in exchange for him, one Esquire, two Major-generals, three Colonels of light horse, two Governors, one member of Congress, the Admiral of our navy, one Commander-in-chief, in a separate department, and six privates.”

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