Readings for the Fourth of July

Leader: We gather together today as citizens of the United States of America, to remember our history and to look forward to our future.

Member: On July 3rd, John Adams wrote his wife, "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." He was right about everything except for the date.

Member, On October 14, 1774, the First Continental Congress passed a declaration stating: "That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS: Resolved, 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.

Member: Resolved, 2. That our ancestors, who first settled these colonies, were at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects, within the realm of England. Resolved, 3. That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.

Member: Resolved, 4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures.... Resolved 5. That the respective colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law.

Member: Resolved, 6. That they are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes, as existed at the time of their colonization.... Resolved, 7. That these, his Majesty's colonies, are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws. Resolved, 8. That they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king.... Resolved, 9. That the keeping a standing army in these colonies, in times of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony, in which such army is kept, is against law.

Member: Resolved, 10. It is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other; that, therefore, the exercise of legislative power in several colonies, by a council appointed, during pleasure, by the crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous and destructive to the freedom of American legislation. All and each of which the aforesaid deputies, in behalf of themselves, and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties, which cannot be legally taken from them, altered or abridged by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their representatives in their several provincial legislature....

Member: But that wasn't the first step toward the Declaration of Independence.

Leader: On December 16, 1689 the Parliament of England passed a statute rewording the Declaration presented to William and Mary in February, 1689 inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England but laying down the rights of Parliament and the English people. The new Coronation Oath the new monarchs swore was to "solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom of England, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same." The English Bill of Rights asserted "certain ancient rights and liberties" by declaring:

Member: Laws should not be dispensed with or suspended without the consent of Parliament;

Member: No taxes should be levied without the authority of Parliament;

Member: The right to petition the monarch should be without fear of retribution;

Member: No standing army may be maintained during peacetime without the consent of Parliament

Member: Subjects who are Protestants may bear arms for their defence as permitted by law;

Member: The election of members of Parliament should be free;

Member: The freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament should not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;

Member: Excessive bail should not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted

Member: Jurors should be duly impannelled and returned and jurors in high treason trials should be freeholders

Member: Promises of fines or forfeitures before conviction are void

Member: Parliaments should be held frequently.

Leader: But that was only in England. It didn't apply to English colonies.

On June 12th, 1776, the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg adopted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which started with ten articles written by George Mason and was then enlarged.

Member: Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Member: Section 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

Member: Section 3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. And that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

Member: Section 4. That no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which, not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge to be hereditary.

Member: Section 5. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judiciary; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections, in which all, or any part, of the former members, to be again eligible, or ineligible, as the laws shall direct.

Member: Section 6. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people, in assembly ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented for the public good.

Member: Section 7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights and ought not to be exercised.

Member: Section 8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man has a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of twelve men of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.

Member: Section 9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Member: Section 10. That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.

Member: Section 11. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other and ought to be held sacred.

Member: Section 12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

Member: Section 13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Member: Section 14. That the people have a right to uniform government; and, therefore, that no government separate from or independent of the government of Virginia ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

Member: Section 15. That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

Member: Section 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

Leader: But long before the English had overthrown King James I, there had been a rebellion against a foreign ruler, not by English speakers but in the Netherlands.

Member: Signed and sealed July 26, 1581. The States General of the United Provinces of the Low Countries, to all whom it may concern, do by these Presents send greeting:

Member: A prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep.

Member: And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges, exacting from them slavish compliance, then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view....

Member: And this is what the law of nature dictates for the defense of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives....

Member: So, having no hope of reconciliation, and finding no other remedy, we have, agreeable to the law of nature in our own defense, and for maintaining the rights, privileges, and liberties of our countrymen, wives, and children, and latest posterity from being enslaved by the Spaniards, been constrained to renounce allegiance to the King of Spain, and pursue such methods as appear to us most likely to secure our ancient liberties and privileges.

Resolution of the Second Continental Congress

Member: On June 7, 1776, at the Second Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee proposed a resolution that began: "Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

Member: Shortly afterwards Lee went home because his wife was ill, and Congress appointed the Committee of Five -- John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut -- to draft a declaration of independence.

Member: Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration, putting the text on the top half of sheets of paper — and allowing space on the bottom half for notes. Benjamin Franklin made at least 48 corrections to the original draft.

Member: Jefferson then produced a draft incorporating these changes, and the committee presented this copy to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776, meeting in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Declaration of Independence fragment

The only surviving fragment of the earliest known draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Declaration of Independence: rough draft with alterations

The rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, incorporating Adams' and Franklin's alterations.

Member: Congress revised the Declaration in general session, approved the revision on July 4th, 1776, and sent it to John Dunlap's printing shop. This copy was signed only by John Hancock, President of the Congress, and Secretary Charles Thomson. Through the night between 150 and 200 copies were made, now known as "Dunlap broadsides". One was sent to George Washington on July 6, who had it read to his troops in New York on July 9. Twenty-five Dunlap broadsides are still known to exist and are the oldest surviving copies of the document. The original handwritten copy has not survived.

George Washington's personal copy of the Dunlap Broadside which he ordered read to his troops.

Member: After Washington's army heard the Declaration of Independence, that night they went to the statue of King George III at the foot of Broadway on the Bowling Green and pulled it down.

Member: On July 19, Congress ordered a copy of the Declaration be "engrossed" (hand written in fair script on parchment by an expert penman) for the delegates to sign. This was signed by most of the delegates on August 2nd. They signed in geographic order of their colonies from north to south, though some delegates were not present and had to sign later. At the signing, Benjamin Franklin said: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Member: A copy of the Declaration of Independence was sent to London by ship, but bad weather forced the vessel to dock at Derry, Ireland. The document was then carried on horseback to Belfast, and a copy was made for the Belfast Newsletter, which published it in full on August 23, 1776, the first publication outside of North America. Its first London publication was in the August 1776 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine which had been following American issues for many years and had printed several of Franklin's articles on electricity.

Member: In 1778, General George Washington marked the Fourth of July with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris.

Member: In 1781, Massachusetts was the first legislature to recognize the Fourth of July as a holiday.

Member: In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees. In 1941, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.

Member: In 1802, West Point was opened on July 4th.

Member: In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was announced to Americans on July 4th.

Member: In 1817, construction of the Erie Canal began on July 4th.

Member: In 1826, former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4th.

Member: In 1827, slavery was abolished in the state of New York on July 4th.

Member: In 1831, former president James Monroe died on July 4th. And Samuel Francis Smith wrote "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" for the Boston, Massachusetts July 4th festivities.

Member: In 1845, Thoreau moved into his cottage by Walden Pond on July 4th.

Member: In 1886, the people of France offered the Statue of Liberty to the people of the United States on July 4th.

Member: In 1888, in Alabama, Brooker T. Washington opened the Tuskegee Institute on July 4th.

Member: In 1966, Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act on July 4th; it went into effect in 1967.

Member: In 1997, Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4th.

The Declaration of Independence (from the US National Archives webpage)

All: IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

(go round the room, each person reading one paragraph)

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

All: In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

AMERICA (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)

by Rev. Samuel Francis Smith,

first sung in public on July 4, 1831, at a service in the Park Street Church, Boston.

My country, 'tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died!

Land of the Pilgrim's pride!

From ev'ry mountainside,
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,

Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love.

I love thy rocks and rills,

Thy woods and templed hills;

My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze

And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song.

Let mortal tongues awake;

Let all that breathe partake;

Let rocks their silence break,
The sound, prolong.

Our fathers' God, to Thee,

Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright

With freedom's holy light;

Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

"Musicologists have traced the air back to an old St. Cyr melody and have found that at one time or another it was in use in nine different countries with nine different sets of words. The German composer Handel is said to have copied it from the St. Cyr melody and made it into the Prussian national hymn, 'Heil dir im Siegerkranz.' It was in that incarnation that the British themselves appropriated it. Sam Smith, the Boston clergyman, was a writer of hymns..., and one day in 1832, while prowling through a stack of old German music books, he came upon the Prussian song....One authority says he was not aware that it was the tune of the British anthem. In any event, he sat down and scratched out, "My country, 'tis of thee" as a beginning line and went on from there and in half an hour had the whole thing finished. He didn't think much of it at the moment, and some years later, after it had become the nation's patriotic hymn, he said, 'If I had anticipated the future of it, doubtless, I would have taken more pains with it.'" -- H. Allen Smith, in People Named Smith


by Francis Scott Key, September 13, 1814

"The generally credited to John Stafford Smith, an English organist and composer. The original was 'To Anaecreon in Heaven' [the official song of the Anaecreontic Society].
— H. Allen Smith, from People Named Smith

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes.

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream.
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


by Katharine Lee Bates, 1911; to the tune of "Materna" by Samuel A. Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!
America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet

Whose stern, impassioned stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!
America! America!

God mend thine every flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!
America! America!

May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness

And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream

that sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam

Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!


In the autumn of 1843, an actor named David T. Shaw wanted a new patriotic song to sing at a benefit performance. He turned to a fellow-performer, Thomas Becket, who wrote the lyrics and melody for him. Evidently, Shaw published the song under his own name exclusively - but Becket was able to prove his authorship by means of his original handwritten composition.

O Columbia! the gem of the ocean,

The home of the brave and the free,

The shrine of each patriot's devotion,

A world offers homage to thee;

Thy mandates make heroes assemble,

When Liberty's form stands in view;

Thy banners make tyranny tremble,

When borne by the red, white, and blue,
When borne by the red, white, and blue,
When borne by the red, white, and blue,
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white and blue.

The star-spangled banner bring hither,

O'er Columbia's true sons let it wave;

May the wreaths they have won never wither,

Nor its stars cease to shine on the brave.

May thy service united ne'er sever,

But hold to the colors so true;

The Army and Navy forever,

Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
The Army and Navy forever,
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue


by Irving Berlin

"When [World War II] came, the old boy -- well, he was 54 in May -- looked in his icebox [more prosaically, the files where he'd kept songs he'd written back in the 1920s but hadn't marketed--LG] , found a song to suit him, fixed it up and, lest he be reproached for selling his love of country at so much a copy, gave it to the Boy Scouts [and the Girl Scouts]. The sale of nearly a million copies has already enriched their treasury. The song is called 'God Bless America.'" -- Alexander Woollcott, Long, Long Ago, 1943.

God bless America, land that I love.

Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the oceans, white with foam --
God bless America — my home, sweet home.
God bless America -- my home, sweet home.