Ye Parliament of England
trad. from the war of 1812, arranged by Griffin
In seventeen and eighty-three old England recognized
Oppressing former colonies had cost too many lives
Ye said ye would respect the rights of free and honest men
But now your Royal Navy wants to do it all again
It’s been nearly thirty years and you’re again at war with France
And we’d dearly love to let ye sort it out
But ye now harass our shipping every time ye get the chance
Time for Yanks to show the Brits again what war is all about
(chorus) Ye parliament of England, ye Lords and Commons too
Consider well, consider well what you’re about to do
You’re now at war with Yankees and sure you’ll rue the day
Ye roused the Sons of Liberty in North Amerikay
Ye restricted all our commerce and ye disallowed our trade
Ye next impressed our sailormen and used them as your slaves
Insulted all our citizens while cruising o’er the main
And had we not declared the war ye’d do it all again
Perhaps because we gave ye peace ye thought we were afraid
Nor the wide Atlantic big enough to share
Now the Yankee navy’s out to see the debt is fully paid
When we help the French to kick you in your bloody derriere!
Now tell your king and parliament, by all the world ‘tis known
That British force on sea or land, by Yanks is overthrown
So let your cooler heads prevail and strive to make a peace
For Yankee ships are building fast, their navy to increase
The Essex and the President will burn, sink, and destroy
The Boxer then will box out all your lights
We shall capture all your commerce and your navy we’ll annoy
When we raise the banner up the mast: “Free trade and sailors’ rights!”
I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it (you had me at “burn, sink, and destroy”) so I set out to find the lyrics. What I eventually found were three quite different versions of the song with slightly different melodies. I set to work selecting bits from each version, cutting out some references that people today wouldn’t get without a lot of explanation, and adding a few words of my own for clarification. Some may complain that I’m not singing it correctly, depending on which version they consider to be the “correct” one. I would respectfully point out that I seldom sing my own songs correctly either, so why would it be any different for a song that’s 200 years old?
A British friend pointed out (correctly) that this song is completely unfair to England. Yes, that’s the whole point! It’s an intentionally slanted piece of populist propaganda, and should be presented as such. I believe looking at propaganda through the lens of history is an easier way to get at the concept of bias than through current events and the inevitable political baggage you’ll be digging into if you start questioning, for example, the necessity of yet another military incursion into the Middle East.
Please understand that I love my British friends and I am delighted we get along so well nowadays. I sing a number of anti-British songs, but that’s because we didn’t always get along so well and history is a big part of what I do. So please don’t go blockading my harbor or anything, okay?
Here are some standards from the Common Core and the state of California addressed by this song:
- RI.HSS.6-8.6: Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
- RI.HSS.6-8.8: Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
- CA.HSS 8.5: Students analyze U.S. foreign policy in the early Republic. HSS 8.1: Understand the political and economic causes and consequences of the War of 1812 and know the major battles, leaders, and events that led to a final peace.
Am, F, G, E, E7, C