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Manuscript Music & Lyrics for “Liberty,” a Patriotic Song by Composer Stephen Jenks
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[STEPHEN JENKS]. Manuscript music and lyrics for the tune “Liberty,” ca. 1800-15. 1 p., 13 x 3½ in.

Inventory #23904       Price: $1,100

Complete Transcript

Liberty   C. M.[1]   By an unknown Author

No more beneath the oppressor’s hand  Behold a smiling &c

Of tyranny we groan, Behold a smiling happy land  That freedom calls her own  That freedom &c

Historical Background

“Liberty” is a fuguing tune composed by Stephen Jenks that first appeared in print in his Musical Harmonist (1800). Fuguing tunes were often sacred music, specifically Protestant hymns, but this text is a patriotic song rather than a hymn. The lyricist, as the document makes clear, is unknown.

The lyrics did appear in an anthem sung at the Presbyterian Church of Newark, New Jersey, on July 4, 1797.

“Liberty” continued to appear in various compilations through much of the nineteenth century, including The American Harmonist (1821), The Southern Harmony (1835), The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion (1845), and Fillmore’s Harp of Zion (1867), sometimes under the title “Happiness.” Tunes also circulated in manuscript during the early nineteenth century, and this document is undoubtedly such a copy, perhaps prepared by a singing master or pupil.

The lyrics became part of common culture during the antebellum era. In 1832, a Pennsylvanian quoted the lyrics as a toast to the election of Andrew Jackson. In 1850, a delegate to the Indiana Constitutional Convention quoted part of them in a speech.[2]

Stephen Jenks (1772-1856) was born in Rhode Island and grew up in Connecticut. Between 1799 and 1810, he compiled or co-compiled more than ten printed collections of sacred and secular music. He also composed at least 220 pieces of music, making him one of the most prolific psalmodists of his day. Jenks worked as a singing-master in small towns in southern New England and eastern New York. In 1829, he moved to Ohio, where he was a farmer and maker of percussion instruments. He married three times and had nine children.[3]


Scattered spotting, on laid paper.

[1] An indication that the song is in Common Meter, a metrical pattern for hymns in which the stanzas have four lines, containing eight and six syllables alternately.

[2] Northern Pennsylvanian (Dundaff), November 23, 1832, p3/c1; Report of the Debates and Proceedings of the Convention for the Revision of the Constitution of the State of Indiana (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1850), 600.

[3] David Warren Steel, Stephen Jenks Collected Works (Madison, WI: A-R Editions, Inc., 1995).

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