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never be overlooked. If the Danes or the Prussians use "God save
the King," they have deliberately borrowed it from the British.
Not so with us. "God save the King" was, before 1776, as much
our national anthem as that of the motherland. Being a British air
it belonged to the British colonists just as much as it did to the Britons
at home. When we gained national independence, did the Americans
forthwith deprive themselves of the English language, of English
literature, English tastes, of all the ties formed by an English ances-
try? Why should, then, Americans renounce their original part-
ownership of the air of "God save the King?" Why should it not be
perfectly natural for them, in short, American, to use for their national
anthem an air which, historically considered, they need not even bor-
row? Certain it is that after 1776 the air was not treated with this
comparatively recent chauvinism. Young America sang patriotic
songs like "God save America," "God save George Washington,"
"God save the President," and that "song made by a Dutch lady at
the Hague for the sailors of the five American vessels at Amsterdam,
June, 1779," printed in the Pennsylvania Packet and called "God
save the thirteen States," without the slightest misgivings. Thomas
Dawes, jr., used the air for his ode sung at the entertainment given
on Bunker's Hill by the proprietors of Charles River bridge at the
opening of the same in 1786 or 1787. It begins "Now let rich music
sound," and may be found on pages 133-134 of the American Musical
Miscellany, 1798. Indeed, this once standard collection included
(on pp. 130-132) an "Ode for the Fourth of July," the words of which
"Come all ye sons of song" were sung to the supposedly un-American
air of "God save the King." The most curious use, however, was
made of this air by an early American suffragette. In the Phila-
delphia Minerva, October 17, 1795, appeared in the "Court of Apollo"
a poem under the title "Rights of Woman" by a lady, tune "God
save America," and beginning:

God save each Female's right
Show to her ravish'd sight
Woman is free.

To contribute to the discussion of the origin of "God save the King"
from tlu's side of the ocean would be preposterous. Whether Chap-
pell, Chrysander, Cummings, etc., have exhausted the subject or not
would be extremely difficult for any American to investigate. The
literature mentioned in the appendix to this report will enable those

78 America.

interested in the problem to exercise their critical faculties, though
it is very doubtful if they could sum up the whole matter more
admirably than was done by Sir George Grove and Mr. Frank Kidson
in the new edition of Grove's "Dictionary of Music & Musicians."
Yet one remark I feel unable to repress. The efforts unreservedly
to attribute the air of "God save the King" to Dr. John Bull
(1619), merely because a few notes are similar, remind me of Mr.
Bison's witty observation that with such arguments the main theme
of the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony would come
very close to being inspired by "Yankee Doodle."


"Yankee Doodle" is sometimes called a national song incor-
rectly so, because, with a now practically obsolete text or texts, it
is hardly ever sung, but merely played as an instrumental piece.
Though no longer a national song, it is still a national air and second
only to "Dixie" in patriotic popularity. For one hundred and
fifty years "Yankee Doodle" has appealed to our people, and the
tune shows no sign of passing into oblivion. Surely, a tune of such
vitality must have some redeeming features. This remark is directed
against those who have ridiculed the musical merits of " Yankee
Doodle" or treated it with contempt. That Schubert would not
have composed such an air is obvious enough, and it is equally
obvious that as a national air " Yankee Doodle" does not direct
itself to our sense of majesty, solemnity, dignity. It frankly appeals
to our sense of humor. Critics, pedantic or flippant, have over-
looked the fact that every nation has its humorous, even burlesque,
patriotic airs, and that these are just as natural and useful as solemn
airs indeed, more so, occasionally. As a specimen of burlesque,
even "slangy," musical humor, "Yankee Doodle" may safely hold
its own against any other patriotic air. But why apologize or
explain, since the matter was summed up so neatly many years
ago at least as early as the Songster's Museum, Hartford, 1826,
in the lines:

Yankee Doodle is the tune

Americans delight in
'Twill do to whistle, sing or play,

And just the thing for fighting.

which apparently are the polished descendants of the lines in the
Columbian Songster, 1799, under the title of "American Spirit:"

Sing Yankee Doodle, that fine tune

Americans delight in.
It suits for peace, it suits for fun,

It suits as well for fighting.

It may be added that the air has found its way with more or less
effect into the works of modern composers, such as Rubinstein,
Wieniawski, Schelling. However, be its esthetic appeal to musicians
weak or strong, this much is certain : Exceedingly few airs have
stirred antiquarians to pile a mass of literature around their origin


80 Ya nkee Doodle .

as has "Yankee Doodle." But how grotesque, that the two most
painstaking contributions to the subject of "Yankee Doodle" should
have remained unpublished! I mean those by Mr. Moore and
Mr. Matthews. Mr. George H. Moore's paper, called "Notes on
the origin and history of Yankee Doodle," and read first before
the New York Historical Society on December 1, 1885, acquired for
its author the reputation of knowing more about our air than any
other person then living; yet this famous paper was never printed.
Indeed, even the manuscript disappeared in the fogs of mystery
until Mr. Albert Matthews, of Boston, whose amazingly elaborate
research in the history of Americanisms brought him into close con-
tact with "Yankee Doodle," traced it to Doctor Moore's son.
Mr. Matthews made extracts from the manuscript for his own pur-
pose, and this purpose has been for many years to write an exhaustive
history of "Yankee Doodle" at any rate, as far as its literary history
goes. Mr. Matthews contributed several papers on the subject to
the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, but these papers, too, have
remained unpublished and are not accessible to the public; nor
have I seen them, but, after having collected the bulk of my data
and having gained control over the subject in form and substance,
I entered into a fruitful correspondence mutually fruitful, I hope
with Mr. Matthews on "Yankee Doodle." His generosity in parting
with data and information, patiently gathered for his own work
and perhaps for theories differing from mine, has enabled me to
polish this report and in many places to strengthen the line of
argument where I felt dissatisfied with it.


The nickname "Yankee" is usually and has so been applied by
Europeans for a long time to citizens of the United States in general
as distinguished from other Americans. In our own country the nick-
name still retains a New England flavor, in keeping with the history
of the term. This statement seems to be contradicted by what
Mr. Albert Matthews wrote to the author under date of November 30,

It has been taken for granted by all writers that originally the word Yankee was
applied to New Englanders only. My material shows that this is a mistake and
that originally the word was applied by the British to any American colonist, and
was applied by the American colonists themselves to the inhabitants of some
colony other than their own . Thus, Pennsylvanians called the Connecticut settlers
in the Wyoming Valley Yankees, but did not call themselves Yankees. Again,
Virginians called Marylanders Yankees, but did not apply the term to themselves.
I am speaking, you understand, of the decade between 1765 and 1775. Now as
the year 1775 is approached, it is undoubtedly true that there was a tendency to
locate the Yankees more especially in New England.

Ya nkee D oodle . 81

Mr. Matthews's material has not yet been published, and it is not yet
necessary to accept his interpretation of reference to the early use of
"Yankee" as the only correct one. Therefore, the author of this
report still holds that the nickname, while perhaps originally not
confined to New Englanders, was preferably applied to them by the
colonists and that a Virginian, Marylander, Pennsylvanian, or New
Yorker of colonial times, let us say after 1760, would hardly have con-
sidered it a compliment to be called " Yankee."

This does not argue that the British knew or always drew the local
distinction, or that their use of the word always implied ridicule either
of the Americans in general or the New Englanders in particular. At
any rate, no satirical flavor attaches to the word when Gen. James
Wolfe (see his "Life," 1864, p. 437, by R. Wright) wrote under date
of June 19, 1758, "North East Harbour (Louisbourg) to General

My posts are now so fortified that I can afford you the two companies of Yankees
and the more as they are better for ranging and scouting than either work or

How sectional the term still was shortly before our war for inde-
pendence may be illustrated by a reference to J. H. T.'s communica-
tion to the Historical Magazine (1857, Vol. I, p. 375) :

In "Oppression," a Poem by an American with notes by a North Briton, . . .
London, Printed; Boston, Reprinted . . . 1765, this word is introduced and
explained as follows. The writer denounces Mr. Huske (then a member of the
House of Commons, for Maldon in Essex), as the originator of the scheme for
taxing the colonies;

"From meanness first, this Portsmouth Yankey rose
And still to meanness all his conduct flows;
This alien upstart, by obtaining friends,
From T-wn-nd's clerk, a M-ld-n member ends."

[Note] ' ' Portsmouth Yankey." It seems our hero being a new Englander by birth,
has a right to the epithet of Yankey; a name of derision, I have been informed, given
by the Southern people on the Continent, to those of New England: what meaning
there is in the word, I never could learn." (p. 10).

In the same volume of the Historical Magazine (pp. 91-92) atten-
tion is drawn by B. H. H. to an unpublished letter which Robert Yates,
the sheriff of Albany County, N. Y., wrote on July 20, 1771, on his
return from an official visit to Bennington, Vt., and in which he refers
to the inhabitants of this town, thus:

We received an account from the Yankies that they would not give up the pos-
session [of the farm] but would keep it at all events.

and again:

We had discovered that the Yankees had made all the necessary preparations
to give us the warmest reception.
8548009 6

82 Ya nkee Doodle .

In the extract of a letter dated Hartford and printed in the New
York Journal, June 15, 1775, describing the capture of letters from
the "high flying" Tory, Robert Temple, occurs this sentence:

Other letters are full of invectives against the poor Yankerx, as they call us.

In the "Journal of the most remarkable occurrences in Quebec,
1775-1776, by an officer of the garrison" (rep. by the N. Y. Hist. Soc.
1880, p. 222), we read:

The New Yorkers look upon themselves as being far superior to what they call
the Yankies, meaning the people of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island
and New Hampshire, who effect a disgusting pre-eminence and take the lead in
every thing.

Rev. Wm. Gordon, when describing the skirmishes at Concord and
Lexington in the Pennsylvania Gazette, May 10, 1775, says:

They [the British troops] were roughly handled by the Yankees, a term of
reproach for the New Englanders, when applied by the regulars.

Silas Deane, when writing June 3, 1775 one of his characteristic
letters from Philadelphia to his wife, after describing graphically the
Continental Congress, remarks:

. . . indeed, not only the name of a Yankee, but of a Connecticut man in par-
ticular, is become very respectable this way,

and James Thacher, in his Military Journal from 1775 to 1783 (p. 72),
commenting on the difference " between troops from Southern States
and those from New England," remarked:

it could scarcely be expected that people from distant colonies, differing in manners
and prejudices could at once harmonize in friendly intercourse. Hence we too
frequently hear the burlesque epithet of Yankee from one party, and that of Buck-
skin, by way of retort, from the other.

These and other references would imply not only that the term was
preferably used by New Yorkers and the British soldiers against New
Englanders; that it was derisive, or at least not complimentary; that
it was comparatively unfamiliar to the New Englanders; and that it
had not yet been adopted by them for home use. They adopted it
during the war, however, and took, as happens quite frequently to
derisive nicknames, great pride in calling themselves, or being called,
"Yankees." For instance, Anburey states in his "Travels," writing
from Cambridge, 1777, " after the affair of Bunker's Hill the Americans
gloried in it."


The annotator of the poem "Oppression" expressed his inability
in 1765 to explain the meaning of the word. To-day he would rather
experience the difficulty of choosing between the various etymological
explanations. The word "Yankee" gradually came to fascinate the

Ya nkee Doodle . 83

historian of words until about 1850 this fascination reached its climax.
Since then the craze has subsided, yet any number of explanations
are still current and proffered as facts, merely on the presumption that
embellished reiteration of statements correctly or incorrectly quoted
produces facts. Without an attempt to be exhaustive, it will be well
to bring some semblance of order into this literature by going back, as
far as possible, to the form in which the different and sometimes
fantastically developed theories originally appeared.

Possibly the first (in print) appeared in the Pennsylvania Evening
Post, May 25, 1775, reprinted from there in the New York Gazetteer,
June 1, 1775. It is in form of a short article:


When the New England colonies were first settled, the inhabitants were obliged
to fight their way against many nations of Indians. They found but little diffi-
culty in subduing them at all, except one tribe, who were known by the name of
the Yankoos, which signifies invincible. After the waste of much blood and
treasure, the Yankoos were at last subdued by the New Englanders. The remains
of this nation (agreeable to the Indian custom) transferred their name to their con-
querors. For a while they were called Yankoos; but from a corruption, common
to names in all languages, they got through time the name of Yankees. A name
which we hope will soon be equal to that of a Roman, or an ancient Englishman.

It is a suspicious coincidence that the derivation of "Yankee" from
Yankoo, meaning " invincible," should have been brought forward at
the beginning of our hostilities with the English. Furthermore, it
never has been the Indian custom to transfer their names to their con-
querors, nor has it been the custom of the latter to acquiesce in such a
transfer, though they adopted many Indian names for localities.
Worst of all for this etymology, which has been accepted in all serious-
ness by several writers, an Indian tribe by the name of "Yankoos " is
not known to have existed. To illustrate the extremes to which
credulity in historical matters may lead, the following extraordinary
yarn with reference to the "Yankoo" theory may be quoted from the
Magazine of American History (1891, vol. 25, p. 256), where L. A.
Alderman writes:

John Dresser Chamberlain, my grandfather, wrote in 1870: "According to tra-
dition we descended from two brothers who came from England, one of whom
settled in Massachusetts and the other in Connecticut. Benjamin Chamberlain,
a descendant of the Massachusetts stock, was a great warrior against the Indians,
and many of his exploits were printed in his biography. One was that he fought
the Yankoo chief Yankoo meaning 'conqueror' in English and whipped him.
Then the chief said: 'I no more Yankoo, you Yankoo,' and from that time and
circumstance the name was transferred to the whites, now called Yankees.
Benjamin Chamberlain lived at Southborough, Massachusetts, during the Revo-
lutionary war." [!!]

84 Ya nkee Doodle.

A second theory of derivation was first printed in Gordon's His-
tory of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of
the United States of America, (London, 1788, Vol. I, p. 481) :

You may wish to know the origin of the term Yankee. Take the best account of
it which your friend can procure. It was a cant, favorite word with farmer Jona-
than Hastings of Cambridge about 1713. Two aged ministers, who were at the
college in that town, have told me, they remembered it to have been then in use
among the students, but had no recollections of it before that period. The in-
ventor used it to express excellency. A Yankee good horse, or Yankee cider and
the like, were an excellent good horse, and excellent cider. The students used to
hire horses of him; their intercourse with him, and his use of the term upon all
occasions, led them to adopt it and they gave him the name of Yankee Jon. He
was a worthy, honest man, but no conjurer. This could not escape the notice of
the collegiates. Yankee probably became a by-word among them to express ft
weak, simple, outward person; was carried from the college with them when they
left it and was in that way inculcated . . . till from its currency in New England,
it was at length taken up and unjustly applied to the New Englanders in common,
as a term of reproach.

This version, of course, depends on the actual existence of a farmer,
Jonathan Hastings, about 1713. The assumption is corroborated by
the " Proprietors 's Records" of Cambridge, Mass., which prove a
farmer and tanner, Jonathan Hastings, to have been quite prominent
in the affairs of the town about this time. Page's History of Cam-
bridge, 1877, further proves that Jonathan was born July 15, 1672,
and died August 20, 1742. These facts do not yet establish a con-
nection between Jonathan Hastings and the use of the term " Yankee "
as maintained by Gordon, but the editor of the Massachusetts Maga-
zine, 1795 (p. 301), while tracing the author of "Father Abdy's will,"
incidentally comes to our rescue. He writes that Rev. John Seccombe,
the reputed author of "Father Abdy's will," in a letter (which the
editor had before him) dated "Cambridge, Sept. 27, 1728," to his
friend Thaddeus Mason, both Harvard men, gives a ' 'most humorous
narrative of the fate of a goose roasted at ' Yankey Hastings's,' " and
it concludes with a poem on the occasion in the mock heroic.

Accordingly, Jonathan Hastings, of Cambridge, bore the nickname
of "Yankey" in 1728 at Harvard. This may be considered an
established fact, and though it does not necessarily follow that Gor-
don's account is based on equal facts, we may accept the reminis-
cences of the two aged ministers as substantially correct, however
embellished in course of time. The objectionable feature of this
account is that Hastings is called the inventor of the term. It is
all the more objectionable in view of the following communication of
J. T. F. to Notes and Queries, 1878 (5th ser., vol. 10, p. 467) :

The inventory of the effects of William Marr, formerly of Morpeth, and after-
wards "of Carolina, in parts beyond the seas, but in the parish of St. Dunstan,
Stepney" (1725), ends with, "Item one negro man named Yankee to be sold."
Mr. W. Woodman, of Morpeth, has the document.

Ya nkee D oodle . 85

The natural inference from this is that Hastings did not invent the
term. He bore it as a nickname about 1728, and probably came to
it in the manner described by the tradition. Where he and from
whom he borrowed it remains to be ascertained, and also whether he
used the word in its original meaning or simply (though it may have
had a totally different meaning originally) because he liked the
sound of it. At any rate, the Jonathan Hastings theory leads merely
to an early use of the word, but not to its origin. Nor is the process
plausible that the term should have become so popular through the
exertions of Jonathan Hastings and his Harvard friends that it
spread from Cambridge, Mass., through the vast but thinly popu-
lated colonies and became, within fifty years, the reproachful nick-
name of the New Englanders in general, among whom the term
"Yankee" does not appear to have been current.

A third derivation of the term "Yankee" is given by Anburey,
who in 1777 wrote in a letter from Cambridge (Travels through . . .
America," 1789, vol. 2, p. 50) :

... it is derived from a Cherokee word, eankke, which signifies coward and
slave. This epithet of yankee was bestowed upon the inhabitants of New England
by the Virginians, for not assisting them in a war with the Cherokees, and they
have always been held in derision by it. But the name has been more prevalent
since the commencement of hostilities . . .

This statement would be acceptable if it could be corroborated. A
letter of inquiry addressed to the Bureau of American Ethnology
brought this reply (August 18, 1908) from Mr. James Mooney, the
eminent authority on the Cherokee Indians:

The Cherokee words for coward and for slave (worker, or live stock property)
respectively, are udaskasti and atsinatlufti.

The Cherokee name for the "Yankees," Ani- Yungi, is simply their form for
"Yankee," in the plural . . .

In private conversation Mr. Mooney further expressed his opinion
that no word like eankke, of whatever meaning, exists in the Cherokee

A third Indian derivation was advanced in "Diedrich Knicker-
bocker's History of New York" (1809 (First ed.), vol. 1, p. 169), in
the chapter on "The ingenious people of Connecticut and there-
abouts." Diedrich waxes eloquent over "that grand palladium of
our country, the liberty of speech, or as it has been more vulgarly
denominated the gift of the gab" and then proceeds:

The simple aborigines of the land for a while contemplated these strange folk
in utter astonishment, but discovering that they wielded harmless though noisy
weapons, and were a lively, ingenious, good-humoured race of men, they became
very friendly and sociable, and gave them the name of Yanokies, which in the
Mais-Tschusaeg (or Massachusett) language signifies silent men a waggish appel-
lation, since shortened into the familiar epithet of Yankees, which they retain
unto the present day.

86 Ya nkee Doodle.

This is in Washington Irving's best satirical vein. He makes his
Diedrich Knickerbocker kill two birds with one stone, satirizing the
New Englanders and at the same time those freak etymologies of
the term "Yankee" that were just then beginning to attract public
attention. Diedrich Knickerbocker's delightful narrative is full of
such etymological pranks. Yet some people did not appreciate the
joke nor see the point, but adduced in all seriousness Washington
Irving's authority when further experimenting with the puzzling

The derivation of "Yankee" from the Indian language, which has
attracted more attention than any other and is now current in the
principal dictionaries, is presumably due to Heckewelder's "History,
Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations," Philadelphia, 1819.
In the third chapter he writes of the "Indian relations and the con-
duct of the Europeans towards them," and while dealing with the
Lenape, Mohicans, and kindred tribes, speaks of the Indian tradition
surrounding the arrival first of the "Dutchemaan" at " Mandhach-
tanienlc" (Manhattan) and subsequently of the " Yengeese." In a
footnote he explains the latter term as being "an Indian corruption
of the word English, whence probably the nickname Yankees."
This passing hint is elaborated by Heckewelder in the thirteenth
chapter of his book (p. 130) as follows:

The first name given by the Indians to the Europeans who landed in Virginia
was Wapsid Lenape (white people), when, however, afterwards they began to
commit murder on the red men, whom they pierced with swords, they gave to
the Virginians the name Mechanschican (long knives) to distinguish them from
others of the same colour.

In New England, they at first endeavoured to imitate the sound of the national
name of the English, which they pronounced Yengees. They also called them
Chauquaquock, (men of knives) for having imported these instruments into the

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Online LibraryOscar George Theodore SonneckReport on The Star-Spangled Banner, Hail Columbia, America, Yankee Doodle; → online text (page 9 of 19)