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The American Vicar of Bray

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

When Royal George rul’d o’er this land,
And loyalty no harm meant,
For church and king I made a stand,
And so I got preferment.
I still opposed all party tricks,
For reasons I thought clear ones,
And swore it was their politics,
To make us Presbyterians.

And this is law I will maintain,
Until my dying day, sir,
Let whatsoever king will reign,
I’ll be a Vicar of Bray, sir.

When Stamp Act pass’d the Parliament,
To bring some grist to mill, sir,
To back it was my firm intent,
But soon there came repeal, sir.
I quickly join’d the common cry,
That we should all be slaves, sir,
The House of Commons was a sty,
The King and Lords were knaves, sir.

Now all went smooth as smooth could be,
I strutted and look’d big, sir;
And when they laid a tax on tea,
I was believed a Whig, sir.
I laugh’d at all the vain pretence
Of taxing at this distance,
And swore before I’d pay my pence,
I’d make a firm resistance.

A Congress now was quickly call’d,
That we might act together;
I thought that Britain would appall’d
Be glad to make fair weather,
And soon repeal th’ obnoxious bill,
As she had done before, sir,
That we may gather wealth at will,
And so be tax’d no more, sir.

But Britain was not quickly scar’d,
She told another story;
When independence was declar’d,
I figur’d as a Tory;
Declar’d it was rebellion base,
To take up arms—I curs’d it—
For faith it seemed a settled case,
That we should soon be worsted.

When penal laws were pass’d by vote,
I thought the test a grievance,
Yet sooner than I’d loose a goat,
I swore the State allegiance.
The then disguise could hardly pass,
For I was much suspected;
I felt myself much like the ass
In lion’s skin detected.

The French alliance now came forth,
The papists flocked in shoals, sir,
Frizeur Marquises, Valets of birth,
And priests to save our souls, sir.
Our “good ally,” with tow’ring wing,
Embrac’d the flattering hope, sir,
That we should own him for our king,
And then invite the Pope, sir.

When Howe, with drums and great parade,
March’d through this famous town, sir,
I cried, “May Fame his temples shade
“With laurels for a crown, sir.”
With zeal I swore to make amends
To good old constitution,
And drank confusion to the friends
Of our late revolution.

But poor Burgoyne’s denounced my fate
The Whigs began to glory,
I now bewail’d my wretched state,
That I was e’er a Tory.
By night the British left the shore,
Nor car’d for friends a fig, sir,
I turn’d the cat in pan once more,
And so become a Whig, sir.

I call’d the army butch’ring dogs,
A bloody tyrant King, sir,
The Commons, Lords, a set of rogues,
That all deserved to swing, sir.
Since fate has made us great and free,
And Providence can’t falter,
So long till death my king shall be,
Unless the times should alter.1

1 Rivington’s Gazette, June 30.


  1. The speaker changes sides depending on who appears to be winning or wielding the biggest stick at the moment. His loyalty is essentially for sale.

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