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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4
Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (28 November 1863)
Dr. Muhlenberg, "Give Thanks All Ye People" The Anglo-African (28 November 1863): [4]View Poem Image
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To the Editor of The N. Y. Tribune.[1] Sir:
Inclosed you will find a hymn written by our
beloved and revered fellow-citizen, Dr. Muhlenberg,[2]
founder of St. Luke's Hospital, and writer of the im-
hymn, "I would not live alway." Will you not
give it a place in your columns, and use your editorial in-
to induce our people throughout the loyal States
to sing it in the churches on the approaching Thanks-
,[3] as "The President's Hymn"?
It has a right to that designation. It is, as a compari-
of the two will prove, a metrical version of the
President's proclamation, which this year, for the first
time, makes our "Harvest Home" a national festival—a
significant and blessed augury of that "more perfect
Union" with which, with God's blessing, the war shall
leave us as a people.
Solicitous to have the highest authority given to the
use of this National hymn, I obtained the reluctant con-
of its writer (author also of the music to which it
is set) to ask our Chief Magistrate's permission to style
it "The President's Hymn." The Secretary of State
through whom the application was made, telegraphed
me a few hours afterward the President's leave, in the
decisive style which has now become so familiar to
our people—"Let it be so called." May we not hope
that millions of our people will, on November 26, be
found uniting in this National Psalm of Thanksgiving,
and that "The President's Hymn" will be the house-
and the temple song of that solemn and joyful day!
It will help to join our hearts as citizens, thus to blend
our voices as worshippers; and the blessings of Union,
Liberty and Peace will sooner descend on a people that
can thus unite in its praise and hosannahs.
Respectfully yours, Henry W. Bellows.[4]


Give thanks, all ye people, give thanks to the Lord, Alleluias of freedom, with joyful accord: Let the East and the West, North and South roll along, Sea, mountain and prairie, one thanksgiving song. Chorus after each verse: Give thanks, all ye people, give thanks to the Lord, Alleluias of freedom, with joyful accord.
For the sunshine and rainfall, enriching again Our acres in myriads, with treasures of grain; For the Earth still unloading her manifold wealth, For the Skies beaming vigor, the Winds breathing health, Give thanks, etc.—
For the Nation's wide table, o'erflowingly spread, Where the many have feasted, and all have been fed, With no bondage, their God-given rights to enthrall, But liberty guarded by Justice for all; Give thanks, etc.—
In the realms of the Anvil, the Loom, and the Plow, Whose the mines and the fields, to Him gratefully bow; His the flocks and the herds, sing ye hill-sides and vales; On His Ocean domains chant His name with the gales. Give thanks, etc.—
Of commerce and traffic, ye princes, behold Your riches from Him Whose the silver and gold, Happier children of Labor, true lords of the soil, Bless the Great Master-Workman, who blesseth your toil, Give thanks, etc.—
Brave men of our forces, Life-guard of our coasts, To your Leader be loyal, Jehovah of Hosts: Glow the Stripes and the Stars aye with victory bright, Reflecting His glory—He crowneth the Right. Give thanks, etc.—
Nor shall ye through our borders, ye stricken of heart, Only wailing your dead, in the joy have no part: God's solace be yours, and for you there shall flow All that honor and sympathy's gifts can bestow, Give thanks, etc.—
In the Domes of Messiah—ye worshipping throngs, Solemn litanies mingle with jubilant songs; The Ruler of Nations beseeching to spare, And our Empire still keep the Elect of His care. Give thanks, etc.—
Our guilt and transgressions remember no more; Peace, Lord! righteous Peace, of Thy gift we implore; And the Banner of Union, restored by Thy hand, Be the Banner of Freedom o'er All in the Land. And the Banner of Union, etc. Give thanks, etc.—
Copies of "The President's Hymn" can be had at $2 a
hundred, of A. D. F. Randolph, publisher, No. 683 Broad-
. Churches, by ordering a few hundred, can have the
Hymn (with which the music is printed) sung by the whole
congregation. Profits of the sale devoted to the Sanitary


  1. Horace Greeley (1811–1872) established the New York Tribune as a Whig daily in 1841. From its earliest days, the title was animated by a spirit of reform. By the mid-1850s, the various editions of the paper—daily, weekly, and semiweekly—had almost 280,000 subscribers (Adam Tuchinsky, Horace Greeley's New-York Tribune: Civil War-Era Socialism and the Crisis of Free Labor [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009], 2). Greeley, a force in the fledgling Republican Party, adopted a more radical stance against slavery in the 1850s. During the war, the Tribune "advocated vigorous prosecution of the war and expansion of its meaning: namely, that the war should become an emancipationist crusade, and that the emancipated slaves ought to be armed" (Tuchinsky, 171–72).
    Former National Anti-Slavery Standard editor Sydney Howard Gay managed the Tribune from 1862 until 1865. Gay sidelined his own abolitionist convictions and concentrated on satisfying the general hunger for timely war news (Tuchinsky, 217). But Greeley, in his famous editorial address of August 1862, "The Prayer of Twenty Millions," urged Lincoln to make war on slavery as a matter of military and moral necessity. Lincoln, then waiting to announce the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, responded by stating that "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery" (Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln [New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953], 5:388).
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  2. William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796–1877), an Episcopal pastor committed to improving church and social services for his city-based congregations. By the time war broke out, Muhlenberg was known as the founder of Long Island's Flushing Institute (St Paul's College) and the director of St. Luke's Hospital in New York City. In 1862, the government appropriated one hundred beds at St. Luke's, for sick and wounded soldiers (Anne Ayres, The Life and Work of William Augustus Muhlenberg [New York: Harper, 1880], 344–45). By March 1864 Muhlenberg was an associate member of the US Sanitary Commission (Documents of the U.S. Sanitary Commission [New York: n.p, 1866], 2:15).
    Muhlenberg advocated the use of ritual and devotional music in church services. He wrote hymns and published collections including Church Poetry (1823) and The Choir and Family Psalter (coauthored with the Reverend J. M. Wainwright, 1851). In "Give Thanks All Ye People" Muhlenberg combined his interest in hymnody with his Republican politics. "I am no party politician," he wrote in his journal on November 6, 1860, "but I am much interested in the success of the Republicans as opposed to slavery" (quoted in Ayres, 336). He voted for Lincoln and cheered when the results were declared. After the attack upon Fort Sumter, he wrote that "if ever there was a just war, this is one" (Ayres, 336, 341).
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  3. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln declared a day of national thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. Among other blessings for which citizens should be thankful, he listed harvest "bounties" and continued territorial expansion, the preservation of peace with "all nations" and a "greatly contracted" theater of military conflict. These "gracious gifts of the Most High God" should be "acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People" (Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln [New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953], 6:496–97). He also recommended that citizens "implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union." The day of thanksgiving fell on November 26; the hymn appeared in the Anglo-African of November 28.Go back
  4. Henry Whitney Bellows (1814–1882), minister at New York City's First Unitarian Church and president of the United States Sanitary Commission. The USSC was "a civilian relief operation that coordinated local supply efforts, provided battlefield relief, and offered medical advice to the U.S. Army during the Civil War" (Judith Ann Giesberg, Civil War Sisterhood: The U.S. Sanitary Commission and Women's Politics in Transition [Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000], vii). Bellows played a vital part in its formation and management. Authorized by Lincoln on June 9, 1861, the US Sanitary Commission became "the largest, most powerful, and most highly organized philanthropic activity that had ever been seen in America" (George M. Fredrickson, The Inner Civil War: Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union [New York: Harper and Row, 1965], 98). Its extensive program required a massive amount of popular support. Hundreds of local soldiers' aid societies sent money and supplies to regional branches; branch managers then forwarded supplies for distribution according to the commission's instructions.Go back