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“Hail Columbia”

HAIL. An exclamation, usually of respectful, and sometimes of reverent, salutation; occasionally, of familiar greeting. To call after loudly; to accost; to salute. To name; to designate; to call. — Webster, 1882

After supper they all gathered in the warmth of the stove. Ma rocked Grace slowly to and fro, and Laura brought Pa the fiddle box. Now the happy winter evenings were begun… — By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 15, “The Last Man Out”

Hail Columbia (the music) was written by Philip Phile in 1789 as “The President’s March”, an inaugural march for George Washington. Nine years later, lyrics were written by Joseph Hopkinson in an effort to keep Americans unified at a time when England and France were at war and many Americans felt sympathy for one country or the other.

Philip Phile (c.1734-c.1793) was a German-born violinist and composer who lived in Philadelphia in the 1780s and performed with the Old American Company orchestra. Joseph Hopkinson (1770-1842) was son of Francis Hopkinson who signed the Declaration of Independence. He was educated as a lawyer and became a federal judge. He was also an avid verse-writer.

“Hail Columbia” was first performed on April 25, 1798. It, along with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” served as the national anthems until Congress passed a bill in 1931 declaring that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the official national anthem. Today, “Hail Columbia” is played as the entrance song for the Vice President of the United States; “Hail to the Chief” is played for the President.


1. Hail Columbia, happy land!
Hail, ye heroes, heav’n-born band,
Who fought and bled in Freedom’s cause,
And when the storm of war was gone
Enjoy’d the peace your valor won.
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.

[chorus] Firm, united, let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.

2. Immortal patriots, rise once more,
Defend your rights, defend your shore!
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Invade the shrine where sacred lies
Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize,
While off’ring peace, sincere and just,
In Heaven we place a manly trust,
That truth and justice will prevail,
And every scheme of bondage fail.

3. Sound sound the trump of fame!
Let Washington’s great name
Ring thro’ the world with loud applause,
Let ev’ry clime to freedom dear
Listen with a joyful ear.
With equal skill, with God-like pow’r,
He governs in the fearful hour
Of horrid war, or guides with ease
The happier times of honest peace.

4. Behold the chief you now commands,
Once more to serve his country stands.
The rock on which the storm will break,
But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
His hopes are fixed on Heav’n and you.
When hope was sinking in dismay,
When glooms obscured Columbia’s day,
His steady mind, from changes free
Resolved on death or liberty.

(from By the Shores of Silver Lake)

Hail Columbia, happy land!
     (Pa sang with the fiddle)
Hail, ye heroes, Heaven-born band!
Firm, united let us be,
Rallying ’round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined
Peace and safety we shall find.

CLICK HERE to listen.



Click on the above images to view a copy of original sheet music of “Hail Columbia”.    


“Hail, Columbia” (SSL 15)
     “Hail Columbia, happy land!”
hail, greeting (SSL 9, 15)