Samuel Kettell, ed. Specimens of American Poetry. 1829.
Critical and Biographical Notice
Jonathan Mitchel Sewall (17481808)
HE was born at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1748. He lost his parents at an early age, and was adopted by his uncle, Stephen Sewall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. He studied at Harvard College, and afterwards entered into mercantile business, which he finally abandoned for the profession of the law, and settled in Portsmouth New Hampshire, where he passed the remainder of his life, with a high character for integrity and disinterestedness. He died March 29th, 1808, in his sixtieth year.
Mr Sewall applied himself to poetry in his youth, and many of his pieces were made public previous to the revolution. Ossian charmed his juvenile fancy to such a degree, that he versified nearly the whole work. Specimens of this performance, with other miscellaneous pieces, were published in a volume in 1801. It was his custom, when confined to his bed by long indisposition, to beguile the wearisomeness of his sleepless nights, by the composition of verses, which, when he had sufficiently recovered to handle a pen, he committed to writing.
The piece best entitled to our regard among his productions, is the ode of War and Washington, a patriotic Tyrtæan strain, which was sung throughout the country during the revolutionary war, and served to inspire zeal and courage in the cause of independence. No national lyric ever aroused more enthusiasm, or was chanted with better effect than this war song of the American revolution. It was the favorite strain throughout the ranks of the army in every part of the country, and kindled the martial ardor and patriotic feelings of all. Such relics are the most precious and interesting which can be gathered from the literature of the times.