This song was originally written by someone known only by their initials “S.R.G.” and was included Hugh Williams’s National Songs and Poetical Pieces (1838), a radical, pro-Chartist poetry collection. The song itself is written in commemoration of the Canadian Rebellion of 1837-38. The Canadian Rebellion had the potential to be as serious as the revolt of the Thirteen Colonies in 1776, but in the end the rebellion was crushed and Canada remained part of the British Empire. The original author’s explanatory note is included below.
On, on! ye brave Canadians, with Freedom’s flag unfurl’d,
Shout hatred to Usurpers, to the despots of the world;
Long may ye stand, ye gallant band—make ramparts of your slain,
And drive the hireling scoundrels to their Island Hell again.
Up, up! ye honest riflemen, bold freemen of the States,
And aid your brothers in the strife their Mother Hag creates;
Bring over hempen-neckerchiefs for every bully’s neck,
And string or shoot them one and all, from Huron to Quebec.
The millions of the British Isles are with ye, heart and soul—
But, oh! their country’s destinies are wrench’d from their control;
They’d rather that Britannia’s flag should down to dust be hurl’d,
Than be, as ’tis, protection to the tyrants of the world.
Up!—French and British—both are men—both children of one sire,—
And both alas! are buried to their chins in British mire!
Then, on! ye brave Canadians, despite their martial law,
Nine glorious cheers for LIBERTY and three for PAPINEAU!
There is no country on the face of the earth where despotisms prevails with more horrible atrocity than in Canada. We can well conceive the sort of sympathies entertained by the Melbourne and Russell government, when they permitted that splendid colony to be devastated by inhuman fiends, whose names shall be consigned to eternal infamy, as samples of the cannibal spirit of aristocratic domination. May our beneficent CREATOR grant that the British People may yet prove the liberators of the brave, bleeding, and prostrate Canadians!