Music & Politics
Oscar Sonneck’s century-old definition of “Hail Columbia” as a non-partisan song needs revision. The song’s words and music, its promotion and reception in the Philadelphia newspapers, and the paratextual practices of representation associated with its early printed editions combine to situate “Hail Columbia” as part of an informal cultural program whereby Federalists leveraged the events of the Quasi-War and XYZ Affair to rouse support for Adams and discredit French-sympathizing Republicans. Whereas historians have heralded “Hail Columbia” as a spontaneous expression of an embryonic national spirit, and thus as transcending the partisan rancor of its day, the song ought to be studied as belonging to an effort to represent Federalist interests as the interests of the nation.
Gray, M. “A Partisan National Song: The Politics of “Hail Columbia” Reconsidered,” Music and Politics 11, no. 2 (2017)