“Hail to the Spirit of Liberty” (1900)
It was with great pride that Sousa and his band represented the United States at the Paris Exposition of 1900. This was the first overseas tour of the band, and it was received throughout Europe with enthusiasm. The band displayed the finest American musicianship Europe had seen and helped dispel the notion that the United States was an artistic void. A statue of George Washington was unveiled on July 2, but the highlight of the Paris engagement was the unveiling of the Lafayette Monument on July 4. It was presented on behalf of the children of the United States by Ferdinand W. Peck, commissioner general of the Paris Exposition, as President Loubet of France looked on. The monument portrayed Lafayette on horseback offering his sword to the American cause in the Revolutionary War and was draped with a huge American flag. At the unveiling the Sousa Band gave the first performance of the march composed specifically for that moment: “Hail to the Spirit of Liberty.” Immediately after the ceremony, the band made one of its rare appearances in a parade as it marched through the main streets of Paris.
Certain sections of the march evidently were taken from an unidentified earlier operetta and revised, because in 1964 fragments which were probably meant to be discarded were found in a stack of manuscripts at the Sands Point estate. The march was so successful that it is difficult to reconcile a story often told by Sousa’s daughter Priscilla; she said that her father had entered the march in a contest shortly before it was published, and that the contest had been won by an “unknown” composer whose march was promptly forgotten.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 43. Used by permission.