The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

IX. The Beginnings of Verse, 1610–1808

§ 13. David Humphreys

Closely related to the narratives and eulogies are the many and lengthy poems belonging to the philosophic and didactic “glory of America” type, of which Freneau seems to have been the originator. The most prolific poet of this school was Colonel David Humphreys (1753–1818), who graduated from Yale in 1771, served as aide-de-camp to Washington, and became a frequent guest at Mount Vernon. He was associated with the Hartford Wits after 1786; served as minister to Portugal in 1791, and as minister to Spain from 1797 to 1802. A versatile man like others of the Hartford group, he was not only soldier, diplomat, and poet, but also an experimenter in sheepraising and wool-manufacture. His six patriotic poems vary in length from four hundred to one thousand lines of heroic couplets. “Every poet who aspires to celebrity strives to approach the perfection of Pope and the sweetness of his versification,” says Humphreys. All his patriotic poems are the work of an experienced versifier with full command of his subject and with little poetic inspiration. The Poem on the Happiness of America celebrates liberty and democracy, American scenery, resources, achievements, and prospects, with a boundless belief in the possibilities of America and her divine mission.