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

XIX. Early Humorists

§ 3. Revolutionary Satirists

The Revolution produced its humour chiefly in the form of political satire; the principal names are Francis Hopkinson, John Trumbull, Joel Barlow, Philip Freneau. The first two were perhaps most important in this connection. Hopkinson’s Battle of the Kegs was as good for the American cause as the winning of a real battle. In the grim year of 1778, this poem went into every American camp, cheered the patriots, and provoked hearty laughter at the awkwardness and stupidity of the enemy. And Trumbull in McFingal produced a Hudibrastic epic whose anger and irresistible logic reflected ingeniously the temper of a colony of sturdy militiamen that had taken upon themselves the task of offering opposition to the mother country—a task in itself not without its incongruous aspect.

During the period that followed the Revolution the colonists doubtless told their stories of war and sea, “swapped yarns,” and recounted deeds of adventure along the frontier, but little has remained to show the character of the writing and to enable us to know what impression it made upon the time. There was not a little humorous political and satirical verse. Certain writers, like William Austin, Irving, Paulding, Drake, Halleck, Sands, Verplanck, brought into American literature an estimable sort of humour, but little was produced by any of them that had an emphatically native quality.