Rascovar: Dump hateful lyrics to ‘My Maryland’

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By Barry Rascovar

For MarylandReporter.com

The statue of Chief Justic Roger Brooke Taney in front of the State House.

The statue of Chief Justic Roger Brooke Taney in front of the State House.

I strongly disagree with “politically correct” crowds that frequently seek to re-write history for their own present-day purposes. But when it comes to the hateful lyrics of Maryland’s official state song, I say quite emphatically, “Dump them.”

The words to “Maryland, My Maryland,” composed by an emotionally wrought Rebel sympathizer, James Ryder Randall, are despicable.

Abraham Lincoln is called a despot. Those supporting the United States rather than the Confederacy are called “Northern scum.”

The poem is a blatant call for Maryland to separate from the U.S. and join the Confederacy.

It’s a blood-thirsty state anthem, written in New Orleans by the 22-year-old Randall following the first casualties of the Civil War during Baltimore’s Pratt Street riot of April 1861.

Rebel call to arms

Thus the words:

“Avenge the patriotic gore

That flecked the streets of Baltimore,

And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!”

Randall, who spent most of his adult life in Augusta, Georgia, and other Southern outposts as an editorial writer – far from Maryland – quickly became a hero among Southern separatists.

His words, set to a catchy German college tune that we know today as “O Tanenbaum” or “O Christmas Tree,” caught on with Rebel soldiers and supporters.

Why such mean-spirited and hostile words would come to represent the state of Maryland – whose citizens were decidedly mixed in their views of the Civil War – remains cloaked in mystery.

Adopting a state song

Republican Gov. Harry Whinna Nice vetoed a bill making Randall’s lyrics the state song in 1935. He felt the words were inappropriate. Nice was on the mark.

But the next governor, conservative Democrat Herbert R. O’Conor, went along with legislators, especially those from rural parts of Maryland with Southern sympathies. O’Conor signed the bill making “Maryland, My Maryland” the state song in 1939.

Big mistake.

Other states have dumped offensive lyrics in their state songs. Florida did it twice (“Swanee”), Kentucky did it (“My Old Kentucky Home”) and so did Virginia (“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”).

Yet for 20 years, Maryland legislators have refused to get rid of lyrics that don’t come close to representing the state’s citizens. The words are hateful, viciously un-American and written to encourage Maryland to secede from the United States.

It is past time to reverse that dreadful decision by the 1939 General Assembly and Governor O’Conor.

Correcting a mistake

This is not, as Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr. put it recently, “political correctness run amok.”

He needs to re-think his position. Randall’s lyrics never should have been allowed to represent Maryland’s citizens. Does Hogan really want school children singing those words?

Hogan is right that the “PC Crowd” frequently careens out of control trying to revise history to further their own current-day ideological goals.

Taken to an extreme, this would mean tearing down the Washington Monument and re-naming the District of Columbia because George Washington owned hundreds of slaves, frequently ordered severe whippings and refused to liberate them until after his death.

It would mean tearing down the Jefferson Memorial and removing Thomas Jefferson’s face from American currency because he, too, owned hundreds of slaves and conceived children with them.

It would mean melting down the austere statue of Roger Brooke Taney on the grounds of the Annapolis State House because of his refusal as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to abolish slavery. Taney’s other sensible and forward-thinking Supreme Court opinions, and his extremely important work in Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet, would be ground into dust.

Byrd Stadium no longer

The PC Crowd already had its way at the University of Maryland, College Park, where the name of Harry C. Byrd was erased from its football stadium – even though Byrd, who tried vigorously to keep Negroes out of University of Maryland campuses, arguably did more to turn UM into a first-rate state university than any of his successors.

“You can’t change history, and we’re not going to be able to rewrite history,” Hogan said. That’s true. The past is water under the bridge, it is time that already has ticked off the clock.

We can, though, learn from mistakes of the past. We can glean a greater understanding of the flawed decisions of former leaders and why those mistakes happened – so that we, in the present, don’t make similar mistakes.

As philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1924, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Lessons from yesterday

Hogan should learn from O’Conor’s mistake in 1939. He should review and learn from Nice’s courageous veto in 1935.

There’s nothing sacred about a state song, especially one that fiercely and savagely promotes secession.

It makes sense to follow the suggestion of an advisory panel to replace Randall’s odious lyrics with words that better represent Maryland’s history and its citizens’ good intentions.

Overturning a legislative and gubernatorial mistake made 77 years ago isn’t a matter of political correctness.

It’s common sense that ought to be supported on a bipartisan basis in the State House.

Barry Rascovar’s blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com

  • karolh

    Gov. Hogan’s limited valuable time would be better spent on how he can relief Marylanders from the hateful liberal guns laws that prevent us from protecting ourselves, family and neighbors from terrorist attacks, like loosening the concealed carry laws, so we do not have to hope and pray there is a cop on the scene at the time of attack or we can get to a weapon, unlock a safe, re-assemble the weapon and then load it before we can actually protect anyone. Oh- wait, I forgot we can say “Bang Bang- I shot you, stop cutting off my childs head!!” Like we did when we were kids! Give me a break!! I think Gov. Hogan has more important matters on his plate than songs. For the most part I think Marylanders are proud of our history and I do not recall anyone appointing you to change our history? If you really want to change things, go to DC and start there, you will not have to invent fiction then, might surprise yourself, as well the country and make useful changes for all Americans.

    • Dale McNamee

      I agree, karolh !

  • charlie hayward

    Hateful lyrics? Despicable? I disagree.

    Any objective appreciation of the lyrics’ idiom and a simple open-minded reading demonstrate James Ryder Randall’s heartfelt affection for Maryland quite clearly exceeded that of the song’s modern-day critics.

    “Northern scum” did not refer to Lincoln or the Union at large and wasn’t pro-war or, per se, pro-Confederacy. The term referred to Massachusetts militia who attacked anti-war Democrats, inflicting the first war casualties in what became known as the “Pratt Street Massacre” because militiamen fired their weapons at Baltimore’s anti-war citizenry after they (the militia) were attacked by stones and brick. Anti-war Democrats were the largest party in MD at that time.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, who fought in that same Mass. militia (1861-64) said about Maryland, my Maryland: “My only regret was that I could not do for Massachusetts what Randall did for Maryland.”

  • InGodWeTrust

    Here’s your sign Barry. One cannot learn from ERASED history! Duh…

  • Such an urgent and important topic (for those who want people to click on their article)….

    • Sean Tully

      Adam, a state song represents what a state is about and what it deems important. A state song lasts forever. I’d suggest that if Hogan signed a bill changing the lyrics it may be one of his most lasting legacies. Few people will remember that he reduced Bay Bridge tolls in 10, 20, or more years. But a state song will last for generations.

      • And that is why it is not an urgent issue. Wait until issues that shape people’s everyday lives are addressed and then worry about a song.

  • Sean Tully

    A bill to change the lyrics of our state song (SB 49) has been filed. The only problem is that the replacement lyrics written by John T. White do not highlight Maryland at all. The lyrics are rather generic and unless the word “Chesapeake” and the refrain were not used you wouldn’t even know the song is about Maryland. I have written lyrics that I believe highlight our state and include everyone. It’s a song everyone can sing with pride, especially our children. The legislature has my lyrics to consider. If you agree that my lyrics are more fitting, please contact Del. Peter Hammen and Senator Joan Carter Conway. I will post my lyrics.

  • Sean Tully

    My lyrics to “Maryland, My Maryland”:

    Maryland, My Maryland

    (To the tune: “O Tannenbaum” )

    By Sean Tully

    From rounded mountains highest crest,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    To ocean beaches, we are blessed,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    From city street to fertile farm,
    The Chesapeake’s abundant charm,
    We pledge to shield you from all harm,
    Maryland, my Maryland.

    Where grand white oaks grow gracefully,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Where blue crabs swim so beautifully,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Where thoroughbreds graze rolling hills,
    Where Black-Eyed Susan simply thrills,
    Your nature awes, your bounty spills,
    Maryland, my Maryland.

    Through every season you enthrall,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Your loveliness inspires all,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    You are the place our hearts will stay,
    Where we do live, learn, work, and play,
    And may it always be that way,
    Maryland, my Maryland.

    Our many paths have led us here,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Our valiant past we treasure dear,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    You are the home to truly brave,
    When country called your children gave,
    Forever may your bold flag wave,
    Maryland, my Maryland.

    With faith and freedom tightly bound,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    We’ve built today on solid ground,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Where equal rights are fair and just,
    And tyranny lies in the dust,
    Our liberties, our sacred trust,
    Maryland, my Maryland.

    With gentle words strong deeds are done,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    The Old Line holds and stands as one,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Into the future we will stride
    With rich traditions as our guide,
    O!, know this Free State is our pride,
    Maryland, my Maryland.

    • Sean Tully

      Actually, my third stanza should read (corrected line six):

      Through every season you enthrall,
      Maryland, my Maryland.
      Your loveliness inspires all,
      Maryland, my Maryland.
      You are the place our hearts will stay,
      You’re were we live, learn, work, and play,
      And may it always be that way,
      Maryland, my Maryland.

  • Sean Tully

    The latest is that they want to combine stanza three from the current song and stanza four from the John T. White version. I personally think both stink but that’s how politics is played. My argument is that they need to include someone like Hariett Tubman into the song.

  • Sean Tully

    I suggest they combine the Randall and White versions and include Tubman, like this:

    Sail on, sail on thou Ship of State,
    Maryland, My Maryland.
    May we thy children make thee great,
    Maryland, My Maryland.
    Remember Carroll’s sacred trust,
    Remember Tubman strong and just,
    Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
    Maryland, My Maryland.