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Tags: Maryland | StateSong | AbrahamLincoln

Maryland Repeals State Song That Called Lincoln 'Tyrant' and 'Despot'

statue of abraham lincoln at lincoln memorial
The statue of President Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 20 May 2021 03:15 PM EDT

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has signed a bill that repeals the state’s official song, which was written in the Civil War era and referred to President Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant” and a “despot,” NPR reports.

"We're repealing the state song. It is a relic of the Confederacy, which is clearly outdated and out of touch," Hogan, a Republican, said upon signing the measure on Tuesday.

The song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” was written by James Ryder Randall, who served in the Confederate Navy. It is sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum.” It was based on an 1861 poem written about the Pratt Street Riot in which Confederate sympathizers attacked Union troops as they marched through Baltimore. This incident occurred just a few days before the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, according to NPR.

“The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland! His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!” reads the song’s opening lines, referring to Lincoln, who was president at the time.

It adds that Maryland residents should “burst the tyrant’s chain” and fight the “Northern scum,” and includes the phrase “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” the Latin phrase for “thus always to tyrants,”which Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth shouted after fatally shooting the president in Ford’s Theatre on April 15, 1865. 

The song became the official song of Maryland in 1939, about 80 years after it was written. All previous attempts to change the song failed, with Republicans opposing it as an example of “cancel culture.”

“We have a lot of cancel culture going on, and we’re canceling everything,” state House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, a Republican, told Maryland Matters in March.

“You know, David from the Old Testament ― who committed adultery and then had Bathsheba’s husband killed ― we didn’t cancel him out of the Bible, but showed that that’s a man with flaws,” Szeliga said. “So I’d like to relegate this song to history, but I’m not going to be able to vote to repeal it.”

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Democrat and the first African American House speaker in the state’s history, called to change the song last year, noting that "the time to do it is now.”

“It is not cancel culture to say our state should not be represented, should not be honoring these words, as our state song,” said Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, a Democrat, in a virtual meeting with legislators in March, after voting on a bill to remove the song’s official state symbol status.

Del. Susan W. Krebs, a Republican, said that “the amount of time that we have spent and the energy spent on this just blows my mind. And I think we should start looking forward to finding solutions to problems versus keep looking in the past, figuring out what people said 50 years ago, 100 years ago. It really doesn’t matter. Let’s move forward and just do something positive, because it’s not really helping anybody. I don’t think anything’s going to change for anyone when the song changes, because we don’t use it anywhere anyway.”

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has signed a bill that repeals the state's official song, which hailed from the Civil War era and referred to President Abraham Lincoln as a "tyrant" ...
Maryland, StateSong, AbrahamLincoln
Thursday, 20 May 2021 03:15 PM
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