On July 5th I posted all the verses to “America the Beautiful”. I have always preferred it to “The Star Spangled Banner” and believe it should be the U.S.A.’s national anthem.
I later developed an another reason why “The Star Spangled Banner” should not be our national anthem. In response to an article in the Wall Street Journal I wrote the author (Amanda Foreman) of the article the reasons why we should change our national anthem. I wrote the following. What do you think?
I read your article. On July 5th I posted on my blog the verses to “America the Beautiful” which I think is more representative of this country than “The Star Spangled Banner”. Most Americans don’t know all the verses to both songs, myself included. I recently read a very interesting article in September 2014 issue of Harper’s entitled “Washington is Burning”. It was written by Andrew Cockburn the Washington editor of Harper’s and the descendent of Admiral Sir George Cockburn of the Royal Navy who torched the White House during the War of 1812. The article discusses the use of colonial slaves by the British during the War of 1812 including their failed attack on Baltimore, to which “Star Spangled Banner” refers. The later verses of our national anthem makes historical note of the use of colonialists’ slaves at that battle. According to Mr. Cockburn the Admiral was an abolitionist and freed the slaves that “enlisted” with the British, but Francis Scott Key was anti-abolitionist as prosecutor for the District of Columbia and a mentor to Chief Justice Taney (of Dred Scott fame).
The third stanza of our national anthem reads in pertinent part:
“No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”
It is historically accurate, but is a reference to slavery what we still want in our National Anthem?
Mr. Cockburn’s article also suggests that the historically ignored and important War of 1812 created fear in the South about slaves revolting and killing slave owners. This was the fear that the Admiral hoped to engender, as owners might become more concerned about protecting their property and lose interest in fighting the British. He also states that the building of Fort Sumter in South Carolina was the result of this fear of slave revolt that increasingly developed during and after the War of 1812.
Perhaps it is time to adopt the more uplifting “America the Beautiful”, which speaks to our gorgeous geography, pioneering and heroic spirit, brotherhood and respect for law. Every stanza is a gem that Americans could be proud of (and it is easier to sing).
My favorite stanza:
‘O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!’
It is worth hearing now and again.”