Maryland repeals Civil War-era state song that called Lincoln a ‘tyrant’
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this week signed legislation repealing the state’s Civil War-era song that referred to President Lincoln as “tyrant” and a “despot.”
Hogan on Tuesday signed the measure, calling it a “relic of the Confederacy, which is clearly outdated and out of touch.”
“Maryland, My Maryland” was written by a Confederate sympathizer, James Ryder Randall, in 1861 and was set to the tune of “O Tannenbaum.”
It was inspired by a poem written following the Pratt Street Riot, where Southern sympathizers attacked the 6th Massachusetts Infantry as they marched through Baltimore on their way to Washington, D.C. NPR noted that the violence occurred just days before the opening shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter.
It soon quickly became a rallying cry for Confederate supporters in Maryland, a slave state that declined to secede from the Union but did not join the fight against the southern states.
“The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland! His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!” the opening lines read, referring to then-president Abraham Lincoln.
It later calls for Marylanders to “burst the tyrant’s chain” and fight against the “Northern scum!”
It also alludes to the phrase “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” — Latin for “thus always to tyrants” — which is what John Wilkes Booth called out as he leaped from the stage at the Ford’s Theater after assassinating Lincoln on April 15, 1865.
It did not officially become the state’s song until almost 80 years later in 1939. There have been several attempts to replace the song over the years, most recently in 2020, but all have previously failed to pass.
Last summer during the Democratic National Convention, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) released a potential new state song with co-creator Steve Jones.
His version of Maryland, My Maryland (The Free State Song) was inspired by Elise Bryant of the D.C. Labor Chorus.
Some Republicans, however, dismissed the move to repeal the song as an example of “cancel culture.”
State House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R) told local outlet Maryland Matters that while she was offended by the derogatory remarks made about Lincoln, she could not support the repeal.
“We have a lot of cancel culture going on, and we’re canceling everything,” Szeliga said in March.
She said she reflected on her own personal heroes.
“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.”