Maryland’s state song made the front page of the Baltimore Sun yesterday. The marching band at the state university doesn’t want to play it at football games anymore.
The lyrics, set to the tune of “O Christmas Tree” by a secession-minded poet in 1861, begin: “The despot’s heel is on thy shore.” It’s a reference to the federal government. Marylanders are urged to use their “peerless chivalry” to rise up and defend the state: “She is not dead, nor deaf nor dumb. Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!”
This egregious song comes up for debate every so often. For years there’s been a bill in the legislature in Annapolis proposing that it be replaced. Amid moves all across the country to ditch public reminders of American slavery and/or the Confederacy, the on-again-off-again campaign against “Maryland, My Maryland” is on again.
George Washington provided explicit direction for biographers and analysts seeking to capture the substance of his public service. In his September 1796 “Farewell Address,” he wrote:
Though in reviewing the incidents of my Administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that after forty five years of my life dedicated to its Service, with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the Mansions of rest.
As we can see, Washington identified as the term of his service to the United States, a continuous period dating from 1751 to 1796. Every Washington biographer inherits an obligation to tell the story at least with reference to that “body of work,” if not comprehensively reproducing it. To date, no one has presented that coherent account (including the present author). But Edward J. Larson has taken large strides toward compensating for the lack with The Return of George Washington. The book focuses on what is arguably the most under-appreciated period in that 45 years, the time between Washington’s resignation of his command of the Army of the Revolution and his inauguration as the first President of the United States.
When questioned recently about the administration’s Ebola response, President Obama’s exasperated White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, proclaimed to a reporter: “I guess you can take that up with James Madison.” Earnest, in his attempt to express the evolving nature of governance in a federated republic, correctly affirmed Madison’s central role in the debate, and directed the thoughtful citizen to appreciate original understandings of power.
The next podcast @Liberty Law Talk is with Greg Lukianoff on his new book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Lukianoff is a First Amendment litigator-extraordinaire and the leader of FIRE. If you find yourself on campus and under suspicion for telling the wrong joke, supporting the wrong political ideas, or sacrificing to the wrong gods, then Lukianoff and his indefatigable band of lawyers @FIRE will be the best friends you ever have. @Econ Lib, Robert Murphy puts the (expansion) in austerity: By the mid-1990s, the Canadian federal government had been running deficits for two decades, with…