The National Anthem

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These United States of America, a Republic that has withstood countless wars and endless cultural evolution, continues to stand at the forefront of the world, all eyes gazed upon her leaders to guide us forward. Though her formation was perilous and traitorous to the British Crown, formed it was, from the ashes of a violent war, fought by a band of militias known as the Continental Army under the helm of George Washington. But there is perhaps a war just as important and it happened about twenty years later. This war was the war of 1812, one that defined America as unstoppable and sustained her journey forward as a truly sovereign nation.

The War of 1812 started out as a trade war that turned bloody. Britain and a Napoleon-led France were at odds with each other, much as they had been for some time as they were competing naval forces, and there was pressure from both countries that America trade with them and not the other. Jefferson, in his presidency, shepherded through the Embargo Act of 1807, which turned out to be a drag on American farmers and mercantilists all across the country, as restrictions were made in American ports trying to ship their goods out of the country and get more in, with special emphasis being put on restricting the British goods. This was later replaced under Madison with the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809 and stated that the United States would not trade with neither France nor Britain until the seizure of merchant ships and seamen ceased. The French followed through, making the United States trading partners with France again. This prompted Britain to ramp up its efforts to hurt France by increased seizures as well as helping the Native Americans in the western territories, preventing further expansion out west for the US.

This led ultimately to the declaration of war by Madison after pressure from Congress in 1812, even though there was much partisan disagreement in both houses of Congress. After the Battle of Tippecanoe, the United States attempted to send a direct message to Britain by attacking Canada, only to be defeated handily by the British. However, as the war went on, the Americans held their own against a coalition of British and Native American fighters in the North Western part of the territory (Michigan area), and they even claimed naval victories. By 1814, Napoleon’s navy had been defeated, enabling Britain to set their sights on America in full, starting with attacking the capitol and burning the government buildings. Their next stop was Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, where on the fateful day of September 13th, faced a 25 hour bombardment of British might. This event inspired Francis Scott Key, who was a guest of the Royal Navy sitting upon a naval vessel at the time, to draft “The Star Spangled Banner”. For after the bombardment ceased, some of the soldiers hoisted up a big, red-white-and-blue American flag, signaling to the British that America will never give up or give in.

The war ended when the Treaty of Ghent was commissioned on December 24th, 1814, and ratified by Congress the following February. Despite the war being over, British forces continued a pre-planned attack in New Orleans, only to meet future President Andrew Jackson and be defeated.

There has been scrutiny recently over the national anthem and it being the song that other countries would recognize us by. Specifically, in the third verse that goes as such:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The simple mention of slavery or a slave is enough for people to have intense disdain for our country’s anthem. It was neither an advocation for slavery to be expanded nor showing support for the economic state of affairs of the South, it was a statement of fact that no person, hireling or slave, was safe from the attacks by the British. He marvels at the resilience of the Americans serving there as symbolized by the American flag flying over destroyed ramparts and soldiers killed in battle. But some suggest that because it was written in a time of slavery and contains the word “slave”, the National Anthem doesn’t deserve to be recognized as the official anthem of the US as it celebrates a mark on our past (the kneeling controversy hammers on this point, while they try to claim they don’t want to celebrate a country with rampant racial inequality; it started out as the former, took on the latter, and now tries to identify with both). It’s entirely false, and those who bother to look at the significance of the war and specifically that event and where Francis Scott Key had his vantage-point.

Fun fact too: the tune put to the words was an old English drinking song, and to that, I will gladly drink to our freedom that we were granted by our founders and those who fought and died protecting the young country that it was.

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-battle-that-birthed-the-star-spangled-banner

http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/the-lyrics.aspx

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