- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2016

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers are one step closer to removing pro-Confederacy lyrics from the official state song, as a bill to designate a “compromise” song advanced Thursday.

The Senate voted 37-8 to change the state song, and the measure now heads to the House for approval.

Sung to the tune of “O Tannebaum,” “Maryland, My Maryland” was written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall while mourning a friend slain by Union soldiers in Baltimore. Its nine stanzas urge Marylanders to follow Virginia into the Confederacy, with references to Union troops as “Northern scum” and Abraham Lincoln as a “despot.”

The compromise song would use the third verse of Randall’s poem and the fourth verse of “Maryland, My Maryland,” a poem written in 1894 by John T. White extolling the state’s beauty. Randall’s poem would be designated the “historical state song” under the legislation sponsored by Sen. Ronald Young, Frederick Democrat.

His proposal faced some opposition from Sen. Robert Cassilly, Harford Republican, who argued that changing the state song is an effort to whitewash the history of people who felt strongly about their convictions — even if few would agree with those convictions today.

“Our song celebrates the courage of people who are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in. ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ is a fighting song. It’s a cry against tyranny and oppression,” Mr. Cassilly said. “It’s a wake-up call to people who will sit complacently and allow others to lead the charge.”

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The proposed addition from White’s poem is “a nice day, a pretty piece of water” that doesn’t speak to the spirit of the state, Mr. Cassilly said.

Mr. Young said the song no longer represents Marylanders today and it is time to move forward with an inclusive song that highlights the state’s positive aspects.

“It’s not an inspiring poem,” Mr. Young said of the original song. “It might be inspiring in the sense of calling for overthrow of the government or tyranny. It doesn’t represent all of Maryland. Hopefully, it doesn’t represent much of Maryland today.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Calvert Democrat, hailed the bill as a good “compromise” that keeps a piece of the current song and adds a piece that can appeal to residents.

“I have two personal, handwritten copies by James Ryder Randall, one is in my office there,” he said. “I collected them early in my life. In life, you grow, you change, you understand things differently as you get older.”

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, Montgomery Democrat, said she would have preferred her own proposal for repealing Randall’s poem and holding a statewide contest for a new song. Her bill died in committee.

That same approach was tried in 1974, the first major attempt to ax “Maryland, My Maryland,” which became the state song in 1939. Subsequent efforts to find a new song were launched in 1980, 1984, 2001, 2002 and 2009, and all failed because lawmakers couldn’t settle on a replacement.

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