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Maryland state song, which refers to Lincoln as “tyrant, is repealed

Maryland’s state song, which refers to Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant,” urges the state to join Virginia in seceding and refers to the Union as “northern scum,” has officially been repealed.

Governor Larry Hogan signed the bill into law this week, calling “Maryland, My Maryland” “a relic of the Confederacy that is clearly outdated and out of touch,” he said Tuesday. The signing this week came after ten unsuccessful attempts to repeal it since 1974, three of them in the last three years. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the effort to repeal the song gained new momentum and passed in the House of Delegates and state Senate in March.

The song was written as a poem in 1861 by a Baltimore native with confederate sympathies, James Ryder Randall, who was living in Louisiana and was inspired by his outrage at Union soldiers who marched through Baltimore, causing riots on the streets. Played for decades as the unofficial state anthem, it was designated as the official state song in 1939.

The nine-verse song, to the tune of “O, Christmas Tree,” calls on Maryland to “burst the tyrant’s chain,” a reference to President Lincoln, and leave the Union. “Virginia should not call in vain, Maryland,” the song says. “She meets her sisters on the plain-‘Sic semper!’ ’tis the proud refrain.” At the end of the song is the fantasy of Maryland’s secession: “Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!”

The phrase, “sic semper tyranis,” which means that tyrants will get what they deserve, is famously said to have been uttered by Brutus when he killed Julius Caesar. John Wilkes Booth, a Maryland native, wrote in his diary that he shouted “Sic semper tyranis” on stage before he assassinated Lincoln. 

There’s no replacement for the song yet, but the law calls on the Maryland State Arts Council to come up with plans for a state song competition, with a finalist to be recommended by December — or a recommendation that Maryland not have a state song. 



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