Baltimore Can Remove Statues But Can't Change History
After having several Confederate statues recently removed late at night, Baltimore's Mayor Catherine Pugh stated, "I don’t know why they were put there - I wasn’t here at the time..." As a former resident of Maryland, it is tragic to observe history being literally hauled away in the middle of the night. Baltimore had a stormy Civil War history and its citizens at the time strongly sympathized with the South. Abraham Lincoln received only 2.5% of the vote in Maryland during the 1860 Presidential Election.
The first blood of the Civil War was shed during the Baltimore Riot of 1861 when citizens protested against Union troops marching through Baltimore. After this, President Lincoln declared martiall law in Baltimore and suspended the writ of habeas corpus (determining if the detention of a prisoner is lawful). The Lincoln administration then quickly had Baltimore's Mayor George Henry Brown, Congressman Henry May, the Baltimore police commissioners, the Baltimore city council, and several newspaper editors arrested without charges. Marylander Roger Taney, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, ruled Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus "unconstitutional." Lincoln ignored Taney's ruling. Baltimore newspaper editor Frank Key Howard wrote an editorial denouncing Lincoln for the unlawful arrests and was then also arrested without charges. Ironically, Howard was the grandson of a famous Marylander, Francis Scott Key (composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner”) and was first detained at, of all places, Fort McHenry. Howard was outraged at his unlawful detention and as he viewed the flag flying over Fort McHenry lamented the words from his grandfather's song "over the land of the free." Howard detailed his ordeal in his book Fourteen Months in American Bastilles declaring, "we had been seized and were held by the Government in utter violation of all law." To add further insult, two publishers of this book were also arrested.
"Maryland, My Maryland" is the Maryland state song and was inspired in protest to one of the civilian victims of the 1861 Baltimore Riot. The song is supportive of the South and calls for Maryland to fight the Union, and Lincoln is called a "tyrant," "despot," and a "vandal." There have been recent calls to have this song removed as the state song.
The 145-year-old statue of U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney has now been removed from the Maryland State House grounds in Annapolis citing that his legacy was marred by the Dred Scctt case.
Incidentally, Francis Scott Key was a slave owner. So, should the National Anthem be scrapped too?
I think not.
As any country has, we have dark chapters in our history. Even iconic Lincoln could be vilified for directing unconstitutional arrests and imprisonment of innocent people. Should we take down Lincoln statues too?