Why an anthem?

In a recent letter the question was posed as to why we bother having a national anthem. The letter went on to say that the Founding Fathers had no need for an anthem, nor did they provide for one, “unless you count ‘Yankee Doodle,’ “ the author quipped. For the record, “Yankee Doodle” was a British song intended to ridicule the Continental soldiers as being a bunch of country bumpkin amateurs, but just as with oppressed people today, the Continentals “took back” the song and marched to it as though it were a badge of honor.

Following the establishment of our republic, it was George Washington, himself, who suggested the song, “Hail Columbia,” as our national anthem, which had been written for his inaugural ceremony. Columbia represents the feminine personification of America, as does Britannia for the U.K. It did become the entrance music for the vice president. Then there were those who took the British anthem, “God Save the King,” and substituted the lyrics, “God Bless George Washington.” In 1831 the lyrics to “America” (My country ’tis of thee) were set to that tune, and for much of the 19th century it was thought of as our national anthem. But it wasn’t. We actually had no official national anthem until President Woodrow Wilson, in 1916, signed an executive order which gave the Star Spangled Banner the honor, and Congress codified it into law in 1931.

Evidentally there has always been a desire for one throughout our nation’s history. There is just something inside most civilized peoples that makes them want to proudly display their flags and sing their anthems, and Americans are no different, the exceptions being, perhaps, the so-called “citizens of the world.”

Ken Robertson


Submitted by E-Mail