The American National Anthem
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Every nation in the world has its coat of arms, flag, and anthem. They are essential attributes of its national statehood. Every nation cherishes them, because they express its history and are the integral parts of the eternal connection between the past, present and future generations of the country. Therefore, any nation will exist until its attributes of the statehood are cherished by its people. The American national anthem is called “The Star-Spangled Banner” (Dell, 2003, p. 7). It was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. He was a lawyer at that time. The tune of the anthem became a tune for the other song, “The Anacreon Song”, created by an English composer, John Stafford Smith, in 1780. John Smith was a member of the English Anacreontic Society. Moreover, Francis Scott Key called his poem as “Defense of Fort M’Henry”. The song turned into the American national anthem only in 1931. “The Star-Spangled Banner” expresses history of the United States. The Americans cherish all achievements of the Revolution, and the national anthem is the most famous American literary work to express the ideas of peace and liberty.
The American national anthem was created in the battle against English troops. It was devoted to the national American flag, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag. At that time, it had only fifteen stars and stripes according to the independent states. The red and white stripes symbolized courage and freedom. It was inspiring Americans in fighting for independence. The American troops hoisted the flag above the Fort of McHenry, shelled by the British ships on September of 1814. At that time, Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner were on the board of the His Majesty Ship Tonnant conducting negotiations on releasing American captives. It was the flagship of the Royal Navy. The British Major General Robert Ross did not want to exchange prisoners, but Francis Scott Key maaged to persuade him to make the exchange. Both arduous negotiations and severe shelling exhausted Key. To make things worse, Key and Skinner were under arrest on English ships Surprise and Minden till the end of the battle, because they knew secret information about the further plans of the British armed forces.
Undoubtedly, Francis Scott Key was very unhappy in that situation, but a small American flag over the fort reminded him of a feeble hope of both successful completions of their mission and the battle. To his great surprise, Francis Scott Key saw a large American flag instead of the small one over the fort in the morning. At the sight of it, the future author of the American national anthem wrote his famous poem “Defense of Fort M’Henry”. Key described both all his impressions of the battle and his happiness to see the national American flag, under which all courageous people united in their struggle for independence. Francis Scott Key felt certain that colors of courage and liberty on the American flag were symbols of their independence and ideals of the new nation. Of course, slavery existed in the United States at that time, but Francis Scott Key managed to see a new democratic society which would eliminate that shameful phenomenon.
As Robin Blackburn (1988) states, the British authorities used slaves in their troops. After the war they promised African Americans freedom, where “they might expect to meet their former masters” (Blackburn, p. 288). Of course, there were many African Americans in the British troops, but the national idea to fight for liberty of their new homeland and their personal freedom under the American flag was uniting all ethnicities, races and social groups living there at that time. The poem of Key became one of the successful transformations of a union of former various colonists in America into the new nation. His poem turned into the real national symbol, the Ammerican anthem, hailing courage of Americans and their national flag. As Blackburn states, “The composition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” after the British bombardment of Baltimore in September 1814… signaled the birth of a new national consciousness” (Blackburn, p. 289).
On September 15, 1814, the work of Francis Scott Key was “rendered upon the stage of the Holliday Street Theater by an actress” (Sonneck, 2001, p. 16). As John Winchester (1973) states, “The popularity of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was immediate in Baltimore and surrounding country, but its acceptance generally by the American people was slow” (Winchester, p. 84). Both Southern and Northern States sang the song, but it became popular only in the 1850s. In 1889, it was one of the military songs, and the American Navy used it while hoisting the flag. Only in 1931, President Herbert Hoover ordered “The Star-Spangled Banner” to be the national anthem of the United States of America. Nowadays, the national anthem takes a special place in the American society. As the House of Congress Resolution 262 states, it is a “symbol of national unity, resolve and willingness to sacrifice in order to preserve the nation’s sacred heritage of freedom” (Anonymous, 2003, p. 26998).
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is a symbol of the United States of America. It unites Americans and makes them proud of their past and present. Hailing national colors of courage and liberty in the anthem makes Americans stronger, because other peoples of the world cherish those qualities as well. Those who fight for independence consider the American people as their ally. Therefore, the American national anthem became an international symbol of liberty and democracy. Moreover, the American people called one of the submarines as USS Francis Scott Key to honor the author of the national anthem.