On Sept. 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Md., the Federal Army of the Potomac gave battle to the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. When it was over some 25,000 Federal and Confederate troops lay dead or wounded, making it the bloodiest single-day of combat ever fought on North American soil, dwarfing the toll taken by the 2001 terrorist attacks.
In retrospect the most important result of the battle was President Lincoln's issuing of a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation five days afterward. Frederick Douglass called the proclamation "one of those stupendous facts in human history which marks not only an era in the progress of the nation but an epoch in the history of the world."
The law of the land is the U.S. Constitution, but the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation are important parts of that legacy because of the context they provide for it.
This year the Maryland House of Delegates broke faith with that legacy of when it failed to reject the tasteless lyrics of the state song, "Maryland, My Maryland." For example, the last verse of the text contains the phrase "Northern scum."
On the contrary. Read the Emancipation Proclamation. Go to Sharpsburg. See for yourself.
Ray Sprenkle, Baltimore
The writer teaches music theory and history at the Peabody Institute and was a member of the State Song Advisory Group.