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Baltimore's big role in 200-year-old events [Letter]

The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 holds special significance for Baltimore in the next few weeks ("More details announced for Star-Spangled Spectacular Celebration Aug. 12). On Aug. 25, 1814, President James Madison, and his wife Dolly were forced to flee for their lives when the British army sacked and burned the White House. The later attack on Fort McHenry led to the creation of the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. Why is so little attention being paid to this uniquely historic time? I am visiting England now for a few weeks and the people here have certainly taken note.

It also seems very newsworthy that the war itself was waged in great part over the importation of hemp from Russia to the United States in defiance of the British blockade attempting to deny that essential commodity for the world shipbuilding industry. The Russians had the best quality hemp fiber since it was very labor intensive and their large population of serfs provided the requisite slave labor. Ships, large and small, required tons of hemp fiber for their ropes and sails. Prior to the completion of the Erie Canal, it was faster and cheaper to sail a clipper ship to St. Petersburg and return with a cargo of hemp than to ship the fiber over land from Kentucky to Baltimore. The British Navy stopped and seized all the ships they found.

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Since parts of the U.S. are now in the process of repealing the prohibition on hemp and the fiber can currently be processed by machine, we should see many new products in the future utilizing this environmentally and economically useful plant.

William Trolinger, Ellicott City

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