For those offended by the words, "Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum," in Maryland's official state song, take heart. Help is on the way.
In the Maryland General Assembly, where one attempt this session to abolish the 120-year-old lyrics went down to an ignominious committee defeat, a new bill has arrived on the scene. And this one has the backing of no less a power than the House of Delegates' most influential member -- Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Baltimore).
It would relegate the official state tune, Northern scum and all, to the status of a "historical song," and set up a statewide high school contest to write new lyrics. The winner's prize would be a four-year tuition scholarship to any state college.
But this latest legislative move to sanitize the state song is not without its foes.
"I would be violently opposed to that," said Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller (D-Prince George's), when told of the bill's aims. "You should not tamper with history."
The history of which Miller speaks is the poem on which "Maryland! My Maryland!" is based -- a poem written by an excitable secessionist after the riot that occured when Union troops tramped through Baltimore at the start of the Civil War.
The new bill's chief sponsor, Del. Frank C. Robey (D-Baltimore), agrees that "we shouldn't deny our state history. But I can understand how people are upset with some of the language [in the song,] and I hope we can resolve it."
Robey feels he has found a reasonable compromise to the dilemma confronted by the legislature, and he hopes it can be resolved "without another Civil War."
That hardly seems likely.
When Sen. Howard A. Denis' bill to abolish the song went down to a 6-to-2 defeat last month in a Senate committee, its chairman Sen. Edward T. Conroy (D-Prince George's) explained that had the bill gotten to the Senate floor, there would have been a "blood bath."
Denis, a Montgomery County Republican who is miffed about the new song bill, said he will oppose it.
"It's enough already," Denis said today. "We've aired it, and it's clear what the sentiment is on the matter. It's received more attention than it deserves." Denis should know. His sponsorship of the original bill catapulated him onto the network news and into newspapers across the country.
For his part, Speaker Cardin has not exactly thrown the full weight of his leadership behind the new bill. "In fact, I will probably not do any lobbying for it," Cardin said today.
But as he began to speak of the Robey proposal, to which he has lent his name as a cosponsor, Cardin warmed up to his subject. "This bill doesn't wipe out history. It doesn't rewrite history. Instead, we're going to add to history . . . to memoralize history," Cardin said, becoming more excited.
"You know, you've inspired me," he mused. "Maybe I'll do some work on this."
So House Bill 1821 now has the influential House speaker behind it and some heavy opposition from the Senate in front of it.
As Miller said, "Look, I told them in the Senate if they dared to bring that bill out on the floor, I'd filibuster."