Throughout the many years, I lived in Baltimore, I would often find myself gazing at Federal Hill, a neighborhood park known for its supreme view of the city that sits directly adjacent to the Inner Harbor. Visible from almost anywhere downtown, it’s mostly referenced historically for its Civil War occupation by the Union Army.
But it wasn’t usually the Union soldiers I thought of as I squinted up at the hill and pondered its long history. It was a spring parade and city party in 1788 that I most often tried to imagine.
That was a legendary day for the hill, as 4,000 people gathered to celebrate Maryland’s ratification of the new United States Constitution. The people in Baltimore on that May day in 1788 were most likely weary from years of war and the British tyranny that preceded it. But that didn’t matter. They were a brand-new nation freed from the yoke of British oppression, celebrating their heroes and looking forward to infinite liberty and prosperity. This was a moment of sheer joy for the new nation.
In what is still considered one of the most epic parties in Baltimore history (and I’ve been to some ragers), the revelers, led by Naval hero John Barney, brought a 15-foot scale model of a fully rigged sailing ship which they intended to affix to the crest of the hill, then called John Smith’s Hill, where the parade would end. But the enthusiasm for America, for liberty, for victory, and for hope overcame the celebration and the seaworthy model ship was instead launched into the harbor at the bottom of the hill to embark on a journey.
Barney later sailed the model from the harbor making several stops, eventually arriving at Mount Vernon where he presented the ship as a gift to the retired General George Washington. The ship was named “The Federalist,” and was so inspiring to Baltimoreans they renamed their beloved hill "Federal Hill" in its honor.
It’s easy to envision the joy of that day, looking at Federal Hill, now beautifully preserved by the parks department, with old trees, lush green grass, and sweeping views of the city. The laps of water splashing in the harbor and the sight of the antique tall ships and rebuilt 18th-century lighthouses make it easy to imagine yourself there, howling for freedom, charging glasses of brandy, and thanking God for victory over the British.
It’s likely more difficult, and certainly less pleasant, to imagine how quickly celebration and hope turned to terror in Baltimore when only 25 years later they were under attack by the British once again in the War of 1812. The city faced destruction, ruin, and death. The cause for celebration that day on Federal Hill faded instantly to a distant memory.
But something incredible happened at Fort McHenry in Baltimore in September of 1814. A lawyer imprisoned by the British listened to the sound of exploding shells and ceaseless fire against the fort throughout the night. The majestic, oversized flag that waved from McHenry, he assumed, would be totally destroyed – a frightful omen.
The sense of foreboding Francis Scott Key felt that night has become all too familiar in recent days as symbols of American liberty are destroyed at will by vicious mobs and anarchists bent on burning down our country and installing their own. And they seem to be succeeding with the blessing of weak-willed leaders.
But Key didn’t see the awful sight he had anticipated the following morning. He instead saw something that is difficult for many of us to see at this moment, when our history and treasured past is mocked and dismantled. He saw a miracle that morning; he saw proof that America would survive, no matter what bombs, or guns, or fire, or paint are thrown at her.
The flag was still there, waving over the land of the free and the home of the brave. The sight of the flag buffeting in the wind, bearing the colors of the USA was emotional for Key, so much so he wrote a poem about it that you may be familiar with.
The flag didn’t bow to British cannons or fire lapping at the fort’s outer walls. It didn’t give way to the threat of destruction that night. And it won’t budge a single inch today either.
For Key, the flag was a literal one, waving as unworldly proof of the fortitude of the United States and actual proof of the fort’s survival. Today, the vision of a waving Star-Spangled Banner at Fort McHenry must be a figurative one as we watch our own countrymen destroy all evidence of our national history and try to bully us into a Marxist hellscape.
This flag waves in the hearts of patriots and for the lovers of freedom. But we cannot allow our country to be dismantled for fear of being called names or being cast aside by peers. This country requires its people to love it, to fight for it, and preserve it – at all costs.
We toast tomorrow to 244 years since we made our Declaration of Independence from a tyrant king. The men who signed that document never thought it would be easy, but they knew it would be worth it. And now it is up to us to carry on the preservation of our rights and liberty, and American greatness. There is no one coming to save us from ourselves if we do not move to the front lines to protect our monuments, our history, our heritage, and our sacrifices.
This is the greatest country in the world because it is a country by the people and for the people and we are all endowed by our Maker to the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the responsibility and mandate of its people to remember that.
Have a blessed and wonderful Independence Day and may you all have the strength and courage of those that came before us in the difficult days ahead. God bless America.