The Defence of Fort McHenry
The Immortally Important Fifteen-Star and Fifteen-Stripe Flag
By Ken Zurski
In December 1794, on the opening day of the Third Congress of the United States, the first order of business concerned the country’s symbol of freedom: the American flag.
In question was whether or not it should be changed.
Senator Stephen R. Bradley had introduced legislation that called for the flag to carry fifteen stripes and fifteen stars, two of each added to the current flag, to represent the newest additions to the Republic, his home state of Vermont and Kentucky. The measure passed through the Senate without debate.
The House however was another matter. Traditionalists wanted to keep the flag as originally intended. “We may go on adding and altering at this rate for a hundred years to come,” a Massachusetts Federalist argued.
Another lawmaker named Israel Smith was also against change. “Let us have no more alterations of this sort,” he insisted, citing among other things, the expenditure. Basically, he contended, continually altering the flag would be a costly venture. “Let the flag be permanent,” Smith demanded.
In the end, a slight majority agreed the flag should represent all states, lest they be offended.
The legislation passed 50-42.
Nearly two decades later, during the War of 1812, it was the sight of that altered fifteen-star flag flying high above the battle scarred Fort McHenry that inspired a Maryland lawyer to put his emotions into words. “O, say does that star spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Eventually the words of Francis Scott Key, who was aboard the British ship Tonnant to negotiate the release of U.S prisoners, was set to music and “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” known today as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was soon being performed at military inspired gatherings.
In 1931, thanks to a congressional resolution, a shortened version of the original song officially became the national anthem of the United States of America.
This entry was posted in History, Uncategorized and tagged American history, Fifteen-star flag, Francis Scott Key, History, Israel Smith, National anthem, Senator Stephen R. Bradley, The Defence of Fort McHenry, The Star-Spangled Banner, Third Congress of the United Sstates, War of 1812.