Star-Spangled Banner poem turns 206; Constitution Day is Sept. 17


Two of America’s most iconic national symbols celebrate anniversaries in September.

Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 is the 206th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s "Defence of Fort M'Henry," which would become “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (It became the national anthem March 3, 1931.)

Key (1779-1843), then a 35-year-old Maryland and Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote the poem as he watched the British Royal Navy’s bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Sept. 13-14, 1814 Battle of Baltimore, five months before the end of the War of 1812. Key was being held prisoner aboard-ship by the British until after the battle because he knew of British plans for the attack on Baltimore. Key had been meeting with British officers about a prisoner exchange.

British composer John Stafford Smith (1750-1836) wrote the music in the 1770s for “The Anacreontic Song” for the gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians that he belonged to in London. The tune was adopted as the tune for the Star-Spangled Banner soon after Key’s poem was written.

Almost exactly 27 years earlier, on Sept. 17, 1787, 39 delegates (including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton) to the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia for the last time to sign the document they had spent almost four months drafting – it contains 7,762 words (India’s is the longest: 146,385 words; Monoco’s is the shortest: 3,814).

Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 marks the 233rd anniversary of the signing of that historic document, which was ratified and became the supreme law of the land June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire approved it, the last of the nine states required for its ratification. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, Dec. 7, 1787; Rhode Island was the last, May 29, 1790.

Before the Constitution was adopted, the United States and its nearly four million residents were governed by the Articles of Confederation, approved by the Second Continental Congress Nov. 15, 1777 and coming into force March 1, 1781, after ratification by all 13 states.

The U.S. Constitution is the world’s oldest functioning constitution, pre-dating second-place the Kingdom of Norway’ constitution (1814) by almost 26 years. The Netherlands has the third oldest (1815), Belgium the fourth (1831) and Denmark the fifth (1849).

New Mexico in 1787 was known as Santa Fe de Nuevo México and was a province of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Its Spanish governor was Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto (1736-88).

New Mexico was still under Spanish rule in 1814. Governing that year were José Manrique and Alberto Maynez, the 60th and 61st Spanish governors of New Mexico. The last Spanish governor of New Mexico left office in 1822, when the Republic of Mexico (including the area that would become New Mexico) gained independence from Spain.

Initially a province of the Estado Interno del Norte (its capital was Chihuahua, Mexico), New Mexico became a separate territory July 6, 1824.