war hymns

Democracy at Home, Imperialism Abroad

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States

“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States” by Howard Chandler Christy, oil on canvas, 1940. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, as it relates to the military and war, specifies that:

The Congress shall have power To . . . provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States (Clause 1);

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water (Clause 11);

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years (Clause 12);

To provide and maintain a Navy (Clause 13);

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces (Clause 14);

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions (Clause 15);

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States . . . (Clause 16).

In short, the elected representatives of the people in Congress are constitutionally empowered on military matters and warfare, including the declaration of war. (more…)

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Two War Hymns Overturned

US soldiers in the Philippines, Manila, during the Philippine-American war, 1899. (Credit: Library of Congress)

US soldiers in the Philippines, Manila, during the Philippine-American war, 1899. (Credit: Library of Congress)

In 1861, abolitionist Julia Ward Howe heard Union troops singing at a review outside Washington D.C. She composed the well-known verses of the Battle Hymn of the Republic to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.” In time, the song with her words became the most recognized hymn of the Civil War. Her last stanza:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on. (Civil War Heritage Trails)

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain taken by A. F. Bradley in New York, 1907.

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain taken by A. F. Bradley in New York, 1907.

In 1901, during the War in the Philippines that followed the Spanish-American War, Mark Twain—most glorious of American Tricksters—mused that Filipinos, to whom we were extending the “Blessings of Civilization,” were surely saying to themselves: “There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land.” In Twain’s estimation, it was necessary that the Battle Hymn of the Republic be “Brought Down to Date” to conform to the kind of war the U.S. was fighting in the Pacific. (more…)