Vantage Point: "In God is Our Trust"
By Ken Horn
June 23, 2013
Independence Day is right around the corner. Less than three decades after the end of the Revolutionary War that won the United States that independence, the former colonies once again found themselves embroiled with Great Britain. Two years into the conflict we now call the War of 1812, the British marched into Washington, D.C., nearly unopposed.
The U.S. Army and government abandoned the capital, escaping to Virginia. The humiliating British onslaught climaxed with the torching of the Capitol building, the White House and other structures. It took a providential storm to drive the British from the city.
During the following assault on Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, lawyer Francis Scott Key found himself aboard the admiral’s ship of the British fleet in order to negotiate the release of a medical doctor friend. The release terms attained, the two were temporarily detained while the bombardment of the fort continued. The darkness caused Key to wonder how the fort — and the flag — fared.
When the morning dawned, Key peered anxiously through the early mist that shrouded the ship. The flag was still flying! Quickly he scribbled some words on an envelope he’d been carrying. They were the lyrics of “Defense of Fort McHenry,” later to be called “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The last verse, which is seldom sung today, is significant. It read in part: “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust.’”
Key was a devout Christian who started thousands of Sunday Schools in his role with the American Sunday School Union. That final stanza was based upon Psalm 143:8: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee” (KJV).
It wasn’t until 1931 “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem. But 50 years after Key penned his tribute, “In God we trust” first appeared on U.S. coins — and in 1956 Congress declared it the national motto. By faith, Francis Scott Key saw that as the motto of our nation in 1814.
Trust in God is our heritage, our motto ... and in our national anthem.
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