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Alleghania, Alleghania, God Shed His Grace On Thee …

September 2019

Washington Irving was not a man given to idle intellectual speculation. But he was a patriotic man, and as Stephen W. Sears, a frequent contributor to AMERICAN HERITAGE , learned while doing some research in Tarrytown, New York, love of country once inspired in Irving an extremely odd notion, which he sent off to the editor of Knickerbocker Magazine under the pseudonym of “Geoffrey Crayon.” The magazine published it in its August, 1839, issue:

“We want a national name . We want it poetically, and we want it politically. With the poetical necessity of the case I shall not trouble myself. I leave it to our poets to tell how they manage to steer that collocation of words, ‘The United States of North America,’ down the swelling tide of song, and to float the whole raft out upon the sea of heroic poesy. I am now speaking of the mere purposes of common life. How is a citizen of this republic to designate himself? As an American? There are two Americas, each subdivided into various empires, rapidly rising in importance. As a citizen of the United States? It is a clumsy, lumbering title, yet still it is not distinctive; for we have now the United States of Central America; and heaven knows how many ‘United States’ may spring up under the Proteus changes of Spanish America. …

“I want an appellation that shall tell at once, and in a way not to be mistaken, that I belong to this very portion of America, geographical and political, to which it is my pride and happiness to belong; that I am of the Anglo-Saxon race which founded this Anglo-Saxon empire in the wilderness. …

“We have it in our power to furnish ourselves with such a national appellation, from one of the grand and eternal features of our country; from that noble chain of mountains which formed its back-bone, and ran through the ‘old confederacy,’ when it first declared our national independence. I allude to the Appalachian or Alleghany mountains. We might do this without any very inconvenient change in our present titles. We might still use the phrase, ‘The United States,’ substituting Appalachia or Alleghania, (I should prefer the latter), in place of America. The title of Appalachian, or Alleghanian, would still announce us as Americans, but would specify us as citizens of the Great Republic. Even our cold national cypher of U.S.A. might remain unaltered, designating the United States of Alleghania.

“These are crude ideas, Mr. Editor, hastily thrown out.…”