Sunday, July 4, 2010

Francis Scott Key


Francis Scott Key, author of the national anthem, was born in Frederick County, Maryland. While I was growing up there we were acquainted with many Keys, mostly of mixed African and European descent; I guess they may have been relatives of FSK's family or their servants; I do not know for certain. In Francis Scott's day the Keys were enormously wealthy and owned vast tracts of land. Francis Scott Key, a fervent Episcopalian and father of six children, was a highly successful attorney in Baltimore and Washington. During the War of 1812, the British had taken as a prisoner his friend, the elderly Dr. William Beanes. They were holding Dr. Beanes on a war ship in Baltimore Harbor.

On September 13, 1814, during a truce, Key and another friend asked permission to board the ship to secure the release of the old physician. They had with them the signed statements of British soldiers whom the doctor had treated. Upon hearing of the doctor's kindness and mercy, the British authorities agreed to release him. However, since the British were about to start bombarding Fort McHenry and the city of Baltimore, Key and his compatriots had to spend the night on a sloop in the harbor and watch the attack. So heavy was the bombing that Key doubted that there would be anything left of the fort. At dawn, when he saw through the mist and smoke the tattered American flag still flying, such was his joy and amazement that he jotted down some lines of poetry. He later added to the verses and set the it to the tune of an old drinking song. "The Star-Spangled Banner" became immediately popular, although it was not made the official anthem of the United States of America until 1931.

Patriotism is a virtue; the love of country is not unconnected with the love of parents and family. To hate or to despise one's own country is as unnatural as hating or despising one's father or mother. It does not mean being blind to faults and mistakes; to do so is not healthy. It is the duty especially of free citizens to be aware of the weaknesses of their country so that they may work for its improvement. I think that the "Star-Spangled Banner" embodies wholesome sentiments of the love of country; it is a shame that so many people no longer know how to sing it. Share

7 comments:

de Brantigny said...

Elena, An intreresting footnote to the Keys is this, FSk had a son named Phillip Barton Key. This son was having and affair witht the wife of a prominent anti-bellum politician, Daniel Sickles> SIckles killed Key in a jealous rage. It was Sickles who first used the temporary insanity defense when he stood trial for the crime. Sickles was aquitted of the crime. (His defense attorney was Edwin M Stanton, the future Sec of War under Lincoln.) He reconciled with his wife and was "not received" after that for his reconcilliation and not the peculiar defense.

Later Sickles became one of Mr Lincoln's political Generals. He was wounded at Gettysburg. His leg was sheared off by a cannon shot, and as Sickles, was carried off the field he tucked the severed leg under his arm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Sickles_leg.jpg

He became the Minister to Spain and in 1898 was instumental in bringing the US and Spain to war.

de Brantigny

elena maria vidal said...

That is truly interesting. Thank you, Richard!

S. Greg Wilson said...

Hello, there! Interesting thread facts! I'm interested in the mulatto Keys, as I am an AfrAm descendant of Key's brother-in-law, Roger Taney, by one of his slaves, purchased from Taney to be the wife of Jerimiah Mahammitt, of Mahajunga, Madagascar & Frederick, MD. That makes me, by marriage, related to Key, and F. Scott, too!

elena maria vidal said...

Mr. Wilson, that is utterly fascinating. As I said, when I was a child we were acquainted with a very nice family of Keys who lived outside of Urbana. I went to school with some of them; they were lovely, gracious people. Perhaps that family are distant relatives of yours. I have not lived in Frederick County for many years and have lost track of them. But they were a large family with many connections, highly respected by all.

Julygirl said...

Another lucky blip on the screen of history is that the poem endured and is so loved as our National Anthem. Many people are not knowledgeable of all the verses, but as a Marylander it is important to us. In September there is always a re-enactment in Baltimore at Fort McHenry which miraculously resisted the British attempt to bomb it into oblivion during the 'War of 1812", and bring our country to its knees. It was not meant to be. (We ourselves, in modern times, are doing a good job of that.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, indeed! I wonder if the famous politician Alan Keyes is related as well? He lives in that area, or used to, if I am not mistaken.

Happy 4th!!

Brantigny said...

For Mr Wilson, Roger Taney who rendered the dicission on Dred Scott? That is irony...