Monday, September 29, 2014

FROM THE SHORE DIMLY SEEN - FRANCIS SCOTT KEY



        Two hundred years ago tonight, a Maryland lawyer stood aboard the HMS Tonnant and in the dawn’s early light, witnessed one of the most inspiring events in American history.  His name was Francis Scott Key.  Key’s thoughts and impressions of the perilous fight against Fort McHenry led to his writing of a poem, which was set to music and became our National Anthem.

Francis Scott Key was born on August 21, 1779 to Ann Phoebe Penn Dagworthy (Charlton) and Captain John Ross Key at the family plantation Terra Rubra in what was Frederick County, Maryland. 


His father, John Ross Key, was a lawyer, a judge and an officer in the Continental Army. His great-grandparents on his father's side were Philip Key and Susanna Barton Gardiner, both of whom were born in London and immigrated to Maryland in 1726.


Key studied law at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland. He married Mary Tayloe Lloyd on January 1, 1802. The couple would go on to have 11 children. By 1805, Key had set up his legal practice in Georgetown, part of Washington, D.C.


During the War of 1812, Key, accompanied by the British Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner and dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, as the guests of three British officers: Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross. 


Skinner and Key were there to negotiate the release of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes, a resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland who had been arrested after putting rowdy stragglers under citizen's arrest. Skinner, 



Key and Beanes were not allowed to return to their own sloop because they had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units and with the British intent to attack Baltimore. As a result of this, Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13–14, 1814.

At dawn, Key was able to see an American flag still waving and reported this to the prisoners below deck. On the way back to Baltimore, he was inspired to write a poem describing his experience, "Defence of Fort M'Henry", which he published in the Patriot on September 20, 1814. 


He intended to fit it to the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven",  a popular tune Key had already used as a setting for his 1805 song "When the Warrior Returns," celebrating U.S. heroes of the First Barbary War. It has become better known as "The Star-Spangled Banner". 


Under this name, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (which had little effect beyond requiring military bands to play it) and then by a Congressional resolution in 1931, signed by President Herbert Hoover.


In 1832, Key served as the attorney for Sam Houston during his trial in the U.S. House of Representatives for assaulting another Congressman. Key was appointed as a United States District Attorney, serving from 1833 to 1841. In 1835, Key prosecuted Richard Lawrence for his unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President of the United States Andrew Jackson.


Key was a founding member and active leader of the American Colonization Society, the primary goal of which was to send free African-Americans back to Africa. Key, a slave-owner himself, used his position to suppress opponents of slavery. In 1833, he indicted Benjamin Lundy, editor of the anti-slavery publication, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, and his printer, William Greer, for libel after Lundy publishing an article that declared, 


While an active legal defender of slavery, Key was considered a decent master. He emancipated seven slaves from his own household and was sometimes publicly critical of slavery's cruelties. He often helped blacks bring cases to the circuit court.


In 1843, Key died at the home of his daughter Elizabeth Howard in Baltimore from pleurisy and was initially interred in Old Saint Paul's Cemetery in the vault of John Eager Howard. In 1866, his body was moved to his family plot in Frederick at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

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The Key Monument Association erected a memorial in 1898 and the remains of both Francis Scott Key and his wife, Mary Tayloe Lloyd, were placed in a crypt in the base of the monument.

Though Key had written poetry from time to time, often with heavily religious themes, these works were not collected and published until 14 years after his death. Two of Key's religious poems were used as Christian hymns, "Before the Lord We Bow" and "Lord, with Glowing Heart I'd Praise Thee." From 1818 until his death, Key was associated with the American Bible Society.


In 1806, Key's sister, Anne Phoebe Charlton Key, married Roger B. Taney, who would later become Chief Justice of the United States. In 1846, his daughter Alice married U.S. Senator George H. Pendleton. In 1859, Key's son Philip Barton Key II was shot and killed by Daniel Sickles – a U.S. Congressman who would serve as a general in the American Civil War – after he discovered that Philip Barton Key was having an affair with his wife. Sickles was acquitted in the first use of the temporary insanity defense.  In 1861, Key's grandson Francis Key Howard was imprisoned in Fort McHenry with the Mayor of Baltimore George William Brown and other locals deemed pro-South. Key was a distant cousin and the namesake of F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. 


Although many of the local Key/Kea family, which hails from Emanuel County will claim kin to the legendary lawyer, one former Dublin resident and her descendants are bona fide close relatives.   Phoebe Douglas, the mother-in- law of Capt.  Hardy B. Smith was related to Key through the Charlton family as her first cousin, once removed, making all descendants of Ella Few Douglas Smith and Mary Frances Wolfe  somewhat related to the author of the “Star Spangled Banner.” 





COMPLETE LYRICS TO THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER


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Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!