Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key

[kee]
Key, Francis Scott, 1779-1843, American poet, author of the Star-spangled Banner, b. present Carroll co., Md. A lawyer, he was U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia (1833-41). His works include The Power of Literature and Its Connection with Religion (1834) and the posthumous collection Poems (1857), which contains several hymns.

Francis Scott Key (August 1, 1779January 11, 1843) was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, who wrote the words to the United States' national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Life

Francis Scott Key was born to Ann Louis Penn Dagworthy (Charlton) and Captain John Ross Key at the family plantation Terra Rubra in what was Frederick County and is now Carroll County, Maryland. His father John Ross Key was a lawyer, a judge and an officer in the Continental Army.

He studied law at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland and also learned under his uncle Philip Barton Key.

"The Star-Spangled Banner"

During the War of 1812, Key, accompanied by the American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner, dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, as the guests of three British officers: Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross. Skinner and Key were there to negotiate the release of a prisoner, Dr. William Beanes. Beanes was a resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland and had been captured by the British after he placed rowdy stragglers under citizen's arrest with a group of men. Skinner, Key, and Beanes were allowed to return to their own sloop, but were not allowed to return to Baltimore 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 13September 14, 1814.

When the smoke cleared, Key was able to see an American flag still waving. On the way back to Baltimore, he was inspired to write a poem describing his experience, "The Defence of Fort McHenry", which he published in the Patriot on September 20, 1814. He intended to fit the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven". 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.

Later life

In 1832, Key served as the attorney for Sam Houston during his trial in the U.S. House of Representatives for assaulting another Congressman. He published a prose work called The Power of Literature, and Its Connection with Religion in 1834.

In 1835, Key prosecuted Richard Lawrence for his unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President of the United States Andrew Jackson.

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. 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.

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

Other related items

In 1861, Key's grandson was imprisoned in Fort McHenry with the Mayor of Baltimore, George William Brown, and other locals deemed to be pro-South.

Key was a distant cousin and the namesake of F. Scott Fitzgerald whose full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. His direct descendants include geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan, guitarist Dana Key, and the American fashion designer and socialite Pauline de Rothschild.

His sister, Anne Phoebe Charlton Key, married Roger B. Taney, future Chief Justice of the United States and author of the Court's Dred Scott decision.

Robert Altman credited Key with the "title song" of Brewster McCloud, though it contained only John Stafford Smith's instrumentals.

Monuments and memorials

Media

See also

Notes

External links

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