12 The Second War for Independence and, the Upsurge of Nationalism, 1812–1824 Chapter Themes Theme

character sketches Francis Scott Key (1779–1843)

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character sketches

Francis Scott Key (1779–1843)

Key was the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812.

The scion of a well-off Maryland family, he was an influential young Washington attorney at the time of the war. Having been sent aboard a British ship to negotiate the release of an American doctor captured during the British attack on Washington, Key spent the night there when the ship began bombarding Fort McHenry. The following morning he was thrilled to see the American flag.

He wrote the poem rapidly on an envelope. A few days later it was printed in the Baltimore American and was soon being sung in taverns and theaters in Baltimore and elsewhere in the country to the tune of the English drinking song “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Key may have had the tune in mind when he composed the poem.

He wrote only a few other light verses in his life. He later became the U.S. district attorney for the District of Columbia and carried out negotiations with southwestern Indians.

Quote: “Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes, and the war’s desolation
Blessed with vict’ry and peace, may the heaven-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.”
(Last verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” 1814)
reference: George Suejda, History of the Star-Spangled Banner from 1814 to the Present (1969).

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