Francis Scott Key tells a Story of September 1814

Francis Scott Key

On August 6, 1834 a dinner was held in Frederick, Maryland for the Andrew Jackson Democrats of that county. The guest of honor was the Honorable Roger Brooke Taney, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (1833-1834) and soon to be the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1836-1864). Accompany Taney was his old law partner Francis Scott Key. The Frederick County Courthouse yard was decorated with U.S. flags as 500 guests partook of a dinner that afternoon. On the stage were portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. At the close of Mr. Taney’s speech, Mr. Key, the fifty-five year old author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” rose to address the crowd. An unknown news correspondent noted the following speech. It is the only time that Mr. Key had addressed the events of September 1814:

“…I saw the flag of my country waving over a city – the strength and pride of my native State – a city devoted to plunder and desolution by its assailants. I witnessed the preparation for its assaults, and I saw the array of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the noise of the conflict fell upon my listening ear, and told me that “the brave and the free” had met the invaders…Then did I remeber that there were gathered around that banner, among its defenders, men who had heard and answered the call of their country – from these mountain sides, from this beautiful valley, and from this fair city of my native Country; and though I walked upon a deck surrounded by a hostile fleet, detained as a prisoner, yet was my step firm, and my heart strong, as these recollections came upon me. Through the clouds of war, the stars of that banner still shone in my view, and I saw the discomfited host of its assailants driven back in ignominy to their ships. Then, in that hour of deliverance and joyful triumph, my heart spoke; and “Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country deserve a song?” was its question. With it came an inspiration not to be resisted; and even though it had been a hanging matter to make a song, I must have written it. Let the praise, then, if any be due, be given, not to me, who only did what I could not help doing; not to the writer, but to the inspirers of the song!…”

 Source: Francis Scott Key: Life and Times by Edward S. Delaplaine (New York: Biography Press, 1937), 379-380; Baltimore Patriot, August 15, 1834.

Published on February 13, 2011 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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