Francis Scott Key and the Call of Freedom

Written by Mary DeWitt

During American history in the 1800s, patriotism in the colonies flourished. Many were prepared to give their life in order to maintain the spirit of freedom. This dedication came to the hearts of Americans through music, including the national anthem, written by Francis Scott Key. He once stated, “Then, in that hour of deliverance, my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?” (Leepson 162). Key knew how music impacts man, which shows in his creation of the well-known “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Because of his patriotism and love of freedom, Francis Scott Key created a musical masterpiece that has touched the lives and hearts of the American people throughout history.

Although Key’s poetic masterpiece is historically famous, the inspiration for this national anthem is not as well-known. After the burning of Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812, Key was sent on a rescue mission to save William Beanes, a friend who had been captured by the British. Since Key was a well-known lawyer, William’s family hoped he would be able to persuade the enemy to free his friend. When Key and Colonel Skinner reached the Tonnant, the British ship in Baltimore’s Harbor where negotiations were to take place, they began discussing the release of Beanes with the British General and Admiral aboard the ship. The enemy finally agreed to let William go, but on one condition: Key, Skinner, and Beanes were required to wait on a guarded American ship for 25 hours until the Battle at Fort McHenry ended. They agreed, reluctantly, in order to save their good friend. Through mortar shells and open gun fire, they watched the battle from the safety of the ship. Key said, in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives that day: “The patriot who feels himself in the service of God…has the promise of Almighty direction…” (Quotes HD). At the end of the bloodshed, the three Americans raised their eyes towards the sky and saw the waving American flag, signifying a U.S. victory. This image inspired Key to pen the famous poem originally titled, “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” which was later set to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” creating the famous national anthem entitled “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Though only an amateur poet, his uplifting and inspirational words has truly motivated patriots throughout history to press onward and fight for freedom.An excerpt from the national anthem says: “Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation” (U.S. Flag Site 4). Francis Scott Key, who seemed to be an ordinary man, created an extraordinary poetic masterpiece. How could someone so inexperienced pen something so spectacular? The answer is simple: it came from his heart. He believed in the cause of freedom so deeply it simply flowed from his fingertips. Such dedication stirs up others to stand for their freedom, to fight for their freedom, and to die for their freedom. Such patriotism calls to men who refuse to remain slaves to the tyranny around them. In times of trial, the call of freedom shouts to those who are willing to act on what they know to be true and right. This call of freedom, so beautiful and strong, is announced to our ears through music. Music unites and inspires men to carry on. Because of Francis Scott Key, our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” will continue to inspire the minds and hearts of the American people for centuries to come.




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