Francis Scott Key (August 1, 1779 – January 11, 1843) was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Frederick, Maryland, who is best known for writing the lyrics for the American national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Key observed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814 during the War of 1812. He was inspired upon seeing the American flag still flying over the fort at dawn and wrote the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry"; it was published within a week with the suggested tune of the popular song "To Anacreon in Heaven". The song with Key's lyrics became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner" and slowly gained in popularity as an unofficial anthem, finally achieving official status more than a century later under President Herbert Hoover as the national anthem.
Key was a lawyer in Maryland and Washington D.C. for four decades and worked on important cases, including the Burr conspiracy trial, and he argued numerous times before the Supreme Court. He was nominated for District Attorney for the District of Columbia by President Andrew Jackson, where he served from 1833 to 1841. Key was a devout Episcopalian.
Key owned slaves from 1800, during which time abolitionists ridiculed his words, claiming that America was more like the "Land of the Free and Home of the Oppressed". As District Attorney, he suppressed abolitionists and did not support an immediate end to slavery. He was also a leader of the American Colonization Society which sent freed slaves to Africa. He freed some of his slaves in the 1830s, paying one ex-slave as his farm foreman. He publicly criticized slavery and gave free legal representation to some slaves seeking freedom, but he also represented owners of runaway slaves.
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