ChesterNewMatterWinter2017 - 13

Did You Ever Wonder?
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
The writers of the above letter had taken a small
portion of the third stanza to make a claim that is not
supported by everyone. The explanation of what Francis
Scott Key, Esquire, meant when he wrote what is now
our National Anthem is still being discussed by differing
sides. Wiki lists a commentary on differing views that
the reader can consider:
"Absent elaboration by Francis Scott Key prior to his
death in 1843, some have speculated in modern times
about the meaning of phrases or verses. According
to British historian Robin Blackburn, the words "the
hireling and slave" allude to the thousands of ex-slaves
in the British ranks organised as the Corps of Colonial
Marines, who had been liberated by the British and
demanded to be placed in the battle line "where
they might expect to meet their former masters."[7]
Nevertheless, Professor Mark Clague, a professor of
musicology at the University of Michigan, argues that
the "middle two verses of Key's lyric vilify the British
enemy in the War of 1812" and "in no way glorifies
or celebrates slavery."[8] Clague writes that "For Key
... the British mercenaries were scoundrels and the
Colonial Marines were traitors who threatened to
spark a national insurrection."[8] This harshly antiBritish nature of Verse 3 led to its omission in sheet
music in World War I, when Britain and the U.S. were
allies.[8] Responding to the assertion of writer Jon
Schwarz of The Intercept that the song is a "celebration
of slavery,"[9] Clague said that: "The reference to slaves
is about the use, and in some sense the manipulation,
of black Americans to fight for the British, with the
promise of freedom. The American forces included
African-Americans as well as whites. The term
'freemen,' whose heroism is celebrated in the fourth
stanza, would have encompassed both."[10]
Others suggest that "Key may have intended the
phrase as a reference to the British Navy's practice of
impressment (kidnapping sailors and forcing them to
fight in defense of the crown), or as a semi-metaphorical
slap at the British invading force as a whole (which
included a large number of mercenaries)."[11]"
I have left the footnote numbers in the above so
the reader knows that there is some authority for the
opinions made.
In order to determine more about Mr. Key, I thought
it best to once again look him up on wiki and see what it

www.chescobar.org
had to say about him and slavery. So I think I can clear
the air about Mr. Key. I direct the reader to: https://
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Scott_Key. As it turns
out, he was a slave owner. But like any criticism, he was
more than that fact presents.
"Key purchased his first slave in 1800 or 1801 and
owned six slaves in 1820.[15] Mostly in the 1830s,
Key manumitted (set free) seven slaves, one of whom
(Clem Johnson) continued to work for him for wages
as his farm's foreman, supervising several slaves.[16]
Throughout his career Key also represented several
slaves seeking their freedom in court (for free), as well
as several masters seeking return of their runaway
slaves.[17][18] Key, Judge William Leigh of Halifax,
and bishop William Meade were administrators of
the will of their friend John Randolph of Roanoke,
who died without children and left a will directing
his executors to free his more than four hundred
slaves. Over the next decade, beginning in 1833, the
administrators fought to enforce the will and provide
the freed slaves land to support themselves.[19]"
For those of you who do pro bono work, you can see
that his professional contributions straddled both sides
of the slavery table. Putting it in basic definitions, was
he a bad man or a good man? He must have been bad
because he had slaves. Right? He must have been good
because he freed his slaves and helped free hundreds
more. Right? So do you use a plus and minus to cancel
out and say he was just a man? It seems to me that you,
the reader, will make that decision. One thing I believe
is that he was against the military from England who
wanted to continue to mistreat our country and most of
its citizens.
So, next step was to see what may affect this
controversy about whether one should stand for the
National Anthem. Ironically, our elected members of
Congress passed a law on March 3, 1931, (signed into law
by former President Herbert Hoover) that tells us how to
honor our National Anthem.
36 U.S.C. ยง 301, states that
"National anthem
(a) Designation. The composition consisting of the
words and music known as the Star-Spangled
Continued on page 14
New Matter | 13


http://www.chescobar.org http://https:// http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Scott_Key

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