by Dr. Shelli Manuel PhD. – founder of SingItAmerica. “Sing it loud! Sing it Proud! It’s your national anthem! Sing It America!”
Author of the Star Spangled Banner
Speaking into the controversy of 2017 about the 3rd verse of the National Anthem.
Francis Scott Key did not write about the American Slave population in his 3rd verse of the Star Spangled Banner, nor about the paid indentured servants of the colonies. He was instead writing aboard the British Ship as he watched the bombardment of his beloved Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. He was himself that night a captive under British Tryany as he had earlier that day entered the ship to broker the freedom of his friend, Dr. Bean, who was imprisoned for the crime of having treated the wounds of the British and Americans alike during the war of 1812.
Francis Scott Key was referring to those that the British had enslaved aboard the ships and in the process of the war. And he was speaking of mercenaries of various nationalities, and traitors to America of several races, and of escaped slaves whom they had re-enslaved as gunners on deck, the first to be shot for the British by the Americans they were attacking. Escaped slaves in the command of the deceptive British hands, therefore paid a dearer price that night in Baltimore’s famous battle, in their deaths than those slave still navigating the rough shoals of society in America for several more decades to come. Key spoke of the their own blood having washed out their foul footstep’s pollution, the British, the mercenaries, the foolish “traitors”, who died in the deception offered to them”. It was in the context of the British having attacked America to enslave us all. And an interesting footnote is: Sadly the British started the slave trade during a war with a pope, when Sir John Hawkin’s nephew, Sir Francis Drake, got the demonic idea to enslave the African people that John had rescued out of the cargo hold of a sinking Portuguese ship that had attacked them. So Key was referring to the atrocities of the British in their long standing habit of enslaving people.
A young black America, Grace Wisher had sown stars on the flag that flew over Fort McHenry that night. She had done it as an indentured servant, working by contract for 7 years for room and board, after which she was a productive and totally free citizen. Indentured servants, such as those on the ships following the MayFlower, proved to be very productive good strong American citizens.
Francis Scott Key also risked his very life to save the lives of some black slaves trying to gain their freedom, and he stepped into a lynching mob to prevent the hanging of a black man who had not been given a fair trial.
Key freed four of his slaves in 1842. Key kept his childhood promise to his “best friend”, a black slave on the estate in which they were both born. To his boyhood chum, Clem Johnson, Key offered to provide a “home until his death.”
A QUOTE FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN NEWSPAPER (July 26, 2014):
“What raised eyebrows was that Key also donated his legal services to some African-Americans who were fighting for their freedom under a 1783 law that prohibited slaveholders from other states from bringing their human chattel into Maryland to live. Key won several of those cases.
“It was rare for a white lawyer to do that,” Leepson says. “That was a gutsy thing for him to do.”
Born to an aristocratic family on a plantation in Carroll County, MD near Annapolis, Key would have had a very difficult issue on race/slavery to sort out as did all the patriots that formed this nation, at that time. The Bible in the epistle of the Romans states in a modern version that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing (by the preaching) of the word of God.” Romans 10:17. Thus, any Biblical statements wrongfully taught would have the same effect of inspiring wrong faith, or wrong actions. Furthermore, some early founding fathers wrongfully believed in “replacement” theology that stated at it’s core, that they were the “New” Israel. Those preaching such ignorance did not foresee the regathering of Israel in 1948 to the Middle East. So? God was not through with Israel and they didn’t need to be replaced after all. In order to sustain the plantation culture that made these folks prosperous and able to compete in the Old World Markets abroad, they had to have large tireless work forces. Thus, the invention of British Slave markets played right into that ‘need’ and ‘greed’ from both sides of the sea. And to ease the conscience of troubled “Christian ” hearts, sermons flowed from colonial pulpits for well over 150 years, assuring the congregations and the wealthy ‘tithers’ that “All was well, for they, like the old testament patriarchs were blessed of God to possess slaves“. But the comparison was faulty, as the wars and cultures of the Middle East in ancient times were very complex and vastly different from the colonial American equation and the history of Europe where slavery had not been so prevalent until Britain re-invented it and ruled it with their activities in trading with America and other endeavors in the nearby Rum islands of the Caribbean, (to which they briefly turned their attention after being initially whipped in the American Revolution).
Britain returned to American focus in the first decade of the 1800’s. They hoped to fuel the slave trade to higher levels to keep an active trade going with the colonist. The Abolitionist and other issues greatly hindered this renewed endeavor.
Thus, Francis Scott Key commented on the their foul blood not being able to the, refuge nor the hireling and the slave.
It was all aimed against the British tyrants, not at enforcing slavery in America, nor of approval of it, nor of racism.
And, he, like Jefferson, Washington and others before him, had to sort out the heavy plate they had been handed in inheriting plantations and the slave populations of them. What to do? Where to turn them out to? More rough treatment in a society of carpet-baggers and thugs ready to re enslave them more brutally? With little or no education to survive outside the sheltered plantation environment of all they had ever known? Was it benevolence to do that or to gradually change society and prepare a place for that effort to succeed? This was the raging debate. It certainly doesn’t reek of racism, but more so of the complexity of the society and the age in which they lived. And to loose the function and economic stability of the plantation life in America would further have endangered all in the attack of England bearing down on them to crush and cease their nation. The tyrants would have been far more cruel to the slaves, having started the slave trade themselves. And to make matters worse in the pre-American revolutionary times, men such as Thomas Jefferson had to decide which war to fight with limited resources and time? To free the slaves or to free the entire colony from King George first? The laws of England forbidding them to release their slaves at all and the stiff tariff of taxes upon them for so doing, meant if a man inherited a plantation of a hundred slaves, he would have had to live a hundred years or longer to be allowed to release only 6 per year, only that if the courts of the King agreed in a ruling with hearings. And to approach the court on such a question could have meant the ceasing of the entire plantation and the imprisonment of the owner and the re-selling of the slaves!! (There is a lecture available on this in Williamsburg, VA living museum project of that town.)
QUOTE From Baltimore Sun: “So if Key “was an early and ardent opponent of slave trafficking,” according to Leepson, it wouldn’t necessarily strike his peers as inconsistent that he owned slaves himself.”
If Key or others are quoted out of context, (such as in Key’s court cases to defend slaves), that he thought the black man to be less intelligent, then it is not accurate. If he said they were not well educated, that in his day was true, as it had been stoutly denied to them as a race to have an education, all but a few house servants, overhearing the masters and their children study. But it suits people today in the 2000’s with an agenda (to fuel racial riots and unrest and to topple statues and corrupt the performances of the National Anthem), to do so. If he or any other stated that black men were immoral, that too must not be heard out of context. They were most often not allowed to accompany the Caucasian population to church, and therefore considered (wrongfully but generally), as heathen by the Caucasian society. That did not necessarily mean they were considered to be evil or to have committed crimes. The semantics is the issue and again it doesn’t translate fully to our modern use of those words without the understanding of what was the general ideal of that day. In arguing for the life of a slave, as he did, Key may well have attempted to get a judge or jury to have compassion on a soul that was “ignorant of the law” or “the morality expected of him“, as a non member of the social circle trying to hang him. For that argument to save a life, he may well have stated the black man he was defending was “ignorant” and “immoral”. Those listening to this heard it differently than those stirring up trouble today. The ones in the 1800’s would have heard it with the intent of evoking their pitty; “uneducated, and unconverted to civility of churchianity“. That doesn’t mean Key was condemning the character of Black men. The context is important.
QUOTE OF BALTIMORE SUN: “On the other hand, it was Key who stood in front of a jail door and faced down the white lynch mob that wanted to skip the trial and hang the suspect, Arthur Bowen, from the nearest tree.”
So, to judge Francis Scott Key by todays ideals is faulty and wrong. He was a man caught in an extremely difficult gear changer of history and choices were not so simple as they might now seem in looking back on history instead of living in the crucible of it.
We also now live in an age where people can no longer read in cursive handwriting, most could not read the original verses that Key penned on that British ship, a captive, that night of 1812. Nor can they read the journals or other documents of the age. And all the children are learning today are the revisionist accounts in their elementary schools and even in their colleges. This further fuels the unrest.
I know first hand that many who owned slaves in the North or in Maryland the ‘ol line state’ on the boarder of North and South, were in fact part of the facade while all the while running underground railroads. My family, the Ferrell did that in Churchville and Perryville, MD. At the ‘respectable aristocratic mansion” of “Medical Hall” on Thomas Run Road, they had a “slave” kitchen and “slave quarters” with what appeared to authorities to be a normal estate of that day with slaves. It was the first medical school in the nation with John Archer, one of my distant ancestors. But under the obvious first floor kitchen and operations for all prying eyes to investigate, there was in fact a sub basement and a tunnel. The underground railroad was everyone’s pet project there. Both of the white and the black residents at Medical Hall. That was an escape route to be taken above ground not far from the location in the night to more tunnels in Perryville to the Steel and Maxwell families to be ferried by water safely to the north in PA. So, as in that case the outward appearance of running a slave plantation would have proven false to the insiders and true to the accusers.
QUOTE FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN:
“Leepson’s book devotes considerable space to Key’s role in co-founding the American Colonization Society, which sought to solve America’s race problem by shipping thousands of free blacks (but no slaves) to Africa to establish a homeland there. The result is the modern nation of Liberia.
The Colonization Society has a mixed record, to say the least. On the plus side, Leepson writes that the Society was a factor in drying up the slave trade in that part of Africa.
But there were staggering minuses.” This is not to say that it owes to the volition of Francis Scott Key. He could not organize any such action in Washington DC to ship away slaves ‘owned’ by colonist in pre-civil war times. To have done so, as a lawyer, would have broken known laws of his day, and destroyed all respect of his voice to accomplished in congressional circles the audience needed for establishing the one glimmer of hope in at the least,, being able to return those black men who had gained freedom and an ability to leave America to another homeland. Furthermore, Key had no modern equipment of camera, internet, fax machine or TV to monitor or understand the final outcome of his noble actions in trying to establish Lybia in Africa for the Black Free Men, an ocean away, once they got there.
Then there is the controversy of why the Attorney General; Francis Scott Key, later in life attacked the abolitionist movement that were causing riots and unrest in the city of Washington DC. It is not to say he was against abolition as his other track record truly shows he supported it and was a friend to the black man as best he could manage in the society he was navigating in on those issues of his day. But he was more likely stoutly against the rioting in the capitol city and the disturbance of safety for all concerned. The manner of the abolitionist was the problem in that incident, not the belief or the goal of freedom. Again, context is crucial to comprehend this and not mis quote or misconstrue his actions.
QUOTE of SMITHSONIAN.COM:(Francis Scott Key Reluctant Patriot) “A religious man, Key believed slavery sinful; he campaigned for suppression of the slave trade. “Where else, except in slavery,” he asked, “was ever such a bed of torture prepared?”.
QUOTE FROM ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA: “Key was also an early and ardent opponent of slave trafficking. Although he was a slaveholder from a large slave-owning family, he treated his own slaves humanely and freed several during his lifetime. He provided free legal advice to slaves and freedmen in Washington, D.C., including civil actions in which enslaved individuals petitioned for their freedom.”
QUOTE FROM WONDERSANDMARVELS.COM : A Friend of Men of Color: Francis Scott Key & Slavery
Early in June of 1842, a huge crowd of mourners turned out for the funeral of William Costin, the widely respected leader of the free African-American community in the nation’s capital. More than seventy carriages filled with people, some of them white, trailed his casket to the cemetery, followed by a long line of men on horseback, all of them African-Americans with one exception. The one white rider was the noted Washington, D.C., lawyer Francis Scott Key.
It “must be admitted,” an abolitionist newspaper commented, “that for a distinguished white citizen of Washington to ride alone among a larger number of colored men in doing honor to the memory of a deceased citizen of color evinces an elevation of soul above the meanness of popular prejudice, highly honorable to Mr. Key’s profession as a friend of men of color. He rode alone. . . . .
“If ever man was a true friend to the African race, that man was Francis Scott Key,” his friend, the Rev. John T. Brooke, one wrote. “Throughout his own region of the country, he was proverbially the colored man’s friend. He was their standing gratuitous advocate in courts of justice, pressing their rights to the extent of the law, and ready to brave odium or even personal danger in their behalf.”
QUOTE FROM CNN.COM: (Marc Clague)
The issue is not about racism. The issue was about sustaining the largest experiment of Freedom ever taken by any race at any time; the UNITED STATE OF AMERICA. And Francis Scott Key, a christian, did as much as anyone of his day to progress the freedom of the black man and to promote the patriotism of all American citizens.
3 Star General Jerry Boyken, former joint chief of staff member, once told me in 2014, “The national anthem, Star Spangled Banner, is the patriotic anchor of national defense. If we loose that, our children will be marching to the tune of tyrants once again!”
STAND for the National Anthem! With Pride in our nation, honor for our veterans, love for all me and our God.
See the link of the former FBI investigator after 911: Marine John Guandolo of “Understanding the Threat”. He speaks of the abuse to the Black people of America by ISIS and American PLO plots to rouse up racial tension and topple the statues with the slogan to spread among the Black Muslim converts, “Black Lives Matter”. All coined and plotted in Chicago over a decade ago!