What So Proudly We Hailed
Francis Scott Key Biography

Excerpt from America’s Star-Spangled Story 
by Jane Hampton Cook,
printed with permission from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas .

People take pride in many things. Houses. Hometowns. Home states. Sometimes pride unites. Together mothers and fathers beam with pride over their children’s accomplishments. Colleagues cheer each other and celebrate when their business succeeds.

Sometimes pride divides. High school friends choose different colleges and root against each other for rival teams. Residents of different states boast of better food, scenery, and sports.

American pride can take on many forms and faces: parades, fireworks, Olympic athletes, and military members. When a country goes to war, however, a nation needs uniting the most. But disagreement over a war’s necessity and the carnage of battle can mark the clearest of dividing lines.

As president of the United States, James Madison experienced this problem. When Congress declared war against Englandin 1812, he told the American people that multiple diplomatic discussions over the issues of impressment and fair trade had failed. In order to survive as a country, America needed to thrive economically. Britain still refused to “yield to the claims of justice or renounce the errors of a false pride.” War was the result. The president soon saw that politics divided Americans into supporters and opponents of the first war since the Revolution.

At age sixty-three, Madisonhad come to power because he had played an important role in forging the U.S. Constitution, a major source of American pride. His personal background was also worthy of respect. Hailing from a prominent Virginia farming family, he’d studied law at the college in Princeton, New Jersey, where his mentor was a minister and the college’s president.

Francis Scott Key Biography

Though he also came from a farming family, at age thirty-five Francis Scott Key was much younger than the president in 1814 and took pride in his home state of Maryland. Attending St. John’sCollege in Annapolis, he’d considered becoming a preacher before also finding his calling in the law.

Key had not been a supporter of Mr. Madison’s war, however. To one of the president’s most vocal opponents, he later complained about the “abominable war.” He also abhorred the fact that the start of the war “was received with public rejoicings” in Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city.

Within hours on September 1, 1814, after hearing that the British military had arrested one of his friends, Dr. William Beanes, Key put aside his political differences and called upon President Madison. Because the White House had been burned, the president and his wife, Dolley, were staying at her sister’s Washington, DC townhome.

Key’s meeting with the president was productive. Agreeing that Beanes should be released, Madison authorized Key to go to Baltimore to find John Skinner, the military’s prisoner of war negotiator. Together they embarked on a special mission to negotiate a deal for Dr. Beanes with British officers.

Though holding different views on the war, pride in their country united Key and Madison that day.

Soon Key headed to Baltimore, along with thousands of others hailing from different towns but proudly united in defeating the British and saving independence in their wake. There the sight of the U.S. flag flying over Fort McHenry after the battle of Fort of McHenry on September 14, 1814, inspired Key to write the words that became the national anthem.

Discover more about how Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner and read America's Star-Spangled Story.


American Phoenix
John Quincy and Louisa Adams, 
the War of 1812, and the Exile the Saved American Independence

by Jane Hampton Cook
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, a HarperCollins Imprint
Official Book Trailer
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Book Club Discussion Questions

2014 interviews
First Ladies and Foreign Policy
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Book Recounts John Quincy Adams Political Resurrection
"Writing is an endless canvas" Jane Hampton Cook p. 42-43
Jane Hampton Cook--Life's Detours

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