Marc Leepson is the author of eight books, including Lafayette, Desperate Engagement, Saving Monticello, and Flag. Former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, his work has appeared in Smithsonian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today among others. He has been interviewed on the Today show, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, BBC’s Newshour, and the History Channel. He lives in Middleburg, Virginia.
Francis Scott Key is enshrined in America’s iconography as a paragon of patriotism on par with Betsy Ross, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, and John Hancock—individuals who hold exalted places in early American history for performing one memorable act. For Francis Scott Key, that immortal moment was writing “The Star-Spangled Banner” under the most dramatic (and unlikely) of circumstances: while witnessing the all-night Battle of Baltimore onboard a British ship in that city’s harbor. In What So Proudly We Hailed, historian Marc Leepson reveals Francis Scott Key as a man of his time, full of contradictions, as a slave owner who fought slave trafficking and defended slaves for free. An influential confidant and advisor to Andrew Jackson and a close friend of Senator John Randolph, Key’s home in Georgetown was a frequent gathering point for the intellectual heavyweights of the day. He was a leader of the American Colonization Society, a national movement that worked to send freed slaves back to Africa—a movement that led to the creation of the West African nation of Liberia. The first full-length biography of Francis Scott Key in more than 75 years, this is a fascinating story of a forgotten American patriot that makes plain his important legacy.
A fresh look at Francis Scott Key, a man who embodied the contradictions of his time, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner”