Francis Scott Key (1779 - 1843)
Key was the author of The Star-Spangled
Banner during the War of 1812.
The scion of a well-off Maryland family, he
was an influential young Washington attorney at the time of the war. Having
been sent aboard a British ship to negotiate the release of an American doctor
captured during the British attack on Washington, Key spent the night there
when the ship began bombarding Fort McHenry. The following morning he was
thrilled to see the American flag.
He wrote the poem rapidly on an envelope. A
few days later it was printed in the Baltimore American and
was soon being sung in taverns and theaters in Baltimore and elsewhere in
the country to the tune of the English drinking song To Anacreon in
Heaven. Key may have had the tune in mind when he composed the poem.
He wrote only a few other light verses in his
life. He later became the U.S. district attorney for the District of Columbia
and carried out negotiations with southwestern Indians.
be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes, and the wars
Blessed with victry and peace, may the
Praise the power that hath made and preserved
us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto, In God is our
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall
Oer the land of the free and the home
of the brave.
(Last verse of The Star-Spangled Banner,
REFERENCE: George Suejda, History
of the Star-Spangled Banner from 1814 to the Present (1969).
James Monroe (1758 - 1831)
Monroe was the last of the Virginia dynasty
of presidents who presided over the Era of Good Feelings.
He owed much of his political rise to Jefferson
and in 1788 purchased a new plantation in order to live closer to Monticello.
Although not present at the Constitutional Convention,
Monroe was a delegate to the Virginia ratifying convention, where he opposed
the Constitution. He was thus the only Anti-Federalist elected president.
As minister to France in 1794, Monroe was sharply
criticized for his excessively friendly remarks to the Revolutionary National
Convention. He maneuvered for the presidency as early as 1809 but backed down
when Madison became the clear favorite.
He was diligent, persevering, efficient, but
rather unimaginative and colorless, especially compared with the other Virginia
Quote: The Missouri
question absorbs, by its importance, and the excitement it has produced, every
other.I have never known a question so menacing to the tranquillity
and even the continuance of our Union as the present one. All other subjects
have given way to it and appear to be almost forgotten. (Letter to
REFERENCE: Harry Ammon, James
Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (1971).
John C. Calhoun (1782 - 1850)
Calhoun was Monroes secretary of war,
senatorial spokesman for the South, and a brilliant political theorist and
defender of slavery.
He was among Clays young war hawks
who advocated the War of 1812 and an ardent nationalist in the years following
the war. After seeking the presidency in 1824, he settled for the vice presidency
under Adams and then under Jackson.
His extended feud with Jackson began when Jackson
learned that Calhoun had opposed Jacksons invasion of Florida in cabinet
discussions. It reached fever pitch when Calhouns socially conscious
wife snubbed Peggy Eaton, forcing Calhouns resignation from the vice
Once he became a purely sectional figure, Calhoun
spent much time writing political theory, including his doctrine of the concurrent
majority. He also proposed the creation of a dual presidency, with
a northern president and a southern president each having mutual veto power.
He died shortly after his last speech was read
for him in the Senate during the debate over the Compromise of 1850. His last
words were, The South, the poor South.
Quote: Our fate
as a people is bound up in the question of preserving slavery. If we yield,
we will be extirpated; but if we successfully resist we will be the greatest
and most flourishing people of modern time. It is the best substratum of population
in the world; and one on which great and flourishing commonwealths may be
most easily and safely reared. (Speech, 1838)
REFERENCE: John Niven, John
C. Calhoun and the Price of Union (1988).
John Marshall (1755 - 1835)
Marshall was the chief justice who originated
judicial review and established the Supreme Court as an influential branch
Born in a log cabin on the frontier, he was
taught primarily by his father. He fought in many Revolutionary battles and
served at Valley Forge, remarking that the Revolution made him confirmed
in the habit of considering America as my country and Congress as my government.
Although he moved in aristocratic Federalist
circles in Washington, Marshall was the most democratic of men. He liked to
drink whiskey in taverns with ordinary country people, do his own marketing,
and play quoits and horseshoes with farmers. When not in his judicial robes,
he wore dirty, shabby clothes, and even his casual cousin Jefferson considered
his appearance unkempt.
Brother Story, thats the law. Now you find the precedents. (Comment
to Justice Joseph Story, c. 1820)
REFERENCE: Leonard Baker, John
Marshall: A Life in Law (1974).