Francis Scott Key – I Don’t Believe There Are Any New Objections To Be Discovered To The Truth Of Christianity
Francis Scott Key was the author of our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”. The biography below gives the story of the circumstances surrounding the writing. He wrote it as a poem after the British attack on Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. It did not officially become the national anthem until 1931.
The letters below between Mr. Key and John Randolph are some of my favorite Christian apologetics quotes from our Founding Fathers. Mr. Key is responding to a letter from Mr. Randolph in which Randolph mentions a Jewish book that, apparently, contains arguments against Christianity.
Mr. Key makes the statement, “I don’t believe there are any new objections to be discovered to the truth of Christianity, though there may be some art in presenting old ones in a new dress.” He continues, “Men may argue ingeniously against our faith—as indeed they may against any thing—but what can they say in defence of their own? I would carry the war into their own territories.”
Mr. Key ends with the statement, “I can never doubt [. . .] that all who inquire, with that sincerity and earnestness which so awful a subject requires, will find the truth.” This reminds me of the statement by Thomas Jefferson, “truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, and is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and can have nothing to fear from the conflict, unless (by human interposition) disarmed of her natural weapons – free argument and debate: errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”
I have included an excerpt from Mr. Randolph’s reply to Mr. Key’s letter. Mr. Randolph states, “I cannot see how the human mind, unassisted by the light of Christianity, can stop half way at deism, instead of travelling the whole length to which fair deduction would lead it, to frozen, cheerless atheism.” Speaking of the Bible, he goes on to conclude that the New Testament is the “inevitable conclusion” to the Old Testament.
Quotes from Francis Scott Key
Key to RandolphGeorgetown, January 20, 1814.
My dear Friend,— I have no news that I think would interest you. Cheves is said to have been made Speaker, against the wishes of the administration party, who were very active for Grundy. I cannot help thinking his election a favorable circumstance.
I can hear nothing of the book you mention (English) from any one but Swift, who says he heard it spoken of in New-York as an ingenious performance. I would read it, and give you my opinion of it, if I came across it, provided it was not too long. I don’t believe there are any new objections to be discovered to the truth of Christianity, though there may be some art in presenting old ones in a new dress. My faith has been greatly confirmed by the infidel writers I have read; and I think such would be the effect upon any one who has examined the evidences. Our Church recommends their perusal to students of divinity, which shows she is not afraid of them. Men may argue ingeniously against our faith—as indeed they may against any thing—but what can they say in defence of their own? I would carry the war into their own territories. I would ask them what they believed. If they said they believed any thing, I think that thing might be shown to be more full of difficulties, and liable to infinitely greater objections than the system they opposed, and they more credulous and unreasonable for believing it. If they said they believed nothing, you could not, to be sure, have any thing further to say to them. In that case they would be insane, or, at best, illy qualified to teach others what they ought to believe or disbelieve.
I can never doubt (for we have the word of God for it, and it is so plainly a consequence of his goodness) that all who inquire, with that sincerity and earnestness which so awful a subject requires, will find the truth—“Seek and ye shall find.” Did you ever read “Grotius de Veritate?” I should like to see an infidel attempt an answer to that book. . . . .Raiidolph to KeyRichmond, February 17, 1814.
Dear Frank: —You plead want of time, and I may, with equal truth declare, that I have nothing worth twelve and half cents—which, I believe, is the postage from here to the city of O. Indeed I have been living myself in “a world without souls,” until my heart is “as dry as a chip,” and as cold as a dog’s nose.” Do not suppose, however, that the Jew book has made any impression upon me; as I cannot see how the human mind, unassisted by the light of Christianity, can stop half way at deism, instead of travelling the whole length to which fair deduction would lead it, to frozen, cheerless atheism; so it appears to me most wonderful, that any man, believing in the Old Testament, can reject the New; and it is perhaps not the least conclusive of the proofs of the authenticity of the latter, that the Jews, admitting as it were the premises, should blindly reject the inevitable conclusion.
[. . .]Hugh A. Garland, Making of America Project. The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke, Volume 2. D. Appleton & Company. 1850.
Brief Biography from the National Park Service
Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, in western Maryland. His family was very wealthy and owned an estate called “Terra Rubra.”
When Francis was 10 years old, his parents sent him to grammar school in Annapolis. After graduating at the age of 17, he began to study law in Annapolis while working with his uncle’s law firm. By 1805, he had a well-established law practice of his own in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington, D.C. By 1814, he had appeared many times before the Supreme Court and had been appointed the United States District Attorney.
Francis Scott Key was a deeply religious man. At one time in his life, he almost gave up his law practice to enter the ministry. Instead, he resolved to become involved in the Episcopal Church. Because of his religious beliefs, Key was strongly opposed to the War of 1812. However, due to his deep love for his country, he did serve for a brief time in the Georgetown field artillery in 1813.
During the War of 1812, Dr. William Beanes, a close friend of Key’s was taken prisoner by the British. Since Key was a well-known lawyer, he was asked to assist in efforts to get Dr. Beanes released. Knowing that the British were in the Chesapeake Bay, Key left for Baltimore. There Key met with Colonel John Skinner, a government agent who arranged for prisoner exchanges. Together, they set out on a small boat to meet the Royal Navy
On board the British flagship, the officers were very kind to Key and Skinner. They agreed to release Dr. Beanes. However, the three men were not permitted to return to Baltimore until after the bombardment of Fort McHenry. The three Americans were placed aboard the American ship and waited behind the British fleet. From a distance of approximately eight miles, Key and his friends watched the British bombard Fort McHenry.
After 25 hours of continuous bombing, the British decided to leave since they were unable to destroy the fort as they had hoped. Realizing that the British had ceased the attack, Key looked toward the fort to see if the flag was still there. To his relief, the flag was still flying! Quickly, he wrote down the words to a poem which was soon handed out as a handbill under the title “Defence of Fort McHenry.” It was renamed “The Star- Spangled Banner” by an adoring public. It became a popular patriotic song. It was not until 1931, however, that it became our national anthem.
After the war, Francis Scott Key continued to live a very religious life. He was well-liked by his friends and was active in society. On January 11, 1843, while visiting his daughter in Baltimore, Key died of pleurisy. To honor the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there are monuments at: Fort McHenry; on Eutaw Street in Baltimore; at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland; and at the Presidio in San Francisco, California.