Prisoner of Fort McHenry

 

Francis Key Howard

 

Forty-seven years after he penned the Star-Spangled Banner, and eighteen years after his death, a grandson of Francis Scott Key, Francis Key Howard, found himself a prisoner in Fort McHenry.  The editor of the Baltimore Exchange, and a Confederate sympathizer, Howard was imprisoned for his vigorous editorial protesting the suspension by the Lincoln administration of the writ of habeas corpus and the arrest of the mayor and city council of Baltimore by the Lincoln administration.  Howard would be held for fourteen months in various Union prisons until his release.

On September 14, 1861 he looked out from his prison cell in Fort McHenry at the flag waving in the breeze.  He later wrote down his reflections at that moment:

“On the morning of the 13th of September, 1861, at my residence, in the city of Baltimore, I was awakened, about half-past twelve or one o’clock, by the ringing of the bell. On going to the window, I saw a man standing on the steps below, who told me he had a message for me… I desired to know the purport of it, when he informed me that he could only deliver it to me privately. As it had been rumored that the Government intended to arrest the members of the Legislature, When I opened it, two men entered, leaving the door ajar. One of them informed me that he had an order for my arrest. In answer to my demand that he should produce the warrant or order under which he was acting, he declined to do so, but said he had instructions from Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State.

I was forced to submit; and ordering the servants to remain in the room with my wife, and giving decided expression to my feelings concerning the outrage perpetrated upon me, and the miserable tyrants who had authorized it, I got into the carriage which was waiting to convey me to Fort McHenry.

I reached Fort McHenry about two o’clock in the morning. There I found several of my friends, and others were brought in a few minutes afterward.” When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence. On that day, forty-seven years before, my grandfather, Mr. F. S. Key, then a prisoner on a British ship, had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When, on the following morning, the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the country, the “Star-spangled Banner.” As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag which he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving, at the same place, over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”

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9 Comments

  1. There was civil war between the states when Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus for the duration of the war between the states. Lincoln also suspended freedom of the press.
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    “The flag which he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving, at the same place, over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”
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    Was anything “as vulgar and brutal a despotism” as enslaving and owning another human being? These individuals got a taste of what they were supporting: depravation of freedom and individual civil rights. Communism operates on the same ideology. Just think, if the South had won the Civil War, the United State of America would have become the United States of Communism.

  2. Please, Mary. How absurd. How fascist. That’s the sort of reasoning the left uses to justify their actions – “It’s for a good cause, and besides, nothing we do is as bad as the X that they do, so it doesn’t matter if we run roughshod over their rights.”
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    There is NO justification – not even the overthrow of slavery (which wasn’t even an object of the Union in September 1861) – that would justify imprisoning a man for over a year for writing editorials.
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    And I can assure you that the South would NOT have turned to communism had they won the war.

  3. I agree with you Jay, although what was going on in Maryland at that time was not clear cut. The Sixth Massachusetts had been fired on when it made its way through Baltimore on April 19, 1861. The legislature voted against secession on April 29, but that did not stop a virtual civil war within Maryland between Confederate and Union sympathizers. Military occupation and martial law by the Union ultimately decided that Maryland would remain in the Union. Many civilians were arrested at this time and held, quite a few of whom had committed acts of war against the Union and who any government would have arrested. Howard, however, was not among their number and his arrest and holding was clearly unjust.

  4. Donald McClarey: I am so glad that you brought up martial law, for this is how Lincoln declared the suspension of Habeas Corpus and the press. I believe it is in the power of the Chief Executive to declare martial law for the common good. America would not have become communist as staying a slave nation, but isn’t that communism, one person owning another person?
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    Jay Anderson: Sometimes they seem to be the good and evil twins. By their deeds you shall know them. Martial law during war is extreme.
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    Obama has written martial law for any undefined national emergency he declares in EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 which allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months. Who needs Congress anyway?
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    “There is NO justification – not even the overthrow of slavery (which wasn’t even an object of the Union in September 1861) – that would justify imprisoning a man for over a year for writing editorials.”
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    “The editor of the Baltimore Exchange, and a Confederate sympathizer, Howard was imprisoned for his vigorous editorial protesting the suspension by the Lincoln administration of the writ of habeas corpus and the arrest of the mayor and city council of Baltimore by the Lincoln administration.”
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    Howard attacked Lincoln for suspending the writ of habeas Corpus and his editorials while being a Confederate sympathizer.
    Move over Tokyo Rose and Judas. If those editorials had brought about the death of one Union soldier, or lengthened the war, the editor must be held liable. Here, Lincoln silenced his treasonous rant.

  5. Tom D: “Mary, Executive Order 11921 was issued by Gerald Ford for emergency preparedness. Obama’s EOs begin with 13489 and run to 13675 so far. See http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/orders.php for the summary count. See http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/executive_orders.php for the current list, where you can click on any order and read it. ”
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    I am under the impression that Obama took all executive orders to himself. -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11049 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period.
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    Fifteen years does not cover Gerald Ford, abortion, pornography, Obamacare, the HHS Mandate etc, etc. I will look these up. and Thank You

  6. “I am under the impression that Obama took all executive orders to himself”
    I am not sure what you mean by that. No president is bound to the executive orders of preceding presidents, and any president may issue an order countermanding a predecessor’s order so long as the new order does not violate Federal statute or the Constitution. On the other hand preceding executive orders remain in force unless countermanded. Obama certainly did not issue any order that made any wholesale changes to ALL to of the orders issued by ALL of his predecessors.

    “EXECUTIVE ORDER 11049 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period.”
    No it doesn’t. EO 11049 was issued by President Kennedy on September 14, 1962. All the order did was delegate authority granted to the President by the Public Works Acceleration Act to the Secretary of Commerce. See http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=58988

    “I will look these up. and Thank You” You are most welcome.

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