Philip Barton Key

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Philip Key
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1807 – March 3, 1813
Preceded by Patrick Magruder
Succeeded by Alexander Hanson
Chief Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Fourth Circuit
In office
February 20, 1801 – July 1, 1802
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
Appointed by John Adams
Personal details
Born (1757-04-12)April 12, 1757
Charlestown, Maryland, British America
Died July 28, 1815(1815-07-28) (aged 58)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Ann Plater
Children 1
Education Middle Temple

Philip Barton Key Sr. (April 12, 1757 – July 28, 1815), was a Representative from the third district of Maryland, and later a United States federal judge. In contrast to most American politicians, of the Revolutionary era United States, Key enlisted, as a British Loyalist and fought against the American Revolution. After the war, Key was the only former, British American Loyalist to be regain prominence in United States politics.

Early life[edit]

Born in Charlestown. Cecil County, Maryland, Key pursued an academic course.

American Revolutionary War[edit]

During the American Revolutionary War, Philip Barton Key served in the Maryland Loyalists Battalion, as a captain.[1] Key fought under the British Army, from 1777-1781, until he was captured, by the Spanish Army, who were at war with the British, in Pensacola, Florida, with the rest of his battalion. Key was a prisoner, for a month, in Havana, Cuba, before being paroled and sent to New York City, until the end of the war.

English education and American politics[edit]

After the war, Key traveled to England to study law at the Middle Temple. In 1785 he returned to Maryland and read law to be admitted to the bar. He began practicing law in Leonardtown, Maryland in 1787, before moving to Annapolis in 1790, becoming a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1794 until 1799. He served as Mayor of Annapolis from 1797 to 1798. He returned briefly to private practice in Annapolis from 1799 to 1800.

On February 18, 1801, Key was nominated by President John Adams to a new seat on the United States circuit court for the Fourth Circuit, created by 2 Stat. 89. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 20, 1801, and received his commission the same day. He served as chief judge of that court from 1801-1802. Key's service was terminated on July 1, 1802, with the abolition of the court.

Key then returned to private practice, from 1802 to 1807. He was a Counsel to Justice Samuel Chase during Chase's Senate impeachment trial in 1805. During this time he built and lived in Woodley in Washington, DC.

In the fall of 1806 Key moved to Montgomery County, Maryland and became interested in agriculture. Between March 4, 1807 and March 3, 1813, he was elected as a Federalist to the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth U.S. Congresses. He also served as chairman for the Committee on District of Columbia during the Tenth Congress.


On July 28, 1815, Key died in Washington County, D.C., and was interred on his Woodley estate. Later, he was re-interred at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Conway Whittle Sams, Elihu Samuel Riley, The Bench and Bar of Maryland: A History 1634 to 1901 (1901), p. 292.

Political offices
Preceded by
John Bullen
Mayor of Annapolis
Succeeded by
Nicholas Carroll
Legal offices
New office Chief Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Fourth Circuit
Position abolished
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Patrick Magruder
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Alexander Hanson