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Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary War’

 

“The whole meaning of history is in the proof that

there have lived people before the present time

whom it is important to meet” (1).

 

I greatly enjoy meeting the heroes of history and hope you do, too.

One such hero, a founding father of America, is remembered more for his words than his deeds–words such as:

 

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

 

His name: Patrick Henry, born May 29, 1736. (His birthday is this Sunday.)

 

Imacon Color Scanner

 

But what brought Patrick Henry to that pivotal moment in history and that immortal statement? What influence did he carry afterwards?

A bit of exploration revealed the following:

Patrick Henry’s education and faith began at home, under the guidance of his college-educated father and his namesake-uncle, an Episcopal minister. Uncle Patrick’s teaching, example, and encouragement helped instill in young Patrick the Christian virtues that would impact his entire life.

As Henry grew into manhood, he transitioned from business to law to government. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765.

Soon after, Great Britain established the Stamp Act, which required almost everything printed in the American colonies to be inscribed on specially stamped paper, available only from agents of the British crown–with the payment of a hefty tax.

Henry spoke eloquently against the Stamp Act: “If this be treason, make the most of it,” he challenged. The Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions passed, and those with pro-British leanings did consider the action treasonous.

 

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In 1774, Patrick Henry was elected to the First Continental Congress. Delegates met to determine a course of action for the colonies, in response to Great Britain’s offenses: taxation without representation, searches and seizures without probable cause, confiscation of firearms, and more.

On March 23, 1775, Henry rallied the Second Virginia Convention, calling them to arms against advancing British troops. England was already at war against the colonies, he reasoned. Then Henry concluded with those famous, rousing words:

 

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(“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet

as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God!

I know not what course others may take;

but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”)

 

No doubt such eloquent and impassioned words held the delegates spellbound. But more astounding still? Henry had not prepared a speech for that day; he held no notes in his hands.

Another surprise for most of us: Henry spoke of God throughout that speech, and quoted from the Bible.  In one short paragraph, he used eight scriptural phrases.

 

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Other examples include:

  • “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace—but there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14). The war is actually begun! 
  • “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone” (Eccl. 9:11). 
  • “There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us” (2 Chron. 32:8).

 

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Remember, his speech was delivered with no notes. These verses and many more were imprinted in Henry’s memory.

On many occasions during the war that ensued, he encouraged the beleaguered soldiers to pray for divine intervention, reminding them that:

 

“…the same God whose power divided the Red Sea for the deliverance of Israel,

still reigns in all of his glory, unchanged and unchangeable…” (3).

 

The American Revolution officially began April 19, 1775 at the Battle of Lexington and dragged on for  eight long years.  At first, Henry served in the military, as commander-in-chief of the Virginia militia.  But in 1776, Henry shifted his attention from the military to governmental aspects of the war and the development of a new nation.

In fact, governmental affairs were to be his main focus from that time forward. Henry served five terms as governor of Virginia and as a representative in the state legislature.

Yet it was not his accomplishments that he prized most.

 

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(“Being a Christian…is a character which I prize

far above all this world has or can boast” (4).

 

After Henry’s death, this note was found, containing truth just as appropriate for today as in 1799:

 

“Whether this [the American Revolution] will prove a blessing or a curse

will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings

which a gracious God hath bestowed on us.

If they are wise, they will be great and happy.

If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable.

Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation [Proverbs 14:34].

Reader! – whoever thou art, remember this! –

and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself and encourage it in others.

–P. Henry” (5).

 

Patrick Henry certainly practiced Christian virtue himself, and is still encouraging it—in those who will listen.

 

Notes:

(1) Eugene Rosenstock Huessy, Speech and Reality, Argo Books, 1970, p. 167.

(2) The Founders’ Bible, p. 1734

3) http://www.christianhistorysociety.com

(4) www.faithofourfathers.net

(5) The Founders’ Bible, p. 957

 

Sources:

www.christianhistorysociety.com

www.faithofourfathers.net

The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012

www.patrickhenrycenter.com

www.wallbuilders.com

 

Art credits:  www.wikitree.com; http://www.thinkershirts.com; http://www.patriotpost.us; ce-wiki.wikispaces.com; http://www.azquotes.com http://www.thefederalistpapers.org.)

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Church bells rang all across Philadelphia. Men on horseback rode far and wide to spread the news. People shouted and fired their guns. It was July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence had been approved by the Second Continental Congress.

In spite of the celebratory noise, those fifty-six delegates gathered in the Pennsylvania State House knew the gravity of their actions. By signing the declaration (which would not happen until August 2) they were guilty of treason against the British crown–punishable by hanging.

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of t...

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of the Second Continental Congress voting on the United States Declaration of Independence. Oil on canvas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Ben Franklin told the delegates that day, “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

On what confidence were they willing to risk their lives against an enemy as strong as England? After all, the colonies were loosely organized, just a far-spread collection of farmers for the most part. They had no army or navy trained and ready to launch into battle. Small-town militias were all the Congress had to work with. And because the British were seizing guns and ammunition, the militias were disadvantaged further.

By contrast, the powerful British empire had a trained army and at least thirty ships ready for battle as the war began.

Perhaps those fifty-six delegates were reflecting on a providential event of September 7, 1774.  On that day, Rev. Jacob Duche had been invited to the First Continental Congress to begin the day’s proceedings with prayer. But Rev. Duche also read the psalm designated for September 7, from the Book of Common Prayer. The passage was Psalm 35.

English: Painting: The Rev Jacob Duche offers ...

Now it’s important to know that Congress had just been told Boston was under attack by the British. Depressing news to be sure. Here is an excerpt of what they heard:

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Arise and come to my aid.

“May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. Since they hid their net for me without cause…may the net they hid entangle them.

“You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them…O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my life from these lions” ((Psalm 35:1-17).

John Adams is the one who called the day’s reading “providential.” The whole psalm spoke directly to their situation.

Yet, even with such promises still in their minds, those delegates knew full well that war would mean deprivation for everyone, suffering for most, and death for many. They were potentially signing a death warrant for themselves and/or their sons. What would cause such willingness to sacrifice themselves?

John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail:

“I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration…I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in the day’s transaction.”

The end is worth the means: that posterity will triumph. They sacrificed so very much so that we, their posterity, might enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured, imprisoned, and treated brutally. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All of the delegates were, at one time or another, the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned.

Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word.

Such conviction, strength of character, courage, and perseverance; such willingness to suffer is difficult to fathom.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, it pains us to realize that thousands upon thousands have died for the cause of liberty. May we always remember: our freedoms have been purchased for us at a Very. High. Price. May we never take those freedoms for granted, or, worse yet, abuse them.

It also pains us to realize that your Son, Jesus, had to die, to liberate us from death. May our lives be characterized by heartfelt gratitude, motivating us to live for you and not for our own selfish desires.

Strengthen us, Lord, to please you and honor our dead heroes. You deserve our obedience; they deserve to be respectfully remembered. Always.

And last, we pray for those who are now serving in the military, protecting our freedoms today. Watch over them and bless them, we pray.  Amen.

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