Patriots’ Day: A Gun Rights Case Study
The last time the government attempted to confiscate weapons from grassroots Americans Patriots…
“The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. … The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any…” —James Madison (1788)
Ironically, he rolled out the latest round of leftist gun control measures just ahead of our Patriots Day commemoration of the battles of Lexington and Concord — a case study of consequences when tyrannical governments attempt to disarm the people. This effort was, of course, met with defiance. The result? The rise of American Liberty and the birth of a new nation.
Biden declared, “No amendment to the Constitution is absolute.” But in fact, the Second Amendment assurance of self-defense, and defense of Liberty, is the not only the First Civil Right but the most fundamental of rights of all people.
In honor of Patriots’ Day, April 19th, let’s take a brief stroll down the path that gave rise to our Republic by recalling the last time the central government attempted to confiscate weapons from grassroots Americans Patriots.
On December 16th, 1773, “radicals” from Boston, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, boarded three East India Company ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.
This iconic event, in protest of oppressive British taxation and tyrannical rule, became known as the Boston Tea Party.
Resistance to the Crown had been mounting over enforcement of the 1764 Sugar Act, 1765 Stamp Act and 1767 Townshend Act, which led to the Boston Massacre and gave rise to the slogan, “No taxation without representation.”
The 1773 Tea Act and resulting Tea Party protest galvanized the Colonial movement opposing British parliamentary acts, which violated the natural, charter and constitutional rights of the colonists.
In response to the rebellion, the British enacted additional punitive measures, labeled the “Intolerable Acts,” in hopes of suppressing the burgeoning insurrection. Far from accomplishing their desired outcome, however, the Crown’s countermeasures led colonists to convene the First Continental Congress on September 5th, 1774, in Philadelphia.
By the spring of 1775, civil discontent with Royal rulers was growing, and American Patriots in Massachusetts and other colonies were preparing to cast off their masters.
On the evening of April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage, acting as the Crown’s military governor of Massachusetts, dispatched a force of 700 British Army regulars with secret orders. These troops, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, were to arrest 53-year-old Boston Tea Party leader Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Provincial Congress President John Hancock, and merchant fleet owner Jeremiah Lee.
But what directly tied Gage’s orders to the later enumeration in our Constitution’s Second Amendment assurance of the innate “right to keep and bear arms” was the primary mission of his Redcoat brigades. They were charged with undertaking a preemptive raid to confiscate arms and ammunition stored by Massachusetts Patriots in the town of Concord.
Patriot militia and minutemen, under the leadership of the “radical” Sons of Liberty, anticipated this raid, and the confrontations with British regulars at Lexington and Concord proved to be the fuse that ignited the American Revolution.
Near midnight on April 18th, 41-year-old Paul Revere, who had arranged for advance warning of British movements, departed Charlestown (near Boston) for Lexington and Concord in order to warn John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and other Sons of Liberty that the British Army was marching to arrest them and seize their weapons caches.
Revere’s Ride was immortalized by noted poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere… Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch… One if by land, two if by sea… Through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight.”
After meeting with Hancock and Adams in Lexington, Revere was captured, but his Patriot ally, Samuel Prescott, continued to Concord and warned militiamen along the way.
The Patriots in Lexington and Concord, with other citizen militias in New England, were bound by “minute man” oaths to “stand at a minute’s warning with arms and ammunition.” The oath of the Lexington militia read thus: “We trust in God that, should the state of our affairs require it, we shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea, and life itself, in support of the common cause.”
In the early dawn of April 19, their oaths would be tested with blood. Under the command of 46-year-old farmer and militia Captain John Parker, 77 militiamen assembled on the town green at Lexington, where they soon faced Smith’s overwhelming force of seasoned British regulars. Parker did not expect shots to be exchanged, but his orders were: “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
Within close musket range from the Patriots’ column, British Major John Pitcairn swung his sword and ordered, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!”
Not willing to sacrifice his small band of Patriots on the green, as Parker later wrote in a sworn deposition, “I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse, and not to fire.” But his Patriots did not lay down their arms. Then under Pitcairn’s orders, as Parker testified, “Immediately said Troops made their appearance and rushed furiously, fired upon, and killed eight of our Party without receiving any Provocation therefor from us.” Ten other Patriots were wounded.
As the American militia retreated toward Concord with the British in pursuit, their ranks grew to more than 400.
In Concord, the British divided in order to search for armament stores. Before noon, the second confrontation between regulars and militiamen occurred as 100 British light infantry from three companies faced the ranks of militia and minutemen at Concord’s Old North Bridge. From depositions on both sides, the British fired first, killing two and wounding four.
This time, however, the militia commander, Major John Buttrick, ordered, “Fire, for God’s sake, fellow soldiers, fire!”
And fire they did. The volley commenced with what poet Ralph Waldo Emerson later immortalized as “The Shot Heard Round the World.” With that shot, farmers, laborers, landowners, and statesmen alike brought upon themselves the sentence of death for treason. In the ensuing firefight, the British suffered heavy casualties. In discord, the Redcoats retreated to Concord proper and, after reinforcing their ranks, marched back toward Lexington.
During their Concord retreat, British regulars took additional casualties in sporadic firefights. The most notable of those was an ambush by the reassembled ranks of John Parker’s militia, which became known as “Parker’s Revenge.” Despite reinforcements when they returned to Lexington, the King’s men were no match for the Patriot ranks. The militia and minutemen inflicted heavy casualties upon the Redcoats along their 18-mile tactical retreat to Boston.
By day’s end, the Patriots suffered 49 killed, 39 wounded, and five missing. The British casualties totaled 73 killed, 174 wounded, and 26 missing.
Upon hearing of those first shots in what would become an eight-year struggle for American Liberty, Samuel Adams declared to fellow Patriot John Hancock, “What a glorious morning this is!”
Indeed it was, and remains with every sunrise over our nation since.
Thus began the great campaign to reject tyranny and embrace the difficult toils of securing individual Liberty. “[T]he People alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it,” wrote Samuel Adams.
Two months after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Continental Congress, under President John Hancock, declared, June 12, 1775: “Congress…considering the present critical, alarming and calamitous state…do earnestly recommend, that Thursday, the 12th of July next, be observed by the inhabitants of all the English Colonies on this Continent, as a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, that we may with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins and offer up our joint supplications to the All-wise, Omnipotent and merciful Disposer of all Events, humbly beseeching Him to forgive our iniquities… It is recommended to Christians of all denominations to assemble for public worship and to abstain from servile labor and recreations of said day.”
Why would the first generation of American Patriots forgo, in the inimitable words of Sam Adams, “the tranquility of servitude” for “the animating contest of freedom”?
The answer to that question – Liberty or Death – defined the spirit of American Patriotism then, as it defines the spirit of Americans Patriots today. The ideological descendants of those who once pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor “to support and defend” Liberty as enumerated in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our Constitution.
In 1776, George Washington wrote in his General Orders, “The time is now near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”
Of that resolve, two centuries later President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation…”
Indeed, the time is always at hand when American Patriots must reaffirm whether we are to be freemen or slaves.
Patriots, through the trials we face now, stand firm and fast, and remember who YOU are, brothers and sisters — who WE are together.
During the American Revolution, musicians, particularly drummers, were a primary means of communicating and expediting battlefield orders. While the Continental regulars wore blue coats with red cuffs, drummers wore red coats with blue cuffs in order to be more visible on a battlefield.
Like those drummers, The Patriot Post is the signal corps for American Patriots defending Liberty on the frontlines.
Grassroots conservatives rely on The Patriot Post, as a primary touchstone of Liberty, and we remain the most cost-effective conservative force multiplier on the Web. Fellow Patriots, keep the torch of Liberty shining bright by supporting our Patriots’ Day Campaign.
In the words of George Washington, “Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind.”
(For a scholarly assessment of the events leading up to and beyond the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord, the British gun control programs that precipitated the American Revolution, see my friend Dave Kopel’s post, “The American Revolution Against British Gun Control.”)
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
Please join us in prayer for our nation’s Military Patriots standing in harm’s way in defense of Liberty, for their families, and for our nation’s First Responders. We also ask prayer for your Patriot team, and our mission to, first and foremost, support and defend our Republic’s Founding Principles of Liberty, and to ignite the fires of freedom in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.
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