April 19 was the 237th anniversary of the famous “shot heard ‘round the world” fired at Lexington Green when a group of Patriots assembled to confront a contingent of 700 British Regulars intent on seizing military supplies stored at Concord.
American Colonists chaffed under British rule with absolutely no say in the edicts handed down by Parliament. Various attempts at a political solution were rebuffed by the British who viewed the colonies as a possession to be used as they saw fit. The British extracted wealth from America in the form of raw materials and forced the Colonists to pay exorbitant prices for finished goods, then taxed them on top of this to fund their supposed protection from the French and Indians. The economic inequality in this arrangement became more than the Colonists could bear and grumbling soon became talk of revolution. This talk was tempered by the fact that Great Britain represented the most powerful military nation on the face of the earth at that time. However, there were those who were convinced that Britain could be defeated just as the French had been defeated earlier in large part due to its distance from America and difficulty in maintaining adequate supply lines.
In building support for revolution, much was made of liberty and freedom from the tyranny of government represented by Britain. After all, the Colonists were the ones taking a risk to establish lives in the New World, so why should the British reap all of the rewards when they suffered none of the sacrifices? Thomas Paine exhorted the Colonists to use their Common Sense and reach the only logical conclusion which was to revolt against Britain and throw off its tyrannical shackles. Sam Adams organized the Sons of Liberty and directed the Boston Tea Party which dumped tea chests from two British ships into Boston Harbor to protest tea prices and taxes.
As it became apparent that no political solution to the inequity between Britain and the Colonies existed, preparations for revolution gathered steam. The British became even more intolerable and events began to spiral out of control. To be fair, there were many Colonists who remained loyal to Britain, and these Loyalists aided and supported Britain throughout the conflict. Also, there were many Colonists sympathetic to the cause of liberty who feared the consequences of taking up arms against such a powerful foe, along with many who were just plain apathetic about the entire situation. Those Colonists actively participating in the Revolution stood to lose their property, their families, and their lives all for the sake of living as free men able to determine their own destiny.
Early on the morning of April 19, 1775, a group of armed colonists assembled in formation on Lexington Green to demonstrate American resolve to the British force after having been warned of their approach by Paul Revere. The call had gone out to many, but was answered by a relative few who put duty above personal comfort and safety. Fear flowed through these Colonists as they listened to the interminable approach of the Redcoats through the early morning fog. Captain John Parker, commander of the Lexington minutemen, ordered his troops to stand in formation as the British approached. He expected the British to search Concord, find nothing, and return home as had been past experience, and he saw no reason to provoke a fight over what might possibly turn out to be nothing. Besides, no war had been declared and his forces were vastly outnumbered.
The British under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, with Major John Pitcairn as his executive officer, had orders to march to Concord and seize military supplies stored at the armory by the Colonists. The Colonists, employing a sophisticated intelligence network, knew the details of this mission and sent out the alarm to neighboring towns along the route from Boston to Concord after first removing the targeted military supplies. Major Pitcairn was ordered ahead to Lexington and encountered the Colonial Minutemen in formation on the Green. He ordered them to disperse, and in the confusion, a shot was fired which touched off the American Revolution. As the British Regulars marched on to Concord and back to Boston, Colonists ambushed them along the way and decimated their ill-prepared forces. The die had been cast, the Rubicon crossed, and the Revolution begun.
If these Patriots assembled on the Lexington Green could see how their sacrifice for liberty had been squandered by succeeding generations of Americans, would they still commit to the cause? Are there any Americans today who would commit to such a hopeless cause and initiate provocation in the struggle for liberty? The Patriots assembled on that day in 1775 were scared and didn’t know how events would unfold. They risked everything to make the point that they valued liberty above safety. Are there any of us who would take up arms and assemble in peaceful formation to demonstrate our resolve in the face of tyrannical government undermining our liberty? Or, are we so seduced by illusory government promises of safety and security that we are not willing to risk as much today as these Patriots risked in their day?
The same factions exist today as existed back then. There are those loyalists among us committed to the status quo of government expansion and oppression. There are the apathetic who wish only to be left alone believing that their noninvolvement will protect them from tyranny. There are the agitators quick to promote the fight, but mysteriously absent when the fight actually comes. There are those who benefit from government largesse and seek to preserve their benefits. And finally, there are those who resist the lure of government benefits secure in the knowledge that these benefits lead to government dependence and away from independence and personal liberty. It is these Patriots who will heed the call and fight to retake their country from the clutches of those who promote ever expanding government to the detriment of personal liberty. Let us remember the original Patriots gathered on Lexington Green while we contemplate the work that must be done to retake our country and reclaim our liberty.