Op-Ed: Did You Forget Patriot’s Day?
By Sim Evans
“What a glorious morning this is!”
--Samuel Adams, April 19, 1775
April 19, was Patriot’s Day; a day to remember how it all started. It’s not a very popular holiday nowadays, but nevertheless, I hope you didn’t forget.
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Amongst nations, America is a very young country. Charles Dawes, former vice-president and a native of Ohio, died on April 23, 1951, a year after we laid my grandfather rest. Yet such is the extent of our nation’s youth, that Charles Dawes’ great grandfather was privileged to hear the shot heard round the world.
William Dawes Jr. was born in Boston on April 5, 1745. The Fitzgerald’s and Kennedy’s had yet to arrive, and the enormous cost overruns for Boston’s “Big Dig” debacle had not yet occurred. Back then, Boston considered itself a respectable town.
William Dawes became a tanner by trade. In a city of intellectuals and wealthy merchants, this was indeed a lowly, albeit necessary occupation. Mr. Dawes’ position in Boston society was perhaps analogous to a present-day redneck with a steady job.
Mr. Dawes was admittedly a little weird. Among other faults, William had what many today would consider an unhealthy fascination with guns. When not tanning hides, he spent most of his spare time hanging around with the local militia.
In later years these militia fellows were glorified, and often referred to as “Minute Men”. But at the time, fully two-thirds of the population considered them either a nuisance or an outright menace. They were even suspected of harboring grandiose ideas of rebellion.
Discounting the maxim, “you are known by the company you keep”, William fell in with a band of these malcontents headed by Joseph Warren. Joseph’s little band of outlaws fancifully called themselves “The Sons of Liberty”.
Now he was in the thick of things, and stealing guns from the government became his specialty. Soon he grew impatient with the onesey-twosey aspect of stealing rifles and hoarding kegs of black powder, so he went after bigger game. With some assistance, he managed to pilfer four cannon from the army. He was never charged with the crime, but everybody knew—he did it.
The government viewed this cannon thievery with considerable dismay. What had previously been viewed as a nuisance now became a national security issue, so they called out the troops. They intended to raid the countryside roundabout Boston, confiscating all the guns and powder, thus putting a stop to the nonsense.
They also planned on arresting a few people, and they were after bigger names than Dawes. They had in mind names like Hancock and Adams. If Martha Stewart had been there, her name would have probably been on the list. Governments delight in making examples of well-known citizens.
News of the pending excursion leaked, and so it was that William Dawes and his friend Paul were selected to spread the word that the British were indeed coming.
Dawes’ friend Paul, in addition to being handy with a horse, possessed a talent for working with malleable metals. In a pinch he could serve as a dentist, and a corpse was once identified because it was equipped with one of Paul’s silver teeth.
April 19, 1775 was the target date, so after dark on the 18th , William Dawes and his friend Paul set out to rouse the countryside.
Early the next morning about seventy previously warned “Sons of Liberty” faced off against the finest army in the world, on the Lexington Square.
Obviously overmatched, they lost their nerve and began to disperse. Then some idiot, for reasons known only to him, turned on the British and fired his musket. His was the shot heard round the world. Within five minutes eight militiamen were dead, ten were wounded, and the Revolutionary War had become a fact.
When we count our blessing we would be remiss if we did not say a silent word of thanks to that unknown individual, who, in the face of overwhelming odds and for some unfathomed reason, chose to fire his musket in anger.
Some, including many of our Founding Fathers, claim the rights of man are natural rights, bestowed upon us by our Creator. Others profess that our rights are mutually agreed upon by virtue of a social contract, and that is the same as saying our rights are privileges, courtesy of the government.
All that aside, it is an uncontestable fact that our rights emanated from the barrel of a single musket, fired on the morning of April 19, 1775. Perhaps the Founders had this in mind when they included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights.