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FOUNDING FATHERS and War

Posted by FactReal on April 29, 2010

FRANCIS HOPKINSON, signer of the Declaration of Independence,
wrote in his “A Political Catechism” (1777) that there are 2 types of wars:
Offensive war and defensive war:

Q. What is defensive war?
A. It is to take up arms in opposition to the invasions of usurped power and bravely suffer present hardships and encounter present dangers, to secure the rights of humanity and the blessings of freedom, to generations yet unborn.
Q. Is even defensive war justifiable in a religious view?
The foundation of war is laid in the wickedness of mankind…God has given man wit to contrive, power to execute, and freedom of will to direct his conduct. It cannot be but that some, from a depravity of will, will abuse these privileges and exert these powers to the injury of others: and the oppressed would have no safety nor redress but by exerting the same powers in their defense: and it is our duty to set a proper value upon and defend to the utmost our just rights and the blessings of life: otherwise a few miscreants would tyrannize over the rest of mankind, and make the passive multitude the slaves of their power. Thus it is that defensive is not only justifiable, but an indispensable duty. [1]

PATRICK HENRY, first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia,
gave his famous and fiery speech before the Virginia House on March 23, 1775:

Give me Liberty or give me Death!
“Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing….We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances [complaints] have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation.

virtual video here

There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free–if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending…we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.

Three millions of People, armed in the Holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Beside, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave…. The war is inevitable. and let it come! I repeat, Sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace! — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have?

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![2]

Sources:
1. ^ Francis Hopkinson, The Miscellaneous Essays and Occasional Writings of Francis Hopkinson, Esq. (Philadelphia: T. Dobson, 1792), Vol. I, pp. 111-115.
2. ^ William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: James Webster, 1818), pp. 121-123.

One Response to “FOUNDING FATHERS and War”

  1. […] FOUNDING FATHERS and War […]

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