Nathan Hale's speech (pre-1812 in Early American Newspapers?)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Jun 11 22:07:14 UTC 2006

Another Early American Newspapers request. What does Fred (or anyone else)  
have for Nathan Hale's final speech (and the speech as we now know it)?
Nathan Hale is celebrated as America’s first spy. He was hung by British  
forces in New York City on September 22, 1776. Various memorials in the city  
celebrate his story. 
His now-famous dying speech—“”I only regret that I have but one life to lose 
 for my country”—may not be exactly his original words, but is attested 
since at  least  1812.
Nathan  Hale (June 6, 1755 – September 22, 1776) was a captain in the 
Continental  Army during the American Revolutionary War. Hale is best remembered for 
his “”I  only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” speech 
before being  hanged following the Battle of Long Island. 
Widely considered America’s first spy; he volunteered for an  
intelligence-gathering mission and was caught and executed. Hale has long been  considered an 
American hero and in 1985 he was officially designated the State  Hero of 
Connecticut. A large statue of Hale is located outside the headquarters  of the 
Central Intelligence Agency.
The speech 
A statue of Nathan Hale outside the Tribune Tower in Chicago.
By all  accounts Hale deported himself eloquently before the hanging. But it 
is not  clear if he specifically uttered the famous line: 
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” 
The  legend attached to the speech is attributed to John Montresor who was a 
British  soldier assigned to Hale. 
Montresor told American William Hull about the event and the speech when he  
went under white flag to deliver a Howe message to George Washington and  
Alexander Hamilton_5_ 
(   Hull (who only 
had hear say evidence) was to widely publicize the phrase. 
If Hale did give the famous speech, it is most likely he was actually  
repeating a passage from Joseph Addison’s play, Cato, an ideological inspiration  to 
many Whigs: 
How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!
Who would not be that  youth? What pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country. 
No official records were kept of Hale’s speech. 
Robert MacKensie, a British officer, has this diary entry for the day: 
“He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the  
duty of every good Officer, to obey any orders given him by his  
Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to  meet death in 
whatever shape it might appear.”  
Hanging site(s) 
Besides the 66th and Third, there are two other sites in Manhattan that claim 
 to be the hanging site. 
A statue designed by Frederick William Macmonnies was erected in 1890 City  
Hall Park at what was claimed to be the site. No authentic likeness exists and  
the statue established the Hale’s idealized square-jawed image. 
A plaque erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution hangs on the  
Yale Club at 44th and Vanderbilt by Grand Central Terminal says the event  
occurred there. 
Nathan Hale’s body has never been found. An empty grave cenotaph was erected  
by his family in Coventry, Connecticut  Cemetery.
November 1812, The Port-Folio,  “American Gallantry,” pg. 481:
Unknown to all around him, without a single  friend to offer him the least 
consolation, thus fell as amiable and as worthy a  young man as America could 
boast, with this, as his dying observation—that “he  only lamented that he had 
but one life to lose for his country.” 

The American Dialect Society -

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