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.
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
(http://www.barrypopik.com/article/1618/i-only-regret-that-i-have-but-one-life-to-lose-for-my-country-nathan-hale#fn5) 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
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.”
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
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 - http://www.americandialect.org
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