In the company of patriots
By Mark Alexander
The demands of operating a small business, especially one with many daily publishing deadlines, does not afford me the opportunity for much travel. However last week I learned that a fellow Tennessean was gathering a group of likeminded Patriots for a meeting, and it was just a couple hours' drive time away. Last Tuesday, I snuck into that gathering.
That Tennessean, Joe Gregory, has devoted his time and resources — in fact his life — to Liberty and to making his community, our state and our nation a better place for all people. On this occasion, he was hosting a small event with the National Rifle Association's president, Allan Cors — another great Patriot.
Joe has been, for many years, an outspoken supporter of the NRA's mission in defense of the Second Amendment. He knows that without the assurance of the primary civil right of self-defense, the rest of our Constitution is indefensible. On that point, it is worth rereading these words I often reference from Justice Joseph Story: "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."
I should note here that a strong majority of Americans now hold a favorable view of the NRA and its mission.
Joe convened the meeting with a reference to the 241st observance of Patriots' Day on April 19th, and the first shots fired in the American Revolution. He referenced the battles at Lexington and Concord, because those opening salvos are irrevocably linked to Liberty, the core mission of the NRA as the nation's premier Second Amendment advocacy organization.
He mentioned how, in April of 1775, General Thomas Gage, royal military governor of Massachusetts, dispatched a force of 700 British Army regulars under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith with secret orders to arrest Boston Tea Party leader Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Provincial Congress President John Hancock and merchant fleet owner Jeremiah Lee.
But what most directly ties these orders to the enumeration in our Constitution that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed" is that Gage ordered his Redcoats to capture and destroy arms and supplies stored by the Massachusetts militia in the town of Concord. Indeed, the first shots of the eight-year struggle for American independence were in response to the government's attempt to disarm the people.
It was just after dawn on April 19th at the Lexington town green that the British killed eight of Captain John Parker's militiamen as they were dispersing. Later that day, after searching for powder and weapons in Concord, British light infantry companies faced rapidly growing ranks of militia and Minutemen at Concord's Old North Bridge. From depositions on both sides, the British fired first on the militia, killing two and wounding four.
But this time, militia commander John Buttrick yelled the order, "Fire, for God's sake, fellow soldiers, fire!" And fire they did, commencing with "the shot heard round the world" immortalized in poet Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord Hymn."
With that shot, farmers and laborers, landowners and statesmen alike brought upon themselves the sentence of death for treason against the Crown. In the ensuing firefight, the British took heavy casualties and in discord retreated to Concord village for reinforcements, and then retreated back toward Lexington.
In retreat to Lexington, British regulars took additional casualties, including those suffered in an ambush by the reassembled ranks of John Parker's militia — "Parker's Revenge" as it became known. The English were reinforced with 1,000 troops in Lexington, but the King's men were no match for the militiamen, who inflicted heavy casualties upon the Redcoats along their 20-mile tactical retreat to Boston.
And thus began the American Revolution in support of Liberty — not just for the Massachusetts militia, but for all mankind.
Joe Gregory's gathering with Allan Cors and a room full of fellow Patriots was inspiring — as such company always is. If you want to experience a bit of that inspiration, take one minute and listen to a message from another fellow Tennessean.
The discussion of "mission" reminded me of a mentor's wise words from long ago: "If your primary mission in life can be accomplished in your lifetime, then your mission is much too small."
Like many of you reading these words, I have devoted much of my adult life to the fulfillment of a solemn oath "to support and defend" our Constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." From the day I first took that oath at age 19, my obligation to abide by and fulfill it has never ceased. Of course, you need not have sworn that oath in order to fulfill it in spirit.
But one should never assume that the Liberty enshrined in our Constitution is granted by it alone. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1775, "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
My "primary mission in life" has been and will remain until my last breath, the support and defense of the unalienable rights of all people to "life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness," because those rights are "endowed by their Creator." Such rights are not temporal, they are eternal.
I have never been under the illusion that the full endowment of Liberty was something to be achieved during my lifetime, or that of my children and beyond. That endowment is a continuing process, and the singular blessing that we must, as Patrick Henry warned, "guard with jealous attention" for all of human history.
In 1776, George Washington wrote in his General Orders, "The time is now near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die."
Of that resolve, President Ronald Reagan asserted, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
Think for a moment about the third of those last four words: "where men were free."
Indeed, the time is always at hand when American Patriots must reaffirm whether we are to be freemen or slaves. This November's presidential election may at this moment seem like a sorry exercise, but the results are critical to the future of Liberty.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.