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for One Life to Give


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The famous words of revolutionary heroes, such as Nathan Hale's "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country," have echoed through the centuries as embodiments of the American spirit. Despite the outsized role these slogans play in American history, their origins remain obscure. We know little about what inspired words like these and how this spirit of sacrifice inspired the Revolution itself.

What was going on in the hearts and minds of young men who risked their lives for the Revolutionary cause?

The answer lies in the untold story of the spiritual formation of the revolutionaries themselves.



Barnes & Noble



One Life to Give presents Nathan Hale's execution on September 21, 1776, as the culmination of a story that spans generations. John Fanestil explains why so many young American men reached the personal decision to commit to the revolutionary cause even if it meant death. This story is one of how martyrdom shaped the American Revolution.

Like their forebears, countless revolutionaries like Nathan Hale were raised and trained from infancy to understand that divine approval was attached to certain kinds of deaths--deaths of self-sacrifice for a sacred cause. Young boys were taught to expect that someday they might be called to fight and die for such a cause, and that should this come to pass, their deaths could be meaningful in the eyes of others and of God.

Fanestil traces the deep history of the tradition of martyrdom from its classical and Christian origins, through the periods of the Protestant Reformation and the English colonization of North America.  Ultimately, a distinctly American spirit of martyrdom animated countless personal commitments to American War of Independence. Only by understanding the inextricable role played by martyrdom can we fully understand the origins of the American Revolution.

For better and for worse, this tradition - call it "American martyrdom" -- is still with us today.

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