ONE LIFE TO GIVE: Martyrdom and the Making of the American Revolution (Fortress Press, 2021) is available now. Order today and I will ship to you within 10 business days.
ONE LIFE TO GIVE: Martyrdom & the Making of the American Revolution
The saying with which Nathan Hale is associated in the lore of the American Revolution - "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" - was probably attributed to him after the fact. But my exploration of this saying -- and of the voluminous rhetoric from 18th-century America that resonates with this same sentiment -- unearths an unexpected story about the Revolution's spiritual origins. Young men like Hale were raised from the time they were first taught to read to idealize certain kinds of deaths - deaths self-sacrificed for a sacred cause, the deaths of martyrs. For better and for worse, this tradition - call it "American martyrdom" -- is still with us today.