Gun Control in the American Colonies
By Jim Higginbotham
I hope you will forgive my diversion from the normal subject matter to share with you a story that I have always considered important to all Americans and one pivotal to the history of the world. You may not have heard the “rest of the story”! This month the entire newsletter is about the “quote of the month”.
Some time in March of 1775 the Governor of Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbal set aside a “Day of Public Fasting and Prayer…that God would graciously pour out his Holy Spirit on us, to bring us to a thorough repentance and effectual reformation;…That He would restore, preserve and secure the liberties of this, and all the other American Colonies, and make this land a mountain of Holiness and habitation of righteousness forever…” The day he selected for that “Day of Fasting and Prayer” was Wednesday, 19 April 1775.
On the evening of April 18, 1775 John Adams and John Hancock met at the home of the local militia leader – and “coincidentally” Pastor of a Lexington, Mass. church – Jonas Clark. Unaware that at that very moment British Regulars were setting out to confiscate the arms of the Patriots, one of the visitors asked Rev. Clark if the people of Lexington would fight if necessary. The Rev. replied ” I have trained them for this very hour!” Later that night who but Paul Revere should arrive to let them know that the Redcoats were indeed on the march.
The Militia was mustered out at 1 AM on April 19 under the field command of Deacon Parker and by 2:00 there were 130 men under arms on the green near Rev. Clark’s meeting-house, with Adams, Hancock and Clark present, but the redcoats were nowhere to be found. So the men were dismissed with order to assemble at the beat of the drum.
Later that morning, a six company detachment of British Light Infantry, under Major Pitcairn was dispatched toward Concord to capture and hold two essential bridges. He kept his movement relatively secret by capturing and holding all persons he encountered in route but alas a messenger on horseback finally got away and raised the alarm in Lexington. By then Adams and Hancock had been persuaded to quit to a neighboring town because they would surely be a target of the British. After the alarm was given, only 70 people were near enough to assemble by the time the British arrived. There was an immediate face off and what followed has been told with slight differences by several different people. Of course I cannot say, not being there, but this is a summation of what most likely happened. Frankly, I do not know if the Rev. Clark or Deacon Parker did the talking for the Minutemen.
Upon seeing a mass of armed men Major Pitcairn shouted, “Disperse, ye villains Lay down your arms in the name of George the Sovereign King of England”. The response, as reported by more than one source (coming from Parker or Clark depending on the source) was ” We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus!”. Who fired the first shot will always be in doubt. What is not in doubt, is that the initial skirmish was carried by the British with the colonists suffering 18 casualties ( 8 KIA, 10 WIA). Deacon Parker dispersed his men, seeing the untenable odds but he did not surrender his arms. The British did not get the arms of the citizenry they desired – at least not in the form they desired! And the return trip caused them much grief as the patriots began to increase in number and harass them all the way back to Boston. Shortly the Redcoats would “win” more battles and skirmishes costing them in the neighborhood of 1100 casualties – there were only 7500 of His Majesty’s troops on the continent!
Later, the Reverend Jonas Clark would preach: “From this day will be dated the liberty of the world!” . This year, as in 1775, April 19th falls on Wednesday. It would not be untoward, I think, to pause and reflect that 225 years ago, several plain ordinary folks – farmers, parishioners, clergymen – interrupted their normal lives to “turn the world upside down” when one of them likely fired the “Shot Heard ‘Round The World”.
For Further research I would commend:
America’s Providential History, by Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, Providence Foundation, 1989
The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, Flemming H. Revell Co., 1977
God and Government, Gary Demar, American Vision Press, 1982