Thursday, July 3, 2008

Casualties of War

As we approach this Independence Day weekend, our minds are normally focused on time off from work, barbecues, and fireworks. (Thank God for the extra day this year). And as we all know, the fourth of July is to commemorate America declaring its independence from Great Britain. Well considering how successful the American experiment has been, I believe it prudent to celebrate a person who paid the ultimate price for freedom. Yes, there have been many who have given their lives for the cause of America's freedom over the past two hundred and thirty-two years, however, this man is universally considered the first. That man's name is Crispus Attucks. For those of you who are aware of who Crispus Attucks is, I applaud you. And those of you who do not, this is who the man was, and what he did.

Crispus Attucks was born a slave in 1723. It is believed that he was born to an African father and an Indian mother. As Crispus got older, he became an expert in the trading of livestock. He would receive some small commissions from the trades he made for his master, William Brown. Crispus saved those commissions, and tried to buy his freedom. However, Mr. Brown viewed Crispus as far too valuable, and refused to sell him his freedom. (Please reread that last sentence, and try to understand the true injustice of the institution of slavery). Well in 1750 at the age of 27, Crispus escaped. A fugitive slave warrant was issued, but Crispus eluded capture. Little is known of Crispus' true whereabouts for 20 years. It is believed that Crispus may have become a harpoonist on a whaling ship.

Fast forward twenty years. Tensions between the Red Coats, the British soldiers, and the colonists were at an all-time high. On March 5, 1770, a mob of colonists confronted a group of red coats whom they believed had struck a young boy earlier in the day over an unpaid barber tab. As things escalated, more and more individuals joined the mob. One of those individuals was Crispus. There does not seem to be a consensus on the true events of the Boston Massacre, but it is assumed that as the mob confronted the soldiers, they began to throw snowballs and other debris. One soldier was struck with a thrown piece of wood. Some say it was Crispus that threw the piece of wood, and others say that Crispus was leaning on a stick. (In a fashion I imagine like a man leaning on a cane).

The soldiers in response fired on the crowd. Crispus was shot twice in the chest. Both he and two other people were killed at the scene. Two others died later from their wounds. The soldiers who opened fire on the crowd were tried for murder and were defended by John Adams, the eventual second President of the United States. Two of the soldiers were convicted of manslaughter, and given the option of either hanging or being branded on their thumb. Needless to say, they chose the brand. All of the other soldiers were acquitted.

While that is the story of the Boston Massacre, here is where I want to go with this blog entry. How important is it that the first casualty in America's struggle for independence was an escaped slave? Personally, I believe it is one of the most underrated pieces of information when it comes to the story of the American Revolution. A man, who at that time, essentially had no vested interest in America's prosperity, wound up losing his life for the eventual cause of freedom.

Now I'm sure some of you may be thinking, "well that may be giving him too much credit for the activities that took place. Sounds like to me that he may have either just been an innocent bystander, or even worse, an unruly jackass." While I respect that point of view, I ask you this, how many times in history have we seen people affect massive change by doing what some people may have classified at the time as being unruly or disruptive?

Whether you believe in God or not, Jesus was considered by some to have been nothing more than an agitator who challenged the conventional wisdom of the day. Today he believed by billions to have laid down his life for the salvation of the world. Now I'm not saying that Crispus Attucks should be compared to Jesus, all I'm saying is that nothing has ever changed in this world without someone challenging what would be considered conventional wisdom.

The Boston Massacre motivated the colonists to eventually declare their independence from English tyranny. As colonies, we formed a nation. The United States of America. For helping to lead us down that path, I want to say thank you to Crispus Attucks. To the men and women, whom to this very second, continue to defend the freedoms of this country, I thank you. Happy fourth of July all. Safe travels to all.


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