Patriots’ Day is a Forgotten Holiday
Religion & Liberty Online

Patriots’ Day is a Forgotten Holiday

Few summed up the American Revolution for Independence better than Lord Acton when he declared, “No people was so free as the insurgents; no government less oppressive than the government which they overthrew.” I’ve written about Patriots’ Day on the Powerblog before, but it’s essentially a forgotten holiday. Only officially celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine and observed on the third Monday in April, Patriots’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19 of 1775. The Boston Marathon is run on Patriots’ Day and the Boston Red Sox play the only scheduled A.M. game in Major League Baseball.

It’s an important holiday. Unrest in the colonies towards the British Crown had been escalating for sometime. On April 18 1775, Thomas Gage, who was the British Commander in Boston, received orders from London to seize arms and powder being stockpiled by colonial rebels in Concord, Mass. As the Redcoats marched towards their objective, Paul Revere and others sounded the alarm through the countryside. For the first time, blood was shed between the colonial militiamen and the British Regulars. It is known in history as the “shot heard round the world.” The best book on the skirmishes is Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer. This is a must read for those interested in American history and the roots of our liberty.

As liberty in America dissipates, and as we become servants not masters of our government, Patriots’ Day should not be a forgotten holiday, but one that increases in significance. Remember, while a chief complaint was “no taxation without representation,” a tax rate of 2 to 3 percent galled the colonists.

A Free People’s Suicide, which I reviewed on the PowerBlog and the Journal of Markets & Morality, has an excellent excerpt directly related to the meaning of Patriots Day:

In 1843, a twenty-one-year old Massachusetts scholar was doing research on the American Revolution and what led up to it. Among those he interviewed was Captain Levi Preston, a Yankee who was seventy years his senior and had fought at both Lexington and Concord.

“Captain Preston,” the young man began, “what made you go to the Concord Fight on April 19, 1775?”

“What did I go for?” The old soldier, every bit his ninety-one years, was very bowed, so he raised himself to his full height, taken aback that anyone should ask a question about anything so obvious.

The young man tried again. “Yes, my histories tell me that you men of the Revolution took up arms against ‘intolerable oppressions.’ What were they?”

“Oppressions? I didn’t feel them.”

“What, you were not oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

“I never saw one of those stamps,” Captain Preston replied. “I certainly never paid a penny for them.”

“Well, what about the tea tax?”

“Tea tax? I never drank a drop of the stuff,” the old veteran replied. “The boys threw it all overboard.”

“Then I suppose you had been reading Harrington, or Sidney and Locke about the eternal principles of liberty?”

“Never heard of ’em,” Captain Preston said. “We read only the Bible, the Catechism, Watt’s Psalms and the Almanac.”

“Well then, what was the matter? And what did you mean in going to fight?”

“Young man,” Captain Preston stated firmly, “what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: We always had been free, and we meant to be free always. They didn’t mean we should.”

That was the high view of American liberty at the outset of the American Revolution. It speaks to the importance of Patriots’ Day and the kind of mindset needed to preserve freedom.

Ray Nothstine

Ray Nothstine is editor at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.