Tuesday, November 11, 2008

“The Price Paid for Your Liberties”

On this Veteran’s Day may we each remember in our prayers to thank the Lord for the valiant men and women who have served and sacrificed for our Nation.

“Between 1775 and 1783, some 200,000 Americans took up arms against the British Crown. About 25,000 became prisoners of war, most of them confined in New York City under conditions so atrocious that they perished by the thousands. Evidence suggests that at least 17,500 Americans [70% of those imprisoned] died in these prisons.” (Edwin Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War, Basic Books: 2008)

“From September 15, 1776 to November 25, 1783, nearly the entire period of the revolutionary war, New York remained in the hands of the British, and was made the head-quarters of the foulest tyranny over helpless prisoners ever known in the darkest ages of the world. The [prisons] of Europe never furnished such a picture. Jerusalem within, besieged by the Romans without, never felt the horrors of the New York prisons . . . American officers, and the most eminent Whigs, who fell into the hands of the British were confined [in a prison run by provost marshal William Cunningham]. Here was the theatre of Cunningham’s brutal conduct toward the victims of his spite. The prisoners were formally introduced to him and their names, age, size and rank, were recorded. They were then confined in the gloomy cells, or to the equally loathsome upper chamber, where the highest officials in captivity were so closely crowded together, that when at night, they laid down to sleep on the hard plank floor, they could change position only by all turning over at once, at the words, right—left. Their food was scanty and of the poorest kind . . . Little delicacies, brought by friends of the captives seldom reached them; and the brutal Cunningham would sometimes devour or destroy such offerings of affection in the presence of his victims, to gratify his cruel propensities.

“Thus for many months gentlemen of fortune and education who had lived in the enjoyment of the luxuries and refined pleasures of elegant social life, were doomed to a miserable existence.

“[Many of the American prisoners of war were kept in prison ships by the British.] The name and character of each prisoner were registered when he first came on board. He was then placed in a hold, frequently with a thousand others, a large portion of them covered with filthy rags, often swarming with vermin. . . they were allowed to remain above till sunset, when they were ordered down with imprecations, and the savage cry, ‘Down, rebels, down!’ The hatches were then closed, and in serried [compacted] ranks they lay down to sleep, if possible, in the putrid air and stifling heat, amid the sighs of the acutely distressed and the groans of the dying. Each morning the harsh order came below, ‘Rebels, turn out your dead.’ The dead were selected from the living . . . and thus conveyed in a boat to the shore by his companions, under guard, and hastily buried.

“So shallow were the graves of the dead on the shores of the Wallabout [a small body of water in Upper New York Bay along the northwest shore of the New York City borough of Brooklyn], that while the ships were yet sending forth their victims, the action of the waves and the drifting of the loose sand often exposed the bones of those previously buried. Year and year this revolting exhibition might be seen.” (W.T.R. Saffell, Records of the Revolutionary War, (Baltimore: Charles C. Saffell, 1894, p. 304-306)

One of the prisoners “Captain Bridsall asked Cunningham for a pen and paper to write his family only to have the provost marshall call him ‘a damned rebel’ and run him through the shoulder with his sword. Another prominent Queens County patriot, blind old Elias Baylis of Jamaica, who had been severely beaten by his British guards while imprisoned in the New Utrecht church, was then hauled to New York and turned over to Cunningham, who had him beaten some more. He languished there for two months, consoling himself, it was said, by singing the 142nd Psalm: ‘Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.’” (Edwin Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War, Basic Books: 2008, p. 22) After months of much suffering he died and was taken to his heavenly home.

Cunningham viewed the prisoners as traitors who had committed treason against the Crown which was punishable by hanging. “The most outrageous of all the crimes committed by Cunningham was the hanging of 275 American prisoners of war without trial and in utter repudiation of all existing articles of war. The ignominious and undercover hanging of war prisoners was a blot on the British military government. All of these Patriots could have betrayed the cause of liberty and independence in exchange for their lives, but preferred death. All they had to do was to sign a document of allegiance to the Crown and receive a free pardon by enlisting in His Majesty's Army or Navy.” (Retrieved November 7, 2008 from http://www.longislandgenealogy.com/prison.html) Not one of these prisoners betrayed the cause of liberty and independence to save their life.

“The imprisoned and dying patriots, in the dark hours of 1780, when nearly all hope of independence had fled forever, and when the deserter and traitor stalked over the land in fearful combination, reached forth their skeleton hands, wrote, and bequeathed this task to their countrymen in their dying hours: ‘If you are victorious , and our country emerges free and independent from the contest in which she is now engaged, but the end of which were are not permitted to see, bury us in her soil, and engrave our names on the monument you shall erect over our bones, as victims who willingly surrendered their lives as a portion of the price paid for your liberties, and our departed spirits will never murmur, or regret the sacrifice we made to obtain for you the blessings you enjoy.’ . . . If there is any class of patriots more deserving of the gratitude of a nation than another, it is these captives, who dwelt in the dungeons for their country’s sake.” (W.T.R. Saffell, Records of the Revolutionary War, (Baltimore: Charles C. Saffell, 1894, p. 307, 323)

Today we have to choose liberty and independence or bondage to government. Today some Americans are betraying the cause of liberty and independence by seeking and accepting Government handouts. We must resist and fight against the idea that the government should provide the necessities of life. As responsibility is shifted from the people to the government, freedom is eroded. Today some Americans are choosing bondage and the illusion of government security over liberty and freedom. Today some Americans are willing to sell their freedom for government bailouts and other government assistance. Today some Americans are willing to sell their freedom for government-provided health care. Today America is facing economic challenges but we must resist and fight the temptation to accept Government assistance. It is during times of trial and crisis that many will sell freedom for government support. This may provide temporary relief but in the long run government intervention will only make the situation worse. Any society that gives up liberty in hope of security will find they lose both. Slavery is the result of seeking the illusion of government-supported security. Freedom and security are only to be found in our own liberty, industry, and production.

A classic example of people selling themselves into bondage for government support is found in the Old Testament. Instead of saving for a future time of need, the Egyptians relied upon the government to support them in the event of a disaster. When the disaster of famine hit, they were unprepared. As a result, they were compelled to exchange their money, livestock, land, and their lives (selling themselves into slavery) for government support. (See Genesis 41:54–56; Genesis 47:13–26)

Today, we need modern patriots to resist and fight against the unconstitutional and tyrannical efforts of the American government. The God of heaven sent some of the wisest, noblest, and bravest men and women to lay the foundation of a free America and God has again sent many wise, noble, and brave men and women to help preserve it. We, the blessed beneficiaries of the suffering and sacrifices made by our revolutionary ancestors, face difficult days in America. If the current trends of increasing government are not reversed, America will no longer be the land of the free and home of the brave, but the land of the slaves and home of the dependants. Action must be taken to once again establish a government which follows the inspired Constitution. May God bless each of us to be modern patriots full of the faith, courage, and determination needed to preserve and restore freedom. May we honor by our actions and always remember the revolutionary patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to secure our freedom.

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