Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Lessons of History

A replica of a camp at Valley Forge, consisting of an oven and several cabins, in which soldiers of George Washington's army would have stayed during the winter of 1777-1778.
Photograph taken by
Dan Smith.

Great patriots are found not only in the United States!
by Charlie Leck

In 1777, the Earl of Chatham spoke before the House of Lords, presenting a speech that was intended to give thanks to the King. Yet, on that day, the speaker’s thoughts were more on the struggles of the British army in America.

“My Lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we cannot act with success nor suffer with honour, calls upon us to remonstrate in the strongest and loudest language of truth, to rescue the ear of Majesty from the delusions which surround it. You cannot, I venture to say it, you cannot conquer America.What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst; but we know that in three campaigns we have done nothing and suffered much. You may swell every expense, and strain every effort, still more extravagantly; accumulate every assistance you can beg or borrow; traffic and barter with every pitiful German Prince:… your efforts are forever vain and impotent, – doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your enemies, to overrun them with the sordid sons of rapine and of plunder, devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty!

If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms! Never! Never! Never!"
This is a marvelous, patriotic comment to read nearly 250 years after it was spoken. Though it makes some pride of nation rise in me, it also serves as a historical marker. I think the same comment could be made by any of us to the President in these days about the Afghans. It was true of the Vietnamese and it was true of the Iraqis.

History teaches us so much. Doesn’t it?
Valley Forge, the famous camp where George Washington and his troops spent the terrible winter of 1777-78, serves as a good example of the strength and determination that can prevail among people who are defending their own land, homes and nation from foreign invasion. The famous fort, now a historical park, was less than 90 miles from where I lived as a child and there were at least two occasions on which I visited it. Hearing about the harsh conditions, and being able to witness the depravations of the troops, always inspired a great sense of pride and patriotism in me.

“If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I would never lay down my arms! Never! Never! Never!"
The lengths to which one will go to defend one’s native land is incredible. We have seen it so often in history. We watch it live now in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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