Nathan Hale was an American soldier during the Revolutionary War, who, at age 20 joined the army and was appointed as a first lieutenant. However, he stayed behind when his militia battled in the Siege of Boston, allegedly because he was unsure whether he wanted to fight in the war (others suggest a teaching contract he had didn’t expire until a few months later). Although he never physically fought, he was a volunteer for a mission to gather information about the movement of British troops. He was the only volunteer for this mission. Alas, while behind enemy lines, Hale was caught when he spoke to another man who was disguised as a fellow patriot. Hale was taken into custody and awaited his hanging when he was 21. On the day he was to die, he gave an eloquent speech about his patriotism and reasons for helping the Americans in the fight, concluding with the words “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
Hale has been regarded as a hero, particularly in his birthplace, Connecticut, having multiple statues created in his honor. It’s pretty easy to see why, given that patriotism has generally been seen throughout American history as a courageous and noble quality. His last words seem to put him in a place of even higher esteem, due to the fact that he is saying he would completely give himself over to his country, not once, but many times. This show of humility and devotion to the cause and country has been prized as an American value for centuries. Though in recent decades, it seems as though levels of patriotism have slightly diminished, or are at least more difficult to detect. True, we aren’t establishing ourselves as an independent country anymore, but it also may have to do with the fact that our country as a whole seems more cynical of our government and evolving culture. All the same, when it comes down to it, America’s foundation is built on patriotic values which have driven us forward to where we are today.