The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

Citizen Soldierette

January 20, 2001

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 4

This article appeared on on Thursday, January 17, 2002.

"The stories of these border skirmishes, which yet live in the traditions of the West, are highly worthy of collection. They exhibit scenes of boldness, craft and ferocity on the part of the savages, and of heroic and desperate defense by the semi-barbarous men, women and children who were the objects of these attacks … of the almost incredible achievement of women and little boys … of the capture, captivity and torture of some …" -- The Life of Patrick Henry

William Wirt’s biography of Patrick Henry was begun in the summer of 1805, six years after the death of Henry in 1799. His book captured the lives of Henry and many of the men and women around him in a precise and wonderful way. Wirt presents a snapshot of what life was like before, during and after the American Revolution.

Wirt’s book may contain lessons for us … if only we will allow history to be our guide.

We learn that colonial life was always hard – made harder still with a force of British soldiers becoming increasingly impatient and belligerent with millions of American colonists. For their part, these colonists were weary and irritable from scraping out a living while fending off hunger, violent Indians, the beasts of the forests, unseen diseases without hope for a cure and, finally, the British tax man who was determined to "mine" these hard working independents for all they were worth.

At a point in time, our relatives would tolerate no further abuse, and they acted to take control of their own lives and destiny. Patrick Henry led both ragtag colonists and elitist leaders like Washington and Jefferson to a decision which has produced the greatest nation on the face of this earth.

But, most school children today are unaware that the purpose of Henry’s "Liberty or Death" speech – for which he is most famous – was given to convince the timid and cautious that it was time for Virginians to arm themselves and form up into groups of citizen soldiers who would repel the ever-increasingly violent British.

A country was formed around the pillars of liberty and faith, where honesty and non-violence became the norm, as colonists collectively agreed to respect the law. For those citizens who could not restrain their lawlessness, or for those whose consumption of alcohol, for example, led to acts of theft or violence, there were the "officials" in the cities who would investigate, arrest and see to the punishments.

But "just in case," the citizen-soldiers held on to their guns. They vowed they would never be treated as helpless victims again – and to make sure, they wrote gun ownership into the Constitution. Patrick Henry led that march as well. He would not allow Virginia to ratify the Constitution until a promise was made to include a Bill of Rights, and those rights are almost exactly the same ones that were adopted by Henry’s beloved State of Virginia, years before.

It was safe in the cities, but quite a different scene out in the countryside where colonists, ever pushing westward, were plagued with acts of violence by the Indians who believed that the "Great Father" had reserved the lands for them.

Wirt’s book documents a destructive dynamic that concerned Virginia Governor Patrick Henry: That the colonists who were attacked by the Indians were caught up in an endless tit-for-tat war that seemed to have no end. Just as the hostilities would seem to die down, groups of colonists out on a hunt for meat for the table, would not pass up a chance to stop by the nearest Indian settlement and attack, just on principle.

The Indians would soon visit the colony to return the favor. When the men were off hunting or engaged in some other activity, the Indians would attack the log cabins. But, quite often, they were repelled by the women and boys who were well armed and fully trained in the use of firearms.

Unlike the more peaceful cities where the constables on patrol could rush to the scene of a disturbance, it was impossible for the government to protect women and children in remote log cabins and little villages. These innocents had to defend themselves, and they did!

Time has passed, and now historians with a bias against American traditions have served up a sterile history to our students, where men are the aggressors, owners of slaves and abusers of Native Americans. Women have been all but airbrushed out of our history by the revisionists, because to talk of them would reveal their courage, their protection of family homestead and their brave hearts – which, in large part, have made this nation great.

What a difference a couple of hundred years make. Most would agree that the crime today is not in the countryside, but is to be found where the cops are most plentiful still, as Americans blithely abandon so-called inner cities for the safer countryside.

But, if crime has changed its base of operation, our society has not yet caught up to the changes. As we read and watch in horror the endless parade of the raped, the mugged, the stabbed and the murdered, bleeding down the pages of our newspapers, staining the minds of our young children, we wring our hands just as the colonists did, pre-Patrick Henry.

And the victims then are the very same victims today, except these days it’s politically incorrect to suggest that a woman do anything dramatic to protect herself. We give them phone access and some memorized numbers, then lie to them by saying they’re safe. Back then, we gave them guns and taught them how to shoot. It is my guess that years ago a man would think twice before he attacked a woman. Today’s violent predator can count on the average woman to be unarmed. Some call this progress. I call it society’s failure to protect those who need protection the most.

Terrorists’ attacks launched against targets on these shores killed victims without regard to gender. Many women are taking this opportunity to arm themselves. Have we finally realized that self defense is just as important a right as the ones Patrick Henry endorsed?