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The Unknown Individual

THE war for American independence was begun by an
individual. He was asleep in his bed when someone
pounded on his door and shouted out in the night: ‘The
Redcoats are coming!”
But what could he do? He was only one man against
the armed might of Britain. If he had been a king, a
czar, or a potentate, he could have solved vast problems
and done great things – he could have brought the
powers of Europe together in harmony and made an
everlasting peace and prosperity around the world.
But he was not a king, not a royal governor, not a rich
man, not an important man. He was just one little man,
unknown to anyone outside of his own neighbourhood.
So what could he do? Why should he take the initiative?
Such things usually cleared up -they always had. So
why not let nature take its course? This was no time to
be foolhardy. He must keep calm, use his head, and consider
the practical aspects. And there was his family to
think of. What would become of them?
Most men felt that way. They knew they could do
nothing, and they had better sense than to try. That night
in Lexington, many of them stayed in bed. But the unknown
individual chose between submission that looked
like safety and rebellion that seemed utterly hopeless.
Many respected citizens were against him; the teachers
and the writers of books were against him. Men in high
places – many widely-known men – stood stanchly with
the King.
But the unknown individual had the courage of his
convictions. He got up, put on his clothes, took his gun,
and went out to meet the British troops. Not acting under
orders, not being led nor wanting to be the leader, he
stood on his own feet – a responsible, self-controlling
person – and fired the shot heard ’round the world. The
sound of that shot said that man is a free agent; that
government is the servant rather than the master.

The Mainspring Of Human Progress, Henry Grady Weaver, p.179-180 (c) 1947

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