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Nathan Hale and Andre

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

May 17.—America has not only produced great military characters, but exhibited many striking instances of humanity and generosity in the present war. Among the latter we may place the treatment given to Major Andre, a British spy, who came within our works with a design to ruin our country. Justice was indeed executed, and Andre died. But justice was executed with humanity, and every alleviation afforded him that the public safety would allow. The generous Americans seemed to forget the nature of his attempt, in the regard they paid to his accomplishments as a man and as a soldier. And he was supported in his last scene, by seeing respect and compassion towards him in every countenance and in every action of those into whose hands he had fallen. But while we pay the debt of humanity to our enemies, let us not forget what we owe to our friends. About four years ago, Captain Hale, an .American officer, of a liberal education, younger than Andre, and equal to him in sense, fortitude, and every manly accomplishment, though without opportunities of being so highly polished, voluntarily went into the city of New York, with a view to serve his invaded country. He performed his part there with great capacity and address, but was accidentally discovered. In this trying position he exhibited all the firmness of Andre, without the aid of a single countenance around him that spoke either respect or compassion, and though every thing that was said or done to him was adapted to make him feel that he was considered as a traitor and a rebel. Andre appeared great in not contesting the clear grounds upon which he was condemned, and in refusing to employ the absurd and frivolous pleas that Clinton would have put into his mouth. Hale, though not at all disconcerted, made no plea for himself, and firmly rejected the advantageous offers made him by the enemy, upon condition of his entering into their service. Andre earnestly wished the mode of his death might have been more like that of a soldier; but consoled himself by observing, that in either way it would bebut a moment’s pang.” Hale, calm and collected, took no notice of either of those circumstances. Andre, as he was going to die, with great presence of mind, and the most engaging air, bowed to all around him, and returned the respect that had been and was still paid to him, saying: “Gentlemen, you will bear witness that I die with the firmness becoming a soldier.” Hale had received no such respects, and had none to return, but just before he expired, said aloud: “I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is, that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.”1

Let justice be done to the character both of the Briton and American, and to the behavior of their respective nations upon this and similar occasions.2


1 Nathan Hale died on September 22, 1776.
2 Boston Independent Chronicle, May 17.