Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

Today in History, November 5, 1605: …The Gunpowder treason and plot…

The Gunpowder Plot. Several Catholic conspirators had hatched a plan to blow up the Parliament building in London while the king and parliament met.

One of the conspirators told a relative not to attend, and that relative told authorities. On the night of November 5th, conspirator Guy Fawkes was caught lurking in the basement of the building, and subsequently 20 barrels of gunpowder he had hidden there were located.

Fawkes named his conspirators under torture. Several, including Fawkes, were sentenced to be drawn and quartered. As Fawkes climbed a ladder to the gallows, he jumped to his death. Today is Guy Fawkes day in England, celebrating the failure of the plot.

In recent years it seems to have become popular to don a Guy Fawkes mask to render yourself anonymous to protest anything from injustice to prices.

 The Fifth of November

Remember, remember!  
The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
I know of no reason 
Why the Gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot! 
Guy Fawkes and his companions 
Did the scheme contrive, 
To blow the King and Parliament 
All up alive. 
Threescore barrels, laid below, 
To prove old England’s overthrow. 
But, by God’s providence, him they catch, 
With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
A stick and a stake  
For King James’s sake! 
If you won’t give me one, 
I’ll take two, 
The better for me, 
And the worse for you. 
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him, 
A pint of beer to wash it down, 
And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Choices and Legacies

Today in History, August 30: 1780 – Heretofore known as a dedicated, fierce warrior for the American cause, a hero of the Canadian campaign who had lost a leg in the service of his country, 38-year-old Benedict Arnold trades these monikers in to make his name synonymous with treason. 

 On this date Arnold, who had been given the command of the fortress at West Point, offers to surrender it to the British in exchange for 10,000 pounds and a commission in the British Army.

Strapped for cash, angry over perceived slights by his contemporaries, and trying support the desires of his 21-year-old wife who came from a wealthy British family, Arnold made all the wrong choices. He would die in 1801 in London, forsaken by his country, ignored by the British, impoverished. 

If he had stood fast with his country, his name would be in the line of Washington, Greene, and Lee.

A Brilliant and Rebellious Orator


Today in History, May 29: 1736/1765 – Founding father Patrick Henry is born in Studley, Virginia (you can’t make this stuff up) in 1736.

On his 29th birthday, as a Representative in the Virginia House of Burgesses, he presented the Virginia Resolves on the Stamp Act…a response to British taxation without representation of the colonies.  The next day he gave a speech which riled his contemporaries.  Remember that at this time he and all colonists were proudly British subjects:

“Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third—” when, it is reported, voices cried out, “Treason! treason!” “—and George the Third may profit by their example! If this be treason…make the most of it.”

This brought a backlash for which he apologized.  He was not calling for the King’s assassination, but saying he should pay heed to history.

His most famous speech, of course, came during the second Continental Congress:

“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace —
but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!
The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!

Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have?

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me,

Give me liberty or give me death!”