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with any war, victory in the American Revolution could only be won with as
much success in espionage as on the battlefield. Nathan Hale, young Yale
graduate and school teacher, had joined the Revolution in the Connecticut
militia. He rose fast through the ranks from his spirit and dedication to
the movement. On September 8, 1776, Hale volunteered to go into
British-controlled New York City and gather intelligence.
While Hale was in the city, the Great Fire broke out on September 21.
Rumors flew about it being Patriot activity, while others suspected
uncontrollable British soldiers, and, either way, the occupying army set
upon a course of rounding up potential rebels. Hale was discovered in a
tavern by counter-intelligence and eventually captured in Queens where he
had fled. He would hang at dawn.
"This might have been interesting. After an escape
like that, Hale would have been an icon for the Patriots. They'd probably
call him "Half-hanged Hale." And I think that Andrew Jackson would have
been absolutely lost in admiration of Talmadge; it would be just the sort
of stunt he'd see himself doing." - reader's comments
By what very
well may have been luck, a contemporary of Hale's at Yale, Benjamin
Tallmadge, was in New York. He had been recently commissioned in the
Continental Army's light dragoons, but he had become ill and took a short
leave. Just as he was coming back to the world, the fire had broken out,
and he returned to his Revolutionary efforts hiding Patriots from the
British crackdown. When word came that Hale had been captured, Tallmadge
planned a desperate rescue.
In the morning, Hale was marched to the gallows. An African boy, Bill
Richmond (who would later become a famous American boxer), had been hired
by the British to secure the rope to the tree. Tallmadge had gotten to the
boy and bribed him an enormous amount of money to have the rope slip. As
the drummer ended, Hale was given his final words, and the
twenty-one-year-old gave a short oration summed up, "I regret that I have
but one life to give for my country".
The trap was pulled, and Hale fell. Carefully filed by Richmond, the rope
snapped. Before the British guard could react, a group of Patriots let off
a rifle barrage, gathering the crowd's attention. Tallmadge dove through
the chaos and whisked away the stunned Hale, who would come out of the
affair with a scar from the rope burn around his throat.
""Every life he had"? This suggests Hale might have
been immortalized in Ameircan history in quite a different way than in our
timeline: not as a man willing to die for his country but as one preserved
by Providence for his country. " - reader's comments
New York City
would continue in an uproar for several days while Hale was hidden and
finally sneaked out in the disguise of a milkmaid. Stories spread like
lightning of the man who did indeed have more than one life to give for
his country, causing a surge of patriotism across the colonies. Tallmadge
was soon made Washington's chief intelligence officer, and he took Hale on
as a spy. The two would form the Culper Spy Ring, which would discover
Benedict Arnold's betrayal, and Hale himself would apprehend the
After the war, Tallmadge turned to business while Hale went back to
teaching. Hale would later be elected a representative from Connecticut to
the Constitutional Convention, and he would quickly give his support for
Federalism under James Madison's plan. Tallmadge later served in the House
of Representatives, being supportive of Hale's higher aspirations. Most
famously, Hale would attend the Hartford Convention, giving another speech
that stirred the war-weary New Englanders toward support and away from the
idea of secession. "After all, are we not Federalists? Are we not
Americans? We may not choose ourselves where the will of our country
leads, but we may choose to follow the course, rough as it may be". Here,
he bared his scar amid patriotic cheers.
"Mr. Turtledove, please pick up the white courtesy
phone... :D " - reader's comments
Uniting the Federalists, Hale
would win a narrow victory over Secretary of State James Monroe in the
presidential election of 1816. In his term, Hale would clarify the role of
state's rights, work toward internal improvements, and further bolster
international trade. While his economic policies seemed good, they proved
perhaps too good for their dependence of European payment, and the Panic
of 1820 would usher Hale out of office with James Monroe taking over and
the Democratic-Republicans returning to power. Hale returned to the
Senate, and the two would prove effective friends, working to balance with
the Missouri Compromise and the Monroe Doctrine of defending the freedom
of other nations while maintaining ideals of isolationism.
In his later years, Hale would routinely denounce Senator, then President,
Andrew Jackson as a political opportunist, bloodthirsty killer, retarder
of economics, and "bad fellow". Jackson replied that Hale was a suppressor
of the common man, wild gambler of others' money, and "old man". The two
war heroes bit into each other until Hale's death in 1834. Jackson
attended Hale's funeral even though believing that Hale had cost him the
1828 election. Despite their differences, Jackson said of Hale, "He gave
every life he had for his country".