Why Nathan Hale is Overrated

Nathan Hale is regarded as a local hero, having been born in Coventry, CT in 1755. Hale was a teacher up until he joined the Continental army to fight for the fledgling United States. Hale earned his “fame” when he volunteered for an espionage and intelligence-gathering mission to the British-occupied New York City. He was captured by the British officials, and on September 22, 1776, and he was hanged for being a spy. His famous last words, as recorded by a British officer, were “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Then, 200 years later, Connecticut officially regarded him as the state hero. Nathan Hale has had countless schools, halls, statues, and even a submarine, the USS Nathan Hale, named in his honor.

I am here to say that Nathan Hale does not deserve the attention he receives, for multiple reasons. Hale did not complete his mission. He was a school teacher who attempted to be a spy, but failed miserably, quickly captured and executed for his attempt at espionage. Others may call out his volunteerism for such a mission the work of a hero, but I would call it the work of a fool. He was a school teacher who decided that he wanted to play at being a spy and died because of his tragic arrogance. If Hale had stayed in his lane, perhaps he would have lived past the age of 21.

Hale is mainly remembered for “his” famous last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” which in fact, were not his own words. It is most likely that Hale quoted lines from a popular play called “Cato” written by Joseph Addison in 1715. In the play, Cato says the words, “What pity is it, that we can die but once to serve our country.” Addison’s play was incredibly popular among the supporters of the Revolution, because of its themes of liberty and democracy, and according to some records, was played for the soldiers of the Continental army while they were at Valley Forge. Whether this plagiarism was technical or intentional is up for debate. Either way, if I had plagiarized something as a student at Ledyard High School I would get a zero on this article at the least.

In conclusion, I believe Nathan Hale is an overrated American “hero” who failed in his mission and is praised for saying a line from a play that he did not write. There are countless things in Connecticut named after him, which could be named after more deserving heroes.  


Anthony Zinno, Staff Writer

Senior Anthony Zinno is a staff writer for the 2018-2019 Colonel. He is an avid member of the music and drama programs at LHS. Outside of school, he could be found binging Netflix shows or going on hikes.

Author: thecolonel306

The Colonel is Ledyard High School's award-winning news magazine, serving as the student voice of LHS for almost 50 years.

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