The legend says that on New Year’s Eve, 1308, Stauffacher, with a chosen band of followers, climbed the mountain which led to Landenberg’s fortress castle of Rotzberg. There they were assisted by an inmate of the castle, a young girl whose lover was among the rebels. She threw a rope out of one of the windows of the castle, and by it her countrymen climbed one after another into the castle. They seized the bailiff, Landenberg, and confined him in one of the dungeons of his own castle. Next day the conspirators were reinforced by another party who gained entrance to the castle by means of a clever ruse. Landenberg and his men were given their freedom by the peasants on condition that they would quit Switzerland forever.
The castle of Uri was attacked and taken possession of by Walter Furst and William Tell, while other strongholds were captured by Arnold of Melchthal and his associates.
Bonfires blazed all over the country. The dawn of Switzerland’s freedom had appeared. The reign of tyranny was doomed. William Tell was the hero of the hour, and ever since his name has been enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen as the watchword of their liberties. Even to this day, as history tells us, the Swiss peasant cherishes the belief that “Tell and the three men of Rutli are asleep in the mountains, but will awake to the rescue of their land should tyranny ever again enchain it.”
Lamartine, to whose story of William Tell the writer is indebted, commenting on the legend says: “The artlessness of this history resembles a poem; it is a pastoral song in which a single drop of blood is mingled with the dew upon a leaf or a tuft of grass. Providence seems thus to delight in providing for every free community, as the founder of their independence, a fabulous or actual hero, conformable to the local situation, manners, and character of each particular race. To a rustic, pastoral people, like the Swiss, is given for their liberator a noble peasant; to a proud, aspiring race, such as the Americans, an honest soldier. Two distinct symbols, standing erect by the cradles of the two modern liberties of the world to personify their opposite natures: on the one hand Tell, with his arrow and the apple; on the other, Washington, with his sword and the law.”
When the current serves, the unseen monitor that directs our affairs bids us step aboard our craft, and, with hand firmly grasping the helm, steer boldly for the distant goal.
Philip D. Armour, the open-handed, large-hearted merchant prince, who has left a standing memorial to his benevolence in the Armour Institute at Chicago, heard the call to put to sea when in his teens.