A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere

By Jayne E. Triber | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

PAUL REVERE'S ascent into the realm of folklore surely began when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow climbed the tower of Boston's Old North Church on April 5, 1860. In his journal, this preeminent American poet wrote: "From this tower were hung the lanterns as a signal that the British troops had left Boston for Concord." The next day, Longfellow began writing "Paul Revere's Ride." On April 19 he noted: "I wrote a few lines in 'Paul Revere's Ride'; this being the day of that achievement."1 With the publication of the poem in the January 1861 issue of Atlantic Monthly and also in Tales of a Wayside Inn in 1863, Longfellow inspired his countrymen with a romantic vision of America's Revolutionary struggle against British tyranny. In the process, he also created an enduring symbol of America's Revolutionary ideals in the person of Paul Revere, a daring horseman who, "with a cry of defiance and not of fear," rallied his countrymen in defense of liberty.2 The poet did not explain what attracted Paul Revere to the Revolutionary cause, how Revere interpreted the republican principles of the Revolution, or how those principles shaped his life after April 19, 1775. Those were the questions that I set out to answer.3

As a historian and biographer, I have always been fascinated by what abstract terms like "liberty," "equality," "republicanism," and "democracy" meant to real people from different segments of society at various points in American history. I have also been drawn to the study of individuals who do not neatly fit into the disciplines or categories that we historians create. The intellectual historian will discover that the master goldsmith Paul Revere was intelligent but not intellectual, and that his ideology must be deciphered as much through his actions as through his words. The meaning and attraction of republicanism for Paul Revere

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