Who would have thought that Sarah Palin would bring so much attention to the history of Paul Revere’s midnight ride with a comment made at the North End’s A. Parziale & Sons Italian bakery?
A week after her visit to the North End, the story continues to gain national exposure with a piece in today’s USA Today and a spot on the CBS Early Show (embedded below). A Google search identifies over 1,000 news articles published in the last week on the issue.
Palin described Revere as, “He who warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms by ringing those bells, and makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free.”
On Fox News, Palin defended her statement, “You know what? I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere. Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there. That, ‘Hey, you’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms.”
Let’s go to the source. Massachusetts Historical Society posts the account by Revere himself, in a letter written about 1798. It clearly states that he rode to warn fellow rebels Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming to arrest them.
So, what is Palin referring to? Well, Revere did encounter the British, but only after being arrested on the way to Concord. In his 1798 letter, he says (misspellings and all):
I told him; and aded, that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up.
Palin claims this is how Revere warned the British.
Local history writer, J.L. Bell of the Boston 1775 blog, helps us interpret, “Needless to say, Revere didn’t ride to warn the British. He rode to warn provincial militia officers and the Continental Congress delegates Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were on the march. One could make the argument that Revere’s actions led to a massive popular response that served as a warning to British officials about the people’s determination to protect their traditional liberties—I’m just not convinced that Palin could make that argument, at least without coaching.”
J.L. Bell also speculates that the “bell-ringing” part of Palin’s comment was probably confused as a reference to Paul Revere’s boyhood days when he rang the bells in the steeple of the Old North Church. Immediately before making her comment, she had just come from the ONC after hearing a talk there.
As a North End website, I would be remiss if I did not mention the best source right here in our neighborhood at the Paul Revere House in North Square. The experts there will tell you the real story, also posted on their website at http://www.paulreverehouse.org/ride/real.html. Stop by, they love to tell it.
For the Paul Revere House, the attention may be well-timed as they plan a new exhibit on the midnight ride in their extension at Lathrop Place. (View their virtual midnight ride.) Ironically, we might thank Sarah Palin for confirming the need for the real story to be told. For more information and how to support their expansion, see their webpage on the planned Education and Visitor Center.