The Corner

Paul Revere and All That

I can’t let the Palin controversy pass without urging everyone interested in this wonderful episode in American history to read David Hackett Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride. One of my favorite passages is when Fischer recounts Revere’s spirited response to the British when they captured him. When a British officer clapped a pistol to his head and said he’d better answer their questions truthfully, Revere responded, “I call myself a man of truth, and you have stopped me on the highway, and made me a prisoner I knew not by what right. I will tell the truth, for I am not afraid.” Later, when the British warned him he better not try to bolt or they’d blow his brains out, he said, coolly, “You may do as you please.”

(It was around this time, by the way, that the Brits realized Revere had been telling the truth when he “warned” them, as Palin put it, that the alarm had been raised in the countryside. Fischer: “At last the officers began to feel the full import of what Paul Revere had been telling them. His words of warning took on stronger meaning when punctuated by gunfire. The sound of a single shot had suggested to them that surprise was lost. The crash of a volley appeared evidence that the country was rising against them. As they came closer to the Common they began to hear Lexington’s town bell clanging rapidly. The captive [Jonathan] Loring, picking up Revere’s spirit, turned to the officers and said, ‘The bell’s a’ringing! The town’s alarmed, and you’re all dead men!’”)

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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