What are the main points of the book Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer? This includes points that are crucial to understanding this book, major events that happened in the American Revolution, the names of significant people, places, documents, and why these are important.

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Paul Revere’s legendary midnight ride warning of the impending British invasion during the Revolutionary War period reached mythological status in American culture. This story has been simplified and hyperbolized by patriots throughout the years to detail an important harbinger of the revolution.

In 1994, David Hackett Fischer wrote Paul Revere’s...

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Paul Revere’s legendary midnight ride warning of the impending British invasion during the Revolutionary War period reached mythological status in American culture. This story has been simplified and hyperbolized by patriots throughout the years to detail an important harbinger of the revolution.

In 1994, David Hackett Fischer wrote Paul Revere’s Ride, which unpeels the layers of legend through a scientific-like study of the events. This examination has brought more specific details and insights of the event to the mass market.

A major point that Fischer makes is related to Paul Revere himself. Revere has been regarded as a simple man who acted selflessly in a time of emergency to warn the patriots. In reality, Revere was a smart and manipulative asset to the revolution, successful in pulling strings to sway public perception.

Fischer also makes an interesting comparison between Revere and British General Thomas Gage. Both Revere and Gage shared many political views; however, those views are manifested differently in their desires for the colonies. This acts to obscure the popularly-held notion that the patriots and the Tories were polar opposites. This idea is reinforced by further information exposed about the motivations of the patriots. The events that led up to the Revolutionary War did not start due to altruistic expressions of human rights but rather started as a catalyst for gaining more power under King George III.

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David Hackett Fischer makes many points in Paul Revere's Ride. Perhaps his main point has to do with the motivations of the colonists at the outbreak of the American Revolution. He presents evidence and examples to show that the early causes of the Revolution were not rooted in a desire to shake up the world order and establish a new age of individual rights and humanist tolerance. Instead, he shows that the New England colonists fought for rather conservative ideals. Namely, they wanted to restore the collective freedoms that they felt they were entitled to as subjects of England. The changes that had been occurring for the decade before the outbreak of the Revolution were eroding freedoms that their ancestors had enjoyed for over 150 years and by opposing the actions of the Crown, they were fighting to restore them.

Furthermore, Fischer is keen to present Paul Revere as more than the mere midnight messenger that most Americans think of him as. He shows that Revere was a complex man with a desire to preserve the ancient liberties of a free people. Fischer reveals Revere to be a thoughtful and well-connected organizer and a man of convictions who knew how to pull strings to influence major events.

In his description of the colonial militias at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Fischer makes the point that, contrary to many tellings of the story, the militias were not made up of ragtag and untrained farmers. Fischer points to evidence from first-hand accounts and other historical sources which show that the militias were well-trained. Rather than exclusively hiding behind hedges and boulders, they engaged the English forces under the skilled command of their officers on open ground. This form of fighting actually had deep roots in New England tradition that stressed communal drilling, social hierarchy, and the defense of one's home.

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Among the main points of the book Paul Revere’s Ride, by David Hackett Fischer, are the following (as outlined by Fischer himself in his introduction to the book):

  • Britons tend to be ignorant of the story of Revere, even though it is well known to many Americans.
  • In Hackett’s own words,

Ambiguity is an important part of the legend of Paul Revere, and a key to its continuing vitality.

  • Even though the story is often repeated, especially to children, tellers of the story tell it in various ways and are not sure which parts of it are true.
  • Some students of the story like to celebrate it, while others like to debunk it.
  • Partly for both of the reasons just mentioned, the story of Revere’s ride has influenced many later works, including books, films, and even pieces of music.
  • Yet professional historians have paid surprisingly little attention to the story.
  • Partly this neglect by historians is due to a disdain for popular history.
  • Partly the neglect of the story by historians has resulted from disdain for simple patriotism.
  • Partly the neglect of the story by historians has resulted from a general neglect of narrative history of all sorts.
  • The neglect of Revere’s story is a symptom of larger shortcomings in the contemporary study of history by professional historians.
  • The focus of Hackett’s book is therefore on “contingent” events – that is, events that might have developed differently in any number of ways.  “Contingent” events are by definition unpredictable.
  • One central focus of the book is Paul Revere, who has not received the attention he deserves.
  • Another central focus of the book is General Thomas Gage, the British commander, who has tended to be neglected on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • In Hackett’s opinion, Gage was

truly a tragic figure, a good and decent man who was undone by his virtues.

  • Gage played a very important but overlooked role in shaping Britain’s policies toward America and thus in helping to foment the American rebellion.
  • One function of the book is to examine the cultural contexts in which Revere and Gage acted.
  • For Americans of Revere’s generation, Revere’s ride was recalled as a highly significant event.
  • The words Revere and Gage used to describe their values were often highly similar, despite the conflict between these two figures.
  • Despite the similar language Revere and Gage used, their real values differed greatly.
  • Revere’s values differed from our own, even though he used language that we still use today to describe our own (significantly different) values.
  • Revere believed in

ordered freedom, which gave heavy weight to collective rights and individual responsibilities – more so than is given by our modern calculus of individual rights and collective responsibilities.

  • These are just a few of the points Hackett makes about his own book in the introduction to that volume.
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