What did Paul Revere do that makes him so important in American history?

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martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paul Revere is most famous for his midnight ride warning the Minutemen that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord.  But Paul Revere did much more than that. He was one of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, secret societies formed in several of the colonies to protest British policies in the colonies.  These protests often used violence or the threat of violence to achieve their goals.  As an active member of the Sons of Liberty, Paul Revere participated in the dumping of tea into Boston harbor, which is today known as the Boston Tea Party.   But perhaps the one thing that Revere did that was important to America was the engraving he made of “The Boston Massacre”.  On March 5, 1770, an unruly mob of Bostonian men and boys began threatening a lone sentry near Boston’s Custom House.  Rocks, bricks, and chunks of ice were thrown at the sentry. Soon, a small company of soldiers came to help the sentry who feared for his life. When these troops arrived, the mob grew angry, daring the soldiers to fire.  In the chaos and confusion of the moment, shots were fired and 5 Americans were killed.   Paul Revere saw this as a great opportunity for propaganda.  He made an engraving of “the Bloody massacre on King Street” depicting the event his own way.  In his engraving soldiers lined up in an orderly fashion were being ordered to fire upon a helpless, peaceful group of Bostonians.  This engraving was widely circulated and was responsible for public opinion turning against the British troops in Boston, which would eventually lead to the events in Lexington and Concord.  An interesting note to the Boston Massacre—the troops who fired upon that mob were put on trial and defended by John Adams.  None were found guilty of murder and the trial transcripts show the falsehood of Revere’s engraving.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Revere's exact contribution to American History is a significant one.  Revere's development of a type of alarm system to alert the Colonists of British troop movements was a significant one.  Revere's actions were representative of the Colonial anger felt towards the British. His actions were also representative of the means to which Colonial Patriots were to go in order to further their desire of armed conflict with England, and facilitating a hopeful break from the British.  His midnight ride did not necessarily change much in way of the outcome of the impending conflict.  Yet, it did make very clear how organized the Patriots wanted to be against England and the level of anticipation they felt regarding the propensity for war against them.  The midnight ride helps to fulfill the American Revolutionary mythology of the lone individual standing against the overwhelming force of mighty England.  In this sense, Revere is seen as riding through Boston at midnight, on his horse warning his fellow colonists of the British advancement.  Revere's contributions during the war never matched his midnight ride significance, but over time, his mythologized calls of "The British Are Coming!" have helped to cement the nostalgia associated with the American Revolution and the Patriotic participation within it.

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