Paul Revere's Ride

by David Hackett Fischer

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498

Once committed to what they regarded as a just and necessary war, these sons of Puritans hardened their hearts and became the most implacable of foes. Their many enemies who lived by a warrior-ethic always underestimated them, as a long parade of Indian braves, French aristocrats, British Regulars, Southern planters, German fascists, Japanese militarists, Marxist ideologues, and Arab adventurers have invariably discovered to their heavy cost.

English Reformation men are not widely known as men at arms; yet, when they are roused, there are few more determined fighters. King Charles's Cavalier army discovered this at their peril during the English Civil War. It was a Puritan, Lord Lisle, who read the king his death sentence for treason (for taking up arms against Parliament). Lord Lisle's descendants settled New England and fought a second time against another British king, who would not respect their rights under the British constitution. Few historians understand the mentality and character of the English reformers (slandered as Puritans by their enemies) and their leading role in the American Revolution as well as David Hackett Fischer does.

As this volume goes to press the only creature less fashionable in academe than the stereotypical "dead white male," is a dead white male on horseback.

Fischer shows in Paul Revere's Ride that there is still a lot of fascinating new information to be learned about the "dead white males on horseback" that founded the American republic. It is hard to remember today that they were just ordinary white British subjects who rose to the occasion and, by doing so, became the first Americans. Everybody knew them, as they were active in town life, but what made them great men and women was how they stood up for themselves and responded to encroachments on their traditional liberties and their right to self-government. Fischer shows how more than sixty heroic ordinary men and women were part of the underground network that effectively responded to the British march to arrest and hang their patriot leaders.

This book's . . . purpose is to return to the primary sources, to study what actually happened, to put Paul Revere on his horse again, to take the midnight ride seriously as an historical event, to suspend fashionable attitudes of disbelief toward an authentic American hero, and move beyond the prevailing posture of contempt for a major British leader. Most of all it is to study both Paul Revere and Thomas Gage with sympathy and genuine respect.

Fischer is able to approach the participants from a refreshingly non-partisan manner. The British officers and soldiers are not automatically "bad," and the rebel leaders are not automatically saints. This was a civil war that divided nations, families, congregations, neighbors, and siblings. Many of the Whigs (rebels) had formerly been Tories (British loyalists), and vice versa. Fischer's understanding of British America and his respect for primary sources make him a historian's historian, and his ability to tell a good story with these materials makes him a popular author to boot.

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