Yesterday I posted a condemnation of Jill Burcum’s smear piece of Sarah Palin’s Paul Revere story. I found a highly reputable historian, David Hackett Fischer, whose book backed up Palin’s story. Essentially, Palin’s understanding the context and details was correct when you read Fischer’s interpretation of primary source materials. Throughout conservative media, there are more reports of historians backing up Palin’s characterization of Revere’s ride before the battles of Lexington and Concord.
There is also a liberal media source that inadvertently supported Palin’s thoughts on this story. Melissa Block of NPR’s “All Things Considered” on June 6, 2011 had a Revolutionary War historian from Suffolk University on a segment. It’s incredibly obvious Block thought this historian would rip to shreds Palin’s comments on Paul Revere. Block set up the scene and Professor Robert Allison schooled her:
BLOCK: And let's review Paul Revere's midnight ride, April 18, 1775. He's going to Lexington, Massachusetts. And according to Sarah Palin, he's riding his horse through town, sending warning shots and ringing those bells. True?
Prof. ALLISON: Well, he's not firing warning shots. He is telling people so that they can ring bells to alert others. What he's doing is going from house to house, knocking on doors of members of the Committees of Safety, saying the regulars are out. That is, he knew that General Gage was sending troops out to Lexington and Concord, really Concord, to seize the weapons being stockpiled there, but also perhaps to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams, leaders of the Continental Congress who were staying in the town of Lexington.
Remember, Gage was planning - this is a secret operation; that's why he's moving at night. He gets over to Cambridge, the troops start marching from Cambridge, and church bells are ringing throughout the countryside.
Whoaaaaaa. Not only does the good professor explain that it was the British that were moving in secret, and not Revere, but Palin commented on Revere’s missions,plural. He was supposed to warn Hancock and Adams and then he rode out to rouse the countryside. Once again, Palin got it right. The entire British Regular operation was supposed to secretly seize the Massachusetts militia’s stockpiles of munitions. This wasn’t a call to war as the bowdlerized version suggests. In fact, this mission was to warn the British NOT to try and take their arms because there would be resistance.
Block is clearly shocked on the tape. Remember, this is Palin’s comments on what she learned from going to the Revere house and not a dissertation on the role of Paul Revere and the battles of Lexington and Concord. Palin was simply recounting something new she’d learn, which is very clear on the tape NPR provides. Block, a bit taken aback, counters with the ‘bells’ question, which essentially Allison already answered.
BLOCK: So Paul Revere was ringing those bells? He was a silversmith, right?
Prof. ALLISON: Well, he was - he also was a bell ringer. That is, he rang the bells at Old North Church as a boy. But he, personally, is not getting off his horse and going to ring bells. He's telling other people - and this is their system before Facebook, before Twitter, before NPR - this was the way you get a message out, is by having people ring church bells, and everyone knows there is an emergency.
And by this time, of course, the various town committees of safety, militia knew what the signals were, so they knew something was afoot. So this is no longer a secret operation for the British.
Revere isn't trying to alert the British, but he is trying to warn them. And in April of 1775, no one was talking about independence. We're still part of the British Empire. We're trying to save it. So this is a warning to the British Empire what will happen if you provoke Americans.
Block is merely echoing all her fellow progressive/socialists’ criticism of Palin because she talked about bells. I’m not sure what being a silversmith had to do with Revere’s ride, but she threw that in because it’s apparent she’s a bit rattled.
Allison explains that the colonists weren’t being secret. They were rousing the countryside to resist the British. Furthermore, as we know from Fischer’s account, Revere was warning his FELLOW BRITS not to undertake this operation. After his capture, he warned the British regulars that they would be dead if they continued on in their mission. The entire movement on that fateful late evening and very early morning was from one segment of the British colonial population to their British occupiers.
Allison goes on to explain how Palin’s understanding of the intent of the colonists was to prevent seizure of their arms. As British subjects, they had certain historical rights including the right to have arms to defend themselves. This was something Palin discussed through the prism of the Second Amendment. Block is stunned.
BLOCK: So you think basically, on the whole, Sarah Palin got her history right.
Prof. ALLISON: Well, yeah, she did. And remember, she is a politician. She's not an historian. And God help us when historians start acting like politicians, and I suppose when politicians start writing history.
Block then attempts to question whether Allison is alone in his beliefs that Palin got the history right, insulting him. Allison casually flicked off her query quite adroitly and Block looked the fool. Furthermore, Allison said that Palin aroused more interest in the subject than he ever could, and he appreciated that.
Quite frankly, this entire situation fascinates me. I’m a history buff and when these genuinely golden opportunities for understanding the context and vibrancy of historical events arise, we must take advantage of them. Palin’s done more for the interest in the actual, not the fictionalized account, of the history of the beginning of the American Revolution than anyone else has in quite a while.
I await Miz Burcum’s apology for her slander of Palin.
I won’t hold my breath.
Here's the link to the NPR story. Listen to it and read the transcript. It's priceless.