WHERE THE MERCURY OF THE REVOLUTION LIVED AND TOILED
“Take three fourths of a Paine that makes Traitors Confess (RAC) With three parts of a place which the Wicked don’t Bless (HEL) Joyne four sevenths of an Exercise which shopkeepers use (WALK) Add what Bad Men do, when they good actions refuse(ER) These four added together with great care and Art Will point out the Fair One that is nearest my Heart”
Thus wrote Paul Revere, the Boston goldsmith, on the back of a bill to Mr. Benjamin Greene for ” Gold buttons,” ” Mending a Spoon,” and ” Two pr. of Silver Shoe Buckles,” which was made out one day in 1773 in the old house in North Square, built in 1676. To this house he planned to lead as his second wife Rachel Walker; his eight children needed a mother’s care, and he wanted some one to share the joys and the burdens of his life.
Before his first marriage, in 1757, he had served as a second lieutenant in a company of artillery, in the expedition against Crown Point. Soldiering was succeeded by work at his trade of goldsmith and silversmith, learned from his father. He was a skilled engraver; most of the silverware made in Boston at this period testified to his ability. Later, when the rising patriotic tide seemed to call for lithographs and broadsides, he engraved these on copper with eager brain and active hand.
He began his patriotic work as a member of the secret order The Sons of Liberty, which had organizations in nearly all the colonies, held frequent meetings, and laid plans for resisting the encroachments of Great Britain. Once, when some three hundred of these Sons dined at Dorchester, Paul Revere was present, as well as Samuel Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock.
It was necessary to have a trusted messenger to carry tidings of moment from place to place, and Paul Revere was one of those chosen for the purpose. His first important ride was at the time of the destruction of the tea in Boston harbor. He had a leading part in bringing together the patriots who gathered on November 29, 1773, first at Faneuil Hall, then at Old South Meeting House, to protest against the landing of the tea from the ship Dartmouth, and he was one of the men who, on December 16, in Indian disguise, threw £18,000 worth of tea into the harbor. In preparation for the rallying of the men of the tea party at the ” Green Dragon,” the following ditty was composed:
” Rally Mohawks! bring out your axes, And tell King George we’ll pay no taxes On his foreign tea. His threats are vain, and vain to think To force our girls and wives to drink His vile Bohea ! Then rally boys, and hasten on To meet our chief at the Green Dragon.
“Old Warren’s there, and bold Revere, With hands to do, and words to cheer, For liberty and laws; Our country’s brave and free defenders Shall ne’er be left by true North-Enders Fighting Freedoms cause ! Then rally boys, and hasten on To meet our chiefs at the Green Dragon.”
Of the work done by the Mohawks on that December night John Adams wrote on December 17, 1773, ” This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid, and inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences, and so lasting, that I can’t but consider it as an Epoch in History.”
The enactment of the Boston Port Bill was the cause of Revere’s next ride. A meeting of citizens in Boston decided to ask the other colonies ” to come into a joint resolution to stop all importation from, and exportation to, Great Britain and every part of the West Indies till the act be repealed,” in the thought that this would ” prove the salvation of North America and her liberties.”
These resolutions were given to Paul Revere by the selectmen of Boston, and he was urged to ride with all speed to New York and Philadelphia. On May 30, 1774, the Essex Gazette told of the return of the messenger, and announced, ” Nothing can exceed the indignation with which our brethren of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Philadelphia have received this proof of Ministerial madness. They universally declare their resolution to stand by us to the last extremity.”
Four months later another ride to Philadelphia was taken, to carry to the Continental Congress the Suffolk Resolves. Six days only were taken for the journey. When Congress learned of the protest in New England. against the principle ” that Parliament had the right to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever,” there was no question that a new nation was ready for birth. ” I think I may assure you, that America will make a point of supporting Boston to the utmost,” Samuel Adams wrote, the day after Revere’s message was read.
Once more during the historic year 1774 the Boston silversmith turned aside from his shop long enough to ride to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to give in-formation of the prohibition by Great Britain of further importations of gunpowder, and to tell of the coming of a large garrison to Fort William and Mary at Portsmouth. The immediate result of the ride was the sending of a party of four hundred patriots against the fort, which surrendered at once. Little attention has been paid to this event by historians, yet it was one of the most potent of the events preceding the Revolution. One hundred barrels of gunpowder were seized at the fort, and this was a large part of the ammunition used later at Bunker Hill.
Then came April 18, 1775, the date of ” that memorable ride, not only the most brilliant, but the most important single exploit in our national annals.” The Provincial Congress and the Committee of Safety were in session at Concord. General Warren had remained in Boston to watch the movements of the British, and Revere had been holding himself in readiness to carry tidings as soon as there was anything of importance to be told. Now word was to be sent to John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who were at the residence of Rev. Mr. Clarke at Lexington, ” that a number of soldiers were marching towards the bottom of the Common, . .. and that it was thought they were the objects of the movement.” Revere had foreseen the necessity for the ride, and, fearing that he might not be able to cross the Charles River, or get over Boston Neck, had arranged with patriots in Charleston that two ” lanthorns ” would be shown in the North Church steeple if the British went out by water, and one if they went by land.
On the night of April 18 Revere was rowed by two friends across Charles River, passing almost under the guns of the Somerset. After conferring with the Charleston patriots, who had seen the signals, he se-cured a horse, and started toward Lexington, proceeding with extreme care, because he had been told that ten mounted British officers had been seen going up the road. Once he was chased by two British officers. At Medford he awakened the captain of the minute men. ” After that I alarmed almost every house till I got to Lexington,” the patriot rider later told the story. Messrs. Hancock and Adams were aroused. Then Revere went on to Concord, accompanied by two others, that the stores might be secured. Once more residents by the roadside were awakened. He himself was soon surrounded by four mounted British soldiers, but his companions were able to proceed. After a time he was released by his captors, and he made his way to the Clarke house, where Hancock and Adams still were.
Thus the way was prepared for Concord and Lexington. That the patriots were not taken by surprise, and the stores at Concord taken, as the British had hoped, was due to the courage and resourcefulness of Paul Revere.
Revere’s rides as messenger did not end his services to the colonists. In 1775 he engraved the plates and printed the bills of the paper money of Massachusetts, and later he built and operated; a powder mill, He was made lieutenant-colonel of State artillery, and took part in the unfortunate Penobscot expedition out of which grew the charges of which he was triumphantly acquitted by the court-martial held at his own request.
The old house in North Square was the home of the Revere family until about 1795.