Jill Lepore on “Paul Revere’s Ride”

  • Jill Lepore has an interesting piece in the New York Times today (19-Dec-2010) about Longfellow’s famous poem Paul Revere’s Ride. Listen my children, and you shall hear / Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. She describes how the poem, published on the same day that South Carolina seceded from the United States 150 years ago, is as much about the pending Civil War as about the Revolutionary one. This is another example where myths of American Independence are used to inform the present, which was Longfellow’s true intention. See NY Times Sunday Opinion.
JDN | 19-Dec-2010

The Americans ... revolted not to create but to maintain their freedom. American society had developed differently from that of the Old World. From the time of the first settlements in the seventeenth century, wrote Samuel Williams in 1794, every thing tended to produce, and to establish the spirit of freedom. While the speculative philosophers of Europe were laboriously searching their minds in an effort to decide the first principles of liberty, the Americans had come to experience vividly that liberty in their everyday lives.

Gordon S. Wood
The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States (2011)