This paper is an account of the life of Paul Revere, a skilled artisan who is best known to history for a gallant but uncompleted ride through the night at the start of the American Revolution. Unlike most of those who fomented the idea of breaking free of British control and forming an independent nation, Revere came from humble beginnings, had no college education, did not participate in formal politics, and, until he was immortalized in a poem well after his death, had been largely forgotten by history. Yet he represents the working person of his times, without whose enthusiastic support and commitment revolution would have been impossible.
Paul Revere was baptized on January 1, 1735, indicating that he was probably born the day before. He was the son of a French immigrant driven out of his native country during Louis XIV's purge of Protestantism. That immigrant, Apollos Rivoire, eventually arrived in the New World, where he apprenticed with a silversmith, married a local girl, and began a family. Paul followed in his father's footsteps, learning the trade. When his father died, Paul took over as head of the family.
He was married twice, first to Sara Orne, who bore him eight children and died in the spring of 1773. That fall, he married Rachel Walker, who bore another eight children. Seven of Revere's 16 children died before reaching adulthood, a common occurrence at the time. At another place and time, Paul Revere might have made his mark with his silver work and been remembered only for the pieces he left behind; Esther Forbes observes, "He is now considered the best of all the silversmiths who worked in America during his lifetime" (69).
However, the Boston in which he grew up was at a crucial point in its history. Once the threat from the French and Indian Wars had subsided (Revere served as a second lieutenant for about a year, defending the northern borders of New York), the colonies began to squirm un...