With no telephones and no daily newspapers, the task of getting hot news to them quickly was assumed mostly by couriers of various sorts. Broadsides — single sheets of paper — were a favorite way of presenting the news. Broadsides could be printed quickly, given to couriers on horseback, and in the outlying communities they would be nailed to trees in the village green, placed in taverns and other strategic locations, and simply passed from hand to hand.
They could be essays or polemics of several thousand words, crammed onto the broadside in tiny type and arranged into three or four columns. If the broadside had news of political importance from, say, the Sons of Liberty, members or friends of that organization might deliver a packet of these broadsides to a group of communities.
Governing authorities from the days of Persia and the Roman Empire have set up postal systems for carrying sovereign dispatches. By the time of the American colonies, the idea had taken root that making these postal deliveries available for a fee to private citizens could raise money for the crown.
By the time of the Revolution, around 65 government post offices were in operation, or about one for every 25, people. Merchants used the system, but otherwise private use was limited. Postal Service, there were two problems with using colonial postriders — high cost and low reliability. Ordinary people would rather ask a friend or acquaintance to deliver a letter if they were headed in the right direction.
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Newspapers and magazines did not go by government post at all, instead using private postriders. In time of war or peril, some private messengers advertised that they would take letters into the war zone for a shilling or more each.
At that time it cost a shilling to get a letter under one ounce across the Atlantic, so the messenger assured that he would be adequately compensated for putting his life in danger. Back to the patriotic messengers. None stands out more in American history than Paul Revere, and deservedly so. The mythical Paul Revere was a lone rider — itself one of the most popular, recurring images in American folklore. The real Paul Revere did indeed make that ride, was captured and escaped. He put his life in danger as he rescued Hancock and Adams twice , saved the secret papers of the Revolution, and warned the patriots that the British troops were advancing on Lexington and Concord.
He did all that, but he also was the organizer of an efficient network of more than 60 riders who spread the word in all directions from Boston that night of April 19, As America headed for open revolution, Boston was the center of patriot activity.
Now, in April , passions were coming to a head again. We have lists of the members of seven key groups of Boston Whigs patriots : the St. John Hancock and James Otis were each on only one of those lists. John Adams was on two. His activist cousin Sam Adams was on four. But only two men were in five of those groups: Paul Revere and his friend Joseph Warren. Revere was the perfect person to organize a courier network because he knew everyone of importance, and they knew and trusted him. He also knew who the best riders were for his network of messengers, and who could be trusted to get the job done.
Not only that, he knew the leaders of the outlying towns as well, so they, too, trusted him when he arrived with his news that night of April After all, Paul Revere had made his first revolutionary ride on December 17, , spreading the news of the Boston Tea Party. Between and , he made at least five journeys as far as New York and Philadelphia. We have records of at least 18 trips by Paul Revere in the patriot cause. This man got around like no one else.
Fischer writes,. The result would have been a small success for British arms, and an encouragement to the Imperial cause at a critical moment. On the other side, the revolutionary movement would have lost a moral advantage that had a major impact on events to come. We can only imagine what the members of the British Regular Infantry thought as they precision marched in their bright red and hot coats through the Massachusetts countryside.
And as they marched in the dead of the night, the silence would be shattered — from all directions — by the pealing of village church bells, the beating of drums, the boom of cannons, and muskets repeatedly firing in the distance.
These were all signals to the colonists that the British were on the march, signals sent out as Paul Revere and his network of riders made their rounds spreading the word. It was one of the most successful examples of war communications in American history, and for that we can thank patriot Paul Revere above all. Its publisher was London-trained James Franklin, and he employed his younger brother Benjamin as apprentice.
In London James had noticed that a combination of entertainment and political controversy seemed popular with readers, and he sought to bring that winning combination to America. The Franklins refused and instead added the civil authorities to their list of targets. This double-barreled assault on both the religious and political authorities was too much for the Boston of that day, and the Franklin brothers moved on to the freer press climates of Newport, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia. The printer was always the easiest target for the establishment — put him out of business and the writers and other neer-do-wells have no forum for attacking you.
Other colonial governments continued to prosecute for seditious libel. But political events would soon establish freedom of the press in America, in effect if not legal theory, while prosecutions for criminal libel continued in England well into the nineteenth century.
And that was a mistake that London would soon regret. Not only that, but they also changed the language by which they referred to themselves. The press had no difficulty convincing the American public that the Stamp Act was British perfidy. The Brits obviously were due for a consciousness-raising session. The Sons of Liberty began organizing throughout the colonies, pretty much spontaneously and without centralized direction, to oppose the Stamp Act.
Chapter 4: The Citizen and Soldier 1775-1777
This gave the Americans their first taste of what they could do politically, and it became addictive. The press, too, had found its voice. Whatever the issue from here on out, publishers would not hesitate to speak out forcefully and fervently. While it was true that there were other ways to spread the news more quickly, newspapers had one big advantage for news-hungry colonials: They could provide the entire text of proclamations, acts, and other documents that affected the Americans.
As these multiplied in the pre-revolutionary years, newspapers became the major forum for colonials to see and judge for themselves what the Brits and patriots were up to.
Conclusion on Paul Revere Essay?
Few Tory printers remained in America by the time revolution came in , and those remaining few fled with the outbreak of war or experienced the joy of instant conversion. Obviously freedom of the press had not yet come to America. But the prevailing side, in the battle for public opinion, had most emphatically changed from pro-British to pro-revolution. The political pamphlet — virtually a forgotten art form today — reached the zenith of its importance in the American Revolution. George Orwell, himself no slouch at political propaganda, explains why the pamphlet was an ideal form for this historical period:.
The pamphlet is a one-man show.
At the same time, since the pamphlet is always short and unbound, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle, at any rate, can reach a bigger public. The flexibility in size noted by Orwell was particularly important in colonial and revolutionary days. American pamphlets usually ranged from 5, to 25, words, arranged on 10 to 50 pages. Thus pamphlets were a quick-response medium of the day, perfect for a polemic on the Stamp Act, or the Boston Massacre or the Boston Tea Party — or the Continental Congress and independence.
The full bibliography of pamphlets relating to the Anglo-American struggle published in the colonies through the year contains not a dozen or so items but over four hundred…. The first star among these hundreds of pamphleteers was the Rev. Jonathan Mayhew. These letters were printed in most of the colonial newspapers, then brought together in what became the most influential pamphlet published in America before Few would have predicted such a radical course on January 8, , but once again a fiery pamphleteer was far ahead of the cautious politicians.
Are we overstating the case? Consider that up to January John Dickinson was still the most influential pamphleteer in America, and he wanted to stay within the British Empire. At his persuasion, in fact, the Pennsylvania delegation to the Second Continental Congress was instructed to vote against independence if the issue were raised.
The True Story of Paul Revere Chapter 4 - Archiving Early America
It was Tom Paine who weaned Americans off their royalty fetish — at least until the time of Princess Di. Tom Paine had no patience or sympathy for such nonsense. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a successful pet in his lifetime. In his childhood, he was so intelligent that he entered Bowdoin College at the age of fifteen. He worked at Bowdoin College and Harvard College for 19 years due to his eyesight.