SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.I January, 1923 No.1
"Listen my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere
These opening lines of Longfellow's poem, and the thrilling story which
follows, have fascinated us for many years. History has recorded the
details of the famous ride, and the incidents connected with it; but
Masons know little about Paul Revere that arouses enthusiasm. It is my
purpose tonight to bring out the important facts regarding him and to
show the setting which brings our patriot brother closer to us.
The forefathers of Paul Revere were Huguenots, that brave sect of French
Protestants who for many years defied Rome and the King of France. The
Huguenots maintained their identity and churches in spite of edicts and
persecutions. In 1540, six of their villages were completely destroyed
and the inhabitants driven out, ravaged and murdered at the behest of the
King. On August 24, 1572, the Huguenots were the victims of one of the
most despicable massacres that ever took place - the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew - in which more than six thousand of them were sought out in
Paris and murdered in a human hunt lasting three days. The waters of the
seine ran red with blood; the bodies of the victims were so numerous that
the current was unable to carry them away; and for many miles the banks of
the river were covered with their remains. When the news of the massacre
reached Rome a three day's celebration was ordered by the ecclesiastical
authorities. King Charles of France, who, together with his mother, had
been influenced by Church leaders to order the massacre, was congratulated
on the service thus performed for the Holy Roman Church.
The persecutions to which the Huguenots were subjected caused more than
four hundred thousand French to leave the country and settle elsewhere.
Among those who fled was Simon de Revoire, who moved to the Island of
Guernsey in the English Channel. Simon's brother Isaac, being a man with
a large family, stayed on in a remote part of France, later sending one
of his sons, Apollo de Revoire, to his Uncle Simon, at the age of
thirteen. After a time his uncle sent the Nephew to Boston, where he was
apprenticed to a Goldsmith. Here he learned the secrets of the trade, and
after a visit to Guernsey, he returned to America with the intention of
making this country his home. His first step was to change his name to ne
more easily pronounced by his english speaking neighbors, and he was
henceforth known as Mr. Paul Revere.
Establishing himself in business as a gold and silversmith, Revere married
Miss Deborah Hitchborn in 1729. Twelve children were born of this union.
The Paul Revere we are discussing tonight was the third of these, born
January 8, 1735.
We learn that Revere received his education at the famous old "North
Grammar School" kept by Master John Tileson, who taught school in Boston
for eighty years. He was especially famed for his skill in penmanship.
Doubtless we have here the foundation for one of Revere's later
activities - engraved lettering.
Young Paul Revere followed in his father's footsteps as a Gold and
Silversmith. Specimens of his work are still treasured to this day in
some old New England families, and give ample evidence of his artistic
skill. Inspired by long experience in embellishing the articles
manufactured by him, Revere undertook the art of engraving on copper, with
marked success. Books of the 17th and 18th centuries show that this was
a popular form of illustrating. Many of Revere's pictures were political
caricatures and cartoons; and among the best of his works is an engraving
depicting the Boston Massacre, which was extensively copied in Europe. He
also designed bookplates, and in later years furnished the engravings
from which Masonic certificates were made.
The outbreak of the French and Indian Wars in 1756 prompted him to enlist
in the British Colonial service. Commissioned a second lieutenant of
artillery by Governor Sterling, he participated in the expedition against
Crown Point under the command of General John Winslow. Here he received
the military training which enabled him to give excellent service in later
years as major, lieutenant- colonel, and colonel of artillery in the armed
forces of Massachusetts.
Upon his return from military service, Revere was married in 1757 to Miss
Sarah Orne of Boston. Seven children were born of this union. After
sixteen years of wedded life, the faithful wife died, leaving Revere a
widower at 38 with a large family on his hands, a business to look after
and political events engrossing his attention. To quote Revere, he found
his household "In sore need of a Mother," and within a short time after
the death of his first wife and infant child, he married Miss Rachel
Walker, ten years his junior. Eight children were added to the six of
his first marriage.
The Stamp Act of 1765 was one of the causes of the American Revolution.
This act provided for a tax on certain articles imported by the colonies.
The imposition of this tax was not so objectionable in itself to the
colonists as the fact that they had no voice in the matter. This right,
they felt, belonged to them under the Magna Charta, the foundation of
English Liberty. The opponents of the act formed themselves into bands
known as the Sons of Liberty. Meetings were conducted with great secrecy,
those in Boston being ultimately held at the Green Dragon tavern. It is
of more than passing interest to note that St. Andrew's Lodge, many of
whose members participated in the stirring events of the Revolution,
purchased this tavern March 31, 1864.
Among the Massachusetts leaders of the Sons of Liberty were Samuel Adams
and John Hancock, to whom Revere attached himself. Not gifted with speech
as were his associates, he nevertheless reached the public through his
clever cartoons on political events of the day. He also carried secret
dispatches to the leaders of the Sons of Liberty in New York and
Philadelphia; and his unquestioned integrity and excellent memory served
the Colonists well when written word could not be safely conveyed.
In 1766 the Stamp Act was repealed, except as to tea, and this served to
quiet matters somewhat for a time; but the determination of King George
III to force the tea tax upon his colonists made them all the more
determined to resist the measure. Cargoes of tea were shipped and landed
under protest. Merchants throughout the colonies agreed not to handle the
commodity, and very little was sold, such as did trickle into the channels
of trade being handled by Troy shopkeepers.
The arrival of the Dartmouth on November 28, 1773, caused the Sons of
Liberty to call a mass meeting which was attended by over seven thousand
people. Resolutions were passed urging that the tea not be landed, and
that it be sent back to England in the same ships. Guards were placed to
make sure that the tea was not brought in surreptitiously. Another
meeting was called on the 30th, at which the officers of two additional
ships which had arrived in the meantime were made to promise that they
would leave the harbor without unloading their tea cargoes. Governor
Hutchinson, however, interfered with this solution of the problem by
forbidding the issuance of clearance papers until the cargoes should be
discharged. The rest of the story has been recorded in history's pages.
A group of patriots, disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded the vessels, and
destroyed three hundred and forty-two chests of tea valued at $90,000.
It has been asserted by many writers that the Freemasons of the colony had
a large part in the destruction of the tea cargoes. Definite information
is not available, but contemporaneous records of unimpeachable character
lead us to believe that there is some truth in the assertions. The
records of Saint Andrew's Lodge, of which Paul Revere was a member, show
that on the night of November 30th, 1773 - the night for the annual
election of officers - only seven members were present. No election was
held, and the presence of only seven members given as the reason according
to the entries in the lodge minutes.
As a result of the Tea Party, laws were passed in Parliament closing the
port of Boston. These measures only served to inflame the people. Revere
was soon in the saddle again, carrying messages to enlist the support of
the southern provinces in behalf of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts
House of Representatives reorganized under the name of the "The Provincial
Congress" and voted to enroll twelve thousand Minute Men. Revere made
further trips south, and in December, 1773, carried news north to
Portsmouth, N.H., that the importation of military stores had been
forbidden by Parliament, and that a large garrison was coming to occupy
Fort William and Mary at the entrance to the harbor. The Sons of Liberty
thereupon surprised the fort and removed upwards of one hundred barrels of
powder and fifteen cannon.
Governor Gage of Massachusetts became alarmed at these aggressive acts of
the colonists. Outlying stores of gunpowder and arms were called in, and
every precaution taken to guard against further surprises. The Sons of
Liberty soon learned that the British were preparing for action. On April
18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, Grand Master of Massachusetts, who was to
give his life for his country two months later at the battle of Bunker
Hill, learned that troops were gathering on Boston Common. Fearing for
the safety of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, Warren sent for Revere and
begged him to go to Lexington to warn these men. Revere had been to
Lexington a few days before, and gravely doubted the possibility of
getting through the lines in event the enemy should form, had arranged, by
a show of lanterns, to indicate the route taken by the British. Revere
then made the ride which has preserved his name to posterity, as
graphically told with certain poetic license by Longfellow.
Paul Revere's ride, however, was not the end of his activities in the
patriot cause. After the British had vacated Boston, being harassed by
Washington's troops, it was found that the cannon had been disabled by the
removal of the carriages. Revere invented a new type, and the guns were
again placed in commission.
In July, 1776, Revere was commissioned an officer in a new regiment
raised for the defense of the town and harbor of Boston. His important
duties and services ultimately won him the rank of colonel of artillery.
Adverse conditions made his position a difficult one, but he steadfastly
fulfilled his duties and made the best of a bad situation. In 1779 he
participated in a expedition against the British in what is now Maine.
Through mismanagement on the part of some military and naval commanders,
the expedition was a failure, and the soldiers made their way back to
Boston in scattered groups.
In addition to his military service, Revere was called upon in 1775 to
engrave the currency of the Colony of Massachusetts. In 1776 he engaged
in the manufacture of gunpowder, sorely needed by the american Forces, and
was employed to oversee the casting of cannon.
The war services of Paul Revere did not conclude his service to the new
nation. He contributed to the economic welfare of his community by
establishing an iron foundry, and in 1792 began casting church bells, many
of which are still in existence. A "Hardware" store - as jeweler's shops
were called in those days - established by him in 1783, enabled him to
dispose of the silverware which he continued to manufacture. He invented
a process for treating copper which enabled him to hammer and roll it
while hot, a process of great value in shipbuilding. In 1800 he
established a foundry for rolling copper in large sheets. This was such
an important industry that the government of the United States loaned him
$10,000, to be repaid in the form of sheet copper. This was the first
copper rolling mill in the country, and dispensed with the necessity which
had existed before of importing this commodity from England. Robert
Fulton's steam engines were equipped with copper boilers made from
Revere's plates. Revere also covered the bottom of the Frigate
"Constitution" - better known as "Old Ironsides" - with sheet copper. The
business was incorporated in 1828 as the Revere Copper Company, and is
still conducted in Canton, Mass.
Revere's life, and the services he rendered to the country, are sufficient
in themselves to endear him to every patriotic American. Yet, we, as
Masons, can claim a still closer tie. Paul Revere was made a Mason in
Saint Andrew's Lodge on September 4, 1760, being the first Entered
Apprentice to receive that work in this body. In 1770 he became its
Master; in 1783, when St, Andrew's Lodge was divided on the question of
remaining under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, from which body it had
received its Charter dated November 30, 1756; or affiliating with the new
Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, he was one of the twenty-three who voted to
withdraw from the old relationship. A new lodge was formed in September,
1784, under the name of Rising States Lodge, and Revere was elected its
Master. He made the jewels for this lodge, and engraved and printed
certificates of membership and notices. He served as Grand Master of
Massachusetts from 1795 to 1797, inclusive, assisting Governor Samuel
Adams in laying the corner stone of the Massachusetts State House, July 4,
1795, on which occasion he delivered a stirring address.
His charities were quiet and unostentatious. He founded the Massachusetts
Charitable Mechanics Association in 1795, and served as its president from
its founding until 1799, when de declined any further office, although
continuing his interest.
His domestic life was peaceable and happy. The decease of his second wife
in 1815 left him a lonely old man. Revere himself "Passed Out With the
Tide" on May 10, 1818, and was buried in Granary Burial Ground where his
old friends, Hancock and Adams, had preceded him.
Quiet, unassuming, without great gifts as an orator or statesman, he
nevertheless engraved his name on that which is far more enduring than the
metals of his Craft - the pages of his country's history and the hearts of
his country's citizens. Behind him was the martyrdom of his Huguenot
ancestors; around him was the inspiration of Freemasonry's ideals; within
his vision of the future was a great representative government of a free
people wherein religious liberty should be both a fundamental principle
and an inalienable right. And so he served with the talent that he had
in the humbler spheres of everyday life as well as in the greater and more
spectacular crisis in the life of his commonwealth. Unselfish service was
his ambition and his watchword, his biography and his epitaph.
Freemasonry and America honor most the Paul reveres of the nation, who
from day to day, in every time of history and walk of life, thoughtfully
and patriotically serve mankind.
If, however, we are to come to the fullest possible realization of what
the life of a man like Paul Revere means to his country and to his
Fraternity, we must go further than a mere personal estimate. No matter
how effective his life may be in arousing our pride and stimulating our
efforts, we must still take one more step. It will not do merely to judge
a life like his according to the standards of this day. We must realize
the results of his work in the light of the conditions which he faced.
I wonder if we can visualize the Colonial period of this country's
history? The scattered settlements, the log cabins grouped about
stockades out in the wilderness, the wide distances separating the towns
and villages, and the uninhabited, waste districts between; the bridle
paths over the mountains, the narrow. almost impassable roads with the
lumbering stage coaches passing up and down at irregular and infrequent
intervals; a time when it cost a shilling and more to carry a letter; a
country without telegraph, without typewriter, without railroad - and a
people who could not even dream of such things as these.
Even so the picture is not complete. We must picture a country possessed
of very few schools, and what schools that were open, were open only to
the sons of the rich. Intelligence and idealism were impossible for the
poor boy, except as he learned them at the family altar. The minds of
the common people were on the same low, deadly level which prevailed among
the lower classes of Europe. Under such circumstances can we not see how
the superior mind would revolt against these sordid conditions? First
would come the passion for liberty, and following that, an intense
determination that these conditions must be bettered.
Then we are able to recreate the influence of the ancestry of a man like
Revere? Many a long evening was spent around an open fireplace, with
perhaps a tallow dip candle or two burning dimly on the mantle, while the
head of the household told of the tragedy of his flight from the
persecutions inflicted upon his people. What would the effect of such a
recital be upon a youth like Paul Revere? Can we realize how these
traditions would influence his mind, how his boyish imagination would be
kindled and how his appreciation of the liberty which the Colonists were
trying to work out for themselves in the new world would grow into a
veritable passion for freedom? As he grew older he would see the stalwart
pioneers around him trying to plant here a new type of civilization, an
institution which would insure to every man the utmost of personal liberty
which he could expect without infringing upon the rights of others. Can
we not see how a youth raised in this atmosphere would be inspired with a
desire to promote and further the development of these institutions? With
stories of murder and oppression of his people firing his youthful
imagination, can we not see that as he grew into manhood his mind would be
quickened? Can we not understand how any example of oppression, however
slight, would arouse the fighting instincts, and tyrannical injustice
become as it were a baptism of patriotism, dedicated to the new home
which his troubled soul was finding in company with his fellow refugees?
We must also realize that an atmosphere very like this existed all through
the colonies. It was justified, my brothers; these hardy pioneers had
fled the Old World where free thought, free speech and free Conscience did
not exist. They had come away with hideous memories of their friends and
neighbors tortured and hung for the most trivial crimes. Years of tragedy
had taught them the sacrifices that men make who stand up for what they
believe, for opinion's sake.
It is only when we come to appreciate all of this background that we can
understand the fierce resentment in the hearts of the colonial leaders
when tea profiteers sought to impose their burdens of taxation, or
religious bigots tried to fasten upon the minds of the people narrow
ideas the trend of which would be to bring about a union of Church and
State. We must picture Paul Revere as one of the central figures in a
great drama like this, staged in a wilderness, with enemies both within
and without; if we could appreciate what the service of the colonial
pioneer really was. To us in our modern day the accomplishment of these
fearless men may not loom so large, but in their day and time they
performed wonders when they gave their passion for liberty and brotherhood
free reign and started in to establish a government by, for and of the
Well may we ask, how could they do it? What gave them their breadth of
vision? And it is in this primitive setting that we find the answer. The
forces of necessity drove them, persecution was behind them and if they
did not build their new Temple of Liberty aright, persecution and failure
lay before them. In the face of a need like this, they won; they
accomplished great things for humanity. They planted the seeds of
brotherhood in the fallow ground of a new homeland and we, who are their
posterity are reaping the reward.
This it is which places upon us the responsibility for doing in our day
what they did in theirs. The conditions which we have to meet are
different from theirs. The problems which we have to solve under the
complex conditions of modern civilization would look hopeless to them. My
Brethren, they would be hopeless to us did we not have their examples
before us and were we not familiar with the principles which they applied
to their problems in those tempestuous days. We have the same principle,
we have the same Masonic atmosphere of brotherhood and we have an even
greater opportunity than they had to put these principles into practice
and make them live among men today. Ours is the task to maintain the
freedom of speech and conscience which they established for us and to see
to it that Freemasonry, grown now to a fraternity of men far greater in
number than all the people who lived in the thirteen colonies, shall stand
foursquare for law and order, for the right to think and worship as we
please, and for the perpetuation of those priceless privileges which the
Paul Reveres of early America wrought out of their needs and the
conditions which faced them, because they had the Masonic vision, the
Masonic fervency and the Masonic zeal to build after the Masonic pattern.