Paul Revere Rings Bells and Warns British to Let Him Keep His Guns

By The Intersection | June 6, 2011 9:44 pm

By Jon Winsor

I’m a bit late on this, but honestly, when I wrote this post I hadn’t heard about Sarah Palin’s US history gaffe last Friday:

Later, apparently, Palin’s supporters took to Wikipedia and Conservapedia, where I understand Paul Revere is getting a makeover.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Education, Politics
MORE ABOUT: Sarah Palin

Comments (19)

  1. Chris Mooney

    The latest at Conservapedia:
    ” He is famous for riding from Boston to Lexington, Massachusetts with William Dawes on the night of April 18, 1775 ringing bells to warn the British that colonists would exercise their natural rights to both bear arms and use them in an effort secede from the United Kingdom in response to Big Government bullying and interfering with Colony’s Rights[1].”
    citation to this article

  2. Basma

    Scott Brown really should invite the Palin clan to Boston as part of their grand non-political tour of the country. First stop: 19 North Square

  3. Chris Mooney

    I may have to do a piece about motivated reasoning and attempts to edit wikipedia. this seems very classic.

  4. The only way to corral the truth: A séance with Paul Revere. . .

    We, a group of four, are gathered around a table, an overturned glass at its center, our hands lightly touching the upended object. The lights are low.

    “Hello,” we chant, “we’d like to make a person-to-spirit call to Paul Revere. . .Mr. Revere, if you can hear us, give us a sign.”

    We are silent. All is silent. Then, slowly, the glass begins to make small circles in the table’s center.

    The séance continues at the whimsical Thinking Out Loud,

  5. Nullius in Verba

    It’s a classic, but in an entirely different sense to the one you mean!
    (And see 'page 4' here for Paul Revere's take.)
    Which makes it even funnier that you’re late.

    Why not do a piece on motivated reasoning regarding the belief that Sarah Palin always knows less than the average liberal? True or not, your efforts will always be directed towards proving it rather than disproving it. What effect will this asymmetry have on your knowledge?

    And which of these is part of the scientific method? – Attempting proof or disproof of your prior beliefs?

    Incidentally, the last few blatantly political posts did at least allude to the politician’s scientific opinions. What does this one have to do with science?

  6. Jon Winsor

    I’m with Patrick Leehey in that story Nullius. If Paul Revere did happen to warn the British at some point, that’s pretty obviously not what Palin was referring to, if you listen to the tape. How about the warning shots and bells? Warning shots (plural) with a muzzle loaded gun? How would that work? It would look awfully silly.

  7. Chris Mooney

    I will comment on what this has to do with “science.” If history is being undermined in a way similar to how science is being undermined, then that is very much within our scope here. After all, as folks like Michael Shermer have pointed out, good history and good science have a lot in common, especially historical sciences like evolution.

  8. Chris: all you have to do is lift some relevant excerpts from “Nineteen Eighty-four.” I remember reading the book long and seeing in my mind Winston Smith sitting at a desk, revising history. The only difference is the vector today is the Internet, rather than pneumatic tubes.

  9. Chris Mooney

    Right. So here’s a question…what historians are standing up against this stuff, and calling it out?

  10. TTT

    I clearly remember a certain person here once sniffing that if climate scientists got the right answer (on the error potential of station sites) via the wrong reasoning, they were still effectively wrong.

    But Palin is apparently in that person’s tribe, so she will not be held to the same standard. Or any standard. Truth is whatever pisses off liberals.

  11. vel

    Sarah seems to have forgotten one of the main tenents of her religion. Is a supposedly immortal soul worth a series of pathetic lies?

    TTT, Sarah Palin didn’t get either the right answer or use any kind of reasoning at all. She screwed up and now she’s trying to cover that ignorance up with even more ignorance and outright lies. Is this the type of person you want to defend?

  12. Bobito

    Palin did mess up the facts a bit, but the media messed up the facts as well. The media reported, in so many words, “Palin thinks Revere warned the British not the Colonists”.

    What is the bigger story here? Palin getting minor facts out of whack, or the media completely mis-characterizing what she said?

  13. Is it just me or does she look like she is doped up on something

  14. Nullius in Verba


    “that’s pretty obviously not what Palin was referring to”

    It’s not obvious to me what she was referring to. It looked like she was caught on the hop with a question and improvised an answer on the spur of the moment just to have something to say. She clearly hadn’t worked out what the end of the sentence was going to be when she started it.

    When Paul Revere rode through the towns he was raising the alarm against the advancing British. Ringing church bells and gunshots were commonly used for the purpose. He warned the British that he had done so, in the hopes of making them more cautious. They were fighting for their liberties, and he was telling the British that they intended to fight.

    The caption on the clip says “Paul Revere Warned The British LMAO!” and of course he did. But no doubt you’re not going to call out this terrible error of American history in the same way, are you?

    Palin’s grammar comes out a bit scrambled – as unprepared speech often does – but it’s close enough. It was supposed to be something spontaneous and inspirational, not a prepared history lecture. (Not everyone gets to use a teleprompter all the time to avoid these sorts of problems.) It’s certainly not worth the fuss that was being made over it. This sort of thing is the equivalent of crowing over typos in blog comments.

    Quite frankly, I doubt if anyone would have made such a distracting fuss if there hadn’t been a certain other ‘political gaffe’ story in the news…


    “If history is being undermined in a way similar to how science is being undermined, then that is very much within our scope here.”

    The same may be said of any subject on which you disagree with Republican politicians. So I take it that Discover Magazine is soon to become an unofficial outlet for the Democrat Presidential campaign?

    Personal blogs can obviously do whatever they want, but I thought this one wasn’t?


    “Right. So here’s a question…what historians are standing up against this stuff, and calling it out?”

    I gave a link to some historians. Won’t those do?


    “I clearly remember a certain person here once sniffing that if climate scientists got the right answer (on the error potential of station sites) via the wrong reasoning, they were still effectively wrong.”

    In science, certainly. In other walks of life, yes, quite often. I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking the garbled pronouncements of politicians as a reliable guide to anything. But in this case I don’t know what her reasoning was.

  15. historygirl

    So Nullius you think the MSH, one of the oldest and most respected historical societies in the USA, founded 8 years after the Revolution ended, is wrong?
    Just wondering. I suggest you check them out for facts. You know the founders only lived it. Not like the rest of us…
    And I hope that you do know that a repeater rifle was not invented until the 19th century. If Revere had fired off shots he would have had to reload his musket every time, and it takes work and a level surface and 2 hands. Hard to do on a horse…That’s assuming he he had a musket and it wasn’t confiscated by the British, since they did that. I’d check out the Declaration of Independence under the section of crimes of the King. Which is why we even HAVE a 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
    It may be that we don’t disagree with the Republican politicians it’s just we were taught to think critically and question. It happens with those pesky liberal arts degrees that the elitist Northeastern colleges like Harvard, MIT, Yale, Simmons, Georgetown, Bucknell and UPenn to name a few confer on their students.

  16. Bobito

    @historygirl – I’m not saying Palin nailed this one, but the jist of her comment was correct.

    See here:

    From the article:
    “In fact, Revere’s own account of the ride in a 1798 letter seems to back up Palin’s claim.”

  17. Gaythia

    Historygirl’s website yields some original sources, such as a letter describing his ride written by Paul Revere himself. He was somewhere between Lexington and Concord when arrested by the British. It was AFTER he was arrested when he informed the British that word had gotten out.

    The letter shows that Revere was quite concerned about secrecy, and was nearly captured earlier.

    For example this passage:
    “I told them
    of the ten officers that Mr. Devens mett, and that it was pro-
    bable we might be stoped before we got to Concord; for
    I supposed that after Night, they divided them selves, and that
    two of them had fixed themselves in such passages as were
    most likely to stop any intelegence going to Concord. I likewise mentioned, that we had better allarm all the In-
    habitents till we got to Concord;”

    Clearly, the intent was to inform the residents, without creating such a ruckus that the British would stop them.

  18. steveM

    While Revere may have warned the British after his capture, Palin implied that Revere’s purpose during his ride was to warn the British. That is clearly false; his purpose was to warn the colonists that the Redcoats were coming. (He never said “The British are coming” since at that time they were ALL British.)

  19. Gaythia

    I partially agree with steveM @18, although this earlier passage in the same letter implies that even in 1773, colonists made distinctions between British (the soldiers), Tories, and themselves:

    “In the year 1773 I was imployed by the Select men of the
    Town of Boston to carry the Account of the Destruction of the
    Tea to New-York; and afterwards, 1774, to Carry their dispatches to
    New-York and Philadelphia for Calling a Congress; and afterwards to
    Congress, several times. In the Fall of 1774 & Winter of 1775 I was
    one of upwards of thirty, cheifly mechanics, who formed our selves in to a Committee
    for the purpose of watching the Movements of the British Soldiers,
    and gaining every intelegence of the movements of the Tories.”


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