Book Review: The Revolutionary Paul Revere

Joel J. Miller. The Revolutionary Paul Revere. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010. 304 pages.

Paul Revere is famous for his midnight ride, but his life says a great deal more about the founding of the American republic than that single incident. In this new biography, Joel Miller uses Revere’s life to tell readers a little more about the social, cultural, and political milieu of Revolutionary Boston.

Revere had an interesting life, outside of his ride. Born to a French immigrant and a native New Englander in 1734, he followed his father into silversmithing and imbibed the whig politics of Boston. Well-established by the time that Boston’s independence-minded merchants, lawyers, and editors began to question British rule, as a Mason and respected artisan, he became a key player in the opposition–not quite at the center, with Adams, Hancock, Otis, and others, but not so far from it, either. While the Revolutionary War itself didn’t bring Revere the military success he hoped for, he was fortunate to live a long and prosperous life, even in his last years extending his business from precious metals to copper refining.

Miller’s produced a short, readable life of Revere. At times, it’s perhaps a bit too casual, as on page 138 when a young boy gets “smacked upside the head” with a musket stock. Miller doesn’t give the reader the peri-wigged colonial America that you might remember from elementary school; instead it’s a bustling place, filled with strivers, con artists, and idealists. He provides an interesting window on the American Revolution, and by synthesizing material from the bountiful scholarship on Revere, the period, and its major characters, gives readers a good glimpse at one American city at the dawn of the republic.

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