REVIEWSrnListen My Childrenrnby f.O.TaternPaul Revere’s Ridernby David Hackett FischerrnNew York: Oxford University Press;rn44S pp., $27.50rnSometimes you wonder. Having beenrntold by a Democrat that if we hadrn”screwed up” at Saratoga we would todayrnhave national health insurance, I suppressedrna number of reactions that camernto mind by deciding to start smokingrnagain. One was to suggest that if anyonernneeded health insurance, it could easilyrnbe obtained. Another was to ask justrnwho constitutes “we.” Yet another was tornsuggest that if my friend had studied thernhistory of the Revolutionary War, hernwould know that it was won in thernSouth. And still another was to speculaternthat if his mother had known whornhis father was, it would still be a long wayrnto Tipperary.rnBut of course we all engage in historicalrnspeculations, consider “might-havebeens,”rnand somehow acknowledge therncontingency of history in the wa’ we tryrnto connect with it. We would do betterrnif we knew what we were talking about,rnwhich brings us to the subject at hand.rnApparently, everyone has heard of thernmidnight ride of Paul Revere, but nornone knows much about it—not untilrnProfessor Fischer got on his horse.rnHis remarkable book is especially welcomernjust now, and I think the authorrnknows it. He is certainly not unaware ofrntrends involving the reinterpretation ofrnhistory, particularly American history.rnHe seems to have voted with his computerrnand his professional allegiancernagainst Walt Disney, Ken Burns, multiculturalism,rnand the studied neglect ofrnour history by the educational establishment,rnand by the public as well.rnWhat we have here is a treatment ofrnlegend and history by a professional historianrnwho also is a talented writer. Hisrntopic is not grand, but it inspires manyrninsights into history and into the bywaysrnof historiography, bibliography, and nationalrnmythology. Above all, he tells arnstory with intensity and drama, wrappingrnit in the mantle of historical perspective.rnThe result is highly readable,rneven fascinating.rnI suppose that Professor Fischer is arnparticularist in his insistence on detailrnand context and petite histoire. The followingrnexample is one that, though violent,rnis somehow very pleasing. I like tornthink of Samuel Whittemorc, who,rnthough crippled and 76 years old, pickedrnup a musket and two pistols and a saberrnwhen the Redcoats marched throughrnMenotomv. Bv himself, he opened firernon the column, killing one soldier andrnwounding two others. One Regular thenrnblew away part of Whittemore’s facernwhile others bayoneted him—he wasrnwounded 14 times. Samuel Whittemorcrnlived for 18 more years, withoutrnnational health insurance. I think wernall owe a debt to Fischer for relating thatrnstory, and many others.rnFischer places Paul Revere in the contextrnof a distinct culture, and depicts thernbeginning of the American nation as inrneffect a colonial and regional EnglishrnCivil War. His emphasis throughout onrna forgotten sense of individual responsibilityrnas well as a sense of collectivity, asrndistinguished from our contemporaryrnatomism and obsession with individualrnrights, is a valid lesson, though not withoutrnits darker implications.rnHis evenhandedness produces strikingrnresults. He tells the story of the Redcoatsrnwith sympathy and understanding,rnand, unlike some historians, he is able torndiscuss armies and military culture withoutrndiscomfort or false notes. The dramarnhe presents is, I think, an ambiguousrnone, for there can be no doubt that thernpatriots were dishonest both before andrnafter the violence began. But he showsrnthem as a community who insisted onrndefending their perceived interest, andrnwho challenged legally constituted authorityrnto do so.rnPaul Revere rode and sent signals tornwarn the people and his network of spiesrnand fellows that the Redcoats were comingrn—but we have forgotten what theyrnwere coming for. Thev intended to confiscaterngunpowder and ammunition andrneven cannons which the people hadrngathered. Fischer does not extrapolate,rnbut I think it was rather a bad sign whenrnthe farmers started collecting cannons inrnKansas in 1858 and later on when thernBoers did the same. John Brown seizedrnan armory, and the Civil War broke outrnessentially over control of weapons, forts,rnand soldiers. Viewed in that light, thernfashionable sneering at the National RiflernAssociation and the decision that eccentricsrnwho have weapons can bernslaughtered with impunity are literallyrnun-American, if anything can be.rnI frankly doubt that Professor Fischerrnmeans to imply that Americans shouldrnrise up to defend violently their right tornamass weapons, though that is preciselyrnthe collective interest that the Minutemenrnfought for. He seems rather to berncommitted to a celebration of the earlyrnpeople of Massachusetts, about whom,rnwe can all agree, there is much to be admired.rnBut this celebration appears tornlose its point when Massachusetts is isolatedrnfrom its neighbors and from thernerosion of history. Fischer, in otherrnwords, sees continuities where I see radicalrndiscontinuities. “Their many enemiesrnwho lived by a warrior ethic alwaysrnunderestimated them, as a long paradernof Indian braves, French aristocrats,rnBritish Regulars, Southern planters, Germanrnfascists, Japanese militarists, Marxistrnideologues, and Arab adventurersrnhave invariably discovered to their heavyrncost.” The juxtaposition of Southernrnplanters with German fascists says morernabout the contemporary mindset ofrnMassachusetts (the one that sustainsrnnoble leaders such as the Hero ofrnChappaquiddick, not to mention GerryrnStudds and Barney Frank) than it doesrnabout the culture that produced JohnrnAdams and Daniel Webster. Fischerrnconfuses Massachusetts with New Englandrnand New England with America, arncommon mistake. Why was the Southrnsupposed to accept from New Englandrnwhat New England would not acceptrnfrom the King of England? He does notrnseem to understand that New Englandrnlost the Civil War as surely, though notrnas obviously, as the South did, nor doesrnhe seem to have heard of Vietnam. Hernseems to equate civil war with public relationsrnstunts such as the little expeditionrnto Kuwait, which was mounted by arntechnologically obsessed mass societyrnethnically and materially unrelated tornthe Massachusetts of 1775.rnEven so, Fischer’s attempts to force hisrnvision beyond the scope of his topic dornnot render his book invalid. On the contrary;rnPaul Revere’s Ride is a work of na-rn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn