But many countries do not have an Independence Day to celebrate. As the USA takes it’s biggest annual holiday to celebrate its birthday as a nation newly declared as independent from a tyrant ruler and newly self-determining, let’s look at who helped secure it.

Like Paul Revere.

Paul Revere, as described by Fischer, was a successful artisan and businessman, connected to all the various revolutionary cells active in the Massachusetts of 1775. In fact, he belonged to more groups and knew more operatives and political leaders than almost anyone, certainly in Boston. Moreover, he developed a significant intelligence and communications network for which he was one of the central nodes.

Fischer observes that “Paul Revere’s primary mission was not to alarm the countryside. His specific purpose was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were thought to be the objects of the expedition.” The military stores at Concord were of secondary concern. Still, by morning thousands of fully-armed militia had arrived on the field at both Lexington and Concord ready for closed formation fighting.

Americans should know this, though most probably don’t. I came across this gem and lingered with it a while, recalling the years when I took my sons to visit their Grandpa in a small town in the countryside outside Boston, and we always stayed in Concord and visited the scenes where American history played out some of the most vital and captivating dramas. And it never, ever got old.

We walked the green where the battle of Lexington and Concord was fought, crossed the Old North Bridge where the original minutemen rallied from their farmhouses to man the first battle of the Revolutionary War, the American War of Indpendence. Emerson’s poem ‘Concord Hymn’ commemorated “the shot heard round the world” fired from that spot, and a shrine-like reverence still pervades it. Same is true for spots all over and around the area, and you just know when walking there and reading the plaques and the guides the sense of import is real and profound.

So what about that ‘midnight ride of Paul Revere’ that has become legendary?

“Paul Revere and the other messengers did not spread the alarm merely by knocking on individual farmhouse doors,” says David Hackett Fischer. “They also awakened the institutions of New England. The midnight riders went systematically about the task of engaging town leaders and militia commanders of their region. They enlisted its churches and ministers, its physicians and lawyers, its family networks and voluntary associations.…They knew from long experience that successful efforts requires sustained planning and careful organization.”

In all sincerity, I must say this describes the original community organizing.

Mehan cites Longfellow’s famous poem throughout this inspiring piece:

A hurry of hoofs in a village street
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

Though, as Mehan notes, there are literary liberties taken in Longfellow’s tribute, the truth of Revere’s great acts of patriotism is at least as dramatic and noble.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,–
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

Happy Fourth of July, Mehan wishes his readers.

Happy Independence Day. Cherish it.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....