REVERE, Paul (1735-1818), Massachusetts patriot. Autograph document signed ("Paul Revere," in text), WITH A 19-WORD AUTOGRAPH ENDORSEMENT BY JOHN HANCOCK, (n.p. [Boston, Massachusetts], 3 [Janu]ary 74. 1 page, oblong 4to (6¼ x 7 5/16 in.), left-hand edge torn and repaired with loss of several letters of date, in a red morocco gilt-lettered protective case.
CARRYING THE SPARK OF REBELLION FROM COLONY TO COLONY: THE ORIGINAL BILL FOR PAUL REVERE'S FIRST REVOLUTIONARY RIDE, CARRYING NEWS OF THE BOSTON TEA PARTY (IN WHICH REVERE WAS A PARTICIPANT) TO NEW YORK
The Boston Tea Party--the earliest organized colonial act of resistance to British rule--remains one of the pivotal incidents of the Revolutionary War, memorable for its audacity, its unprecedented success and for the fact that the Boston patriots who planned and carried it out disguised themselves as Native Americans. Most importantly though, the Boston Tea Party was the critical event which irrevocably fanned the smoldering coals of resentment in the colonies into overt, organized resistance to British authority. Furthermore, the British response to the Tea Party furnished the immediate incentive for the formation of the Continental Congress, which ultimately declared the colonies' independence from Great Britain. As one historian contends, "for three years before the Tea Party, the thirteen American colonies shared no common cause, and relations between them and the mother country were relatively calm. Within eighteen months after the Tea Party the colonies were united in war against Great Britain. The Boston Tea Party was the catalyst that brought about this revolutionary change" (Benjamin Woods Larrabee, The Boston Tea Party, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966, p.8).
The document is neatly drawn up by Revere in the form of a simple list, boldly headed "The Committee of Correspondence to Paul Revere"; beneath is a simple statement consisting of four lines of itemized expenses: "To my Expences from Boston to New-York," and "Back to Boston," totaling £4. 10s. "Horse hire" for the trip is billed at £4. 16s., the exact amount Revere charges the Committee for "My time." Beneath is his total, in lawful money, £14. 2s. Below Revere's account, in a small, neat clerical hand, is the notation "Allowed." (The same unidentified clerk made an identical notation on Revere's bill for his September 1775 ride to New York, carrying the Suffolk Resolves [see below]). Finally, connecting the document and the event to one of the seminal figures of the American Revolution, is a boldly penned endorsement of patriot John Hancock, reading: "The Draft to be in fav[our]. [of] John Hancock he having paid Mr. Revere the money by [o]rder of Selectmen."
The Townshend Acts of 1767 represented a last attempt of the British Parliament to levy a revenue tax on the American colonies. Massachusetts, led by the Boston Whigs, responded by adopting non-importation agreements, and appealed to other colonies for similar boycotts (New York readily acquiesced, while Pennsylvania did not). But while most of the revenue taxes were repealed by Parliament, the tea tax remained in effect. In September 1773, The East India Company (whose warehouses were stuffed with an enormous surplus of unsold tea) dispatched a sizeable shipment of dutied tea--more than 2000 chests, some 600,000 pounds--to four American ports, including Boston. When they learned of the shipment, patriot leaders resolved that the tea would not be permitted to land, nor would the duty be paid. The tea ships were refused dockage and turned back in New York and at Philadelphia, while in Charleston the tea was seized and placed in storage. But in Boston, which possessed a particularly vocal and active group of patriots, the Board of Selectmen, including Sam Adams, Joseph Warren and John Hancock, defiantly voted to oppose the landing of the cargo. Governor Hutchinson persisted in his intention to land the cargo. Finally, on the night of December 13, 1773, a small and determined group of Boston radicals, some haphazardly disguised as "Mohawks," met at Griffin's Wharf, where the three merchantmen, carrying several hundred chests of tea, were anchored. In a meticulously carried-out operation, they boarded the vessels, subdued the customs officers on board, then broke open the wooden chests with axes and dumped their contents into the water. "This is the most magnificent Movement of all," John Adams wrote the next day in his diary, and one certain to have "important" and "lasting" consequences (D. Cook, The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies, 1760-1785, New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995, p.178).
Adams, as was often the case, proved prophetic. But news of the Tea Party, as the Boston radicals immediately perceived, must be communicated to the other colonies. "Boston took the lead in creating a network of committees and congresses throughout the colonies. Here again Paul Revere played a prominent role" (David Hackett Fisher, Paul Revere's Ride, p.26). Boston's town meeting issued a formal justification of the Tea Party, and, as the contemporary Boston diarist John Boyle recorded, "Mr. Paul Revere was immediately dispatched to New York amd Philadelphia with the glorious intelligence" (ibid., p.300). Revere actually departed on the 17th, and arrived on December 21. In New York the news was immediately published, and "by the beginning of the New Year, there was hardly an American who did not know of the Bostonians' destruction of the tea" (Larrabee, p.152). John Boyle recorded in his diary that on the 27th, "Mr. Revere returned home...performing his journey in a much shorter time than could be expected at this season of the year."
Britain, in response to the destruction of the cargo, demanded compensation for the tea and quickly enacted the Coercive Acts (known to Americans as the Intolerable Acts), which closed Boston to all water-borne exports and imports and abrogated Boston's venerable Council, its elected jurymen, and its town meeting. "During the summer of 1774 the beleaguered Bostonians, with five regiments of troops in their midst and a fleet blocking their harbor, stood for all America as victims of British tyranny" (Larabee, p.239). The dire situation of Boston added fuel to the revolutionary fires and was the catalyst of plans for a Continental Congress, for which the 1765 Stamp Act Congress served as a model. By the end of August 1774, all the Colonies except Georgia had selected delegates, and on September 6, the first Continental Congress convened in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia. "The American colonies now stood united," Larabee aptly observes, and "the gulf between Great Britain and America had widened to a point that made conciliation virtually impossible" (ibid., p.255).
The vital role of Boston silversmith and engraver Paul Revere in the early revolutionary movements in Massachusetts is well-documented, but Longfellow's well-known verses extolling his services at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 has long overshadowed the other occasions on which he performed invaluable courier duties for his fellow patriots in the Committee of Correspondence (see the complete list by Michael Kalin in Fisher, Paul Revere's Ride, Appendix C, enumerating 19 separate missions). As Fisher notes, Revere, an active revolutionary himself, in this role was "less than an ambassador, but more than merely a messenger" (Fisher, p.27). Only one other itemized bill for a Revere Revolutionary ride appears to survive: an October 1774 bill for carrying the Suffolk Resolves from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. That document, bears a close resemblance to the present bill, but was not endorsed by John Hancock (sold at Christie's, 20 May 1994, lot 79, $48,300). All Revere's other invoices, if they existed, are presumably destroyed.
Provenance: Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, 26 April 1978, lot 251).