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It turns out Sarah Palin is more of a historical scholar than I knew

June 6, 2011

Sarah on the Bus Tour

OK, Sarah – you schooled me on this one, and apparently a WHOLE LOT of other folks as well.

You see, friends, sometimes people interested in the history of our country DO pay attention to history and, even though it might have been a while ago, they take away the important points – not necessarily “the facts that everybody knows.”

It’s sort of like Rush Limbaugh’s telling of the story of the First Thanksgiving. The way that story has been told in schools for years and years has been fundamentally wrong, or at least skewed. But back to that later.

In this case, it was widely reported a few days ago that Sarah Palin, sort of on the fly while on her bus tour that is making the meda nuts, made a pretty confused-sounding off-the-cuff mention of Paul Revere’s ride. It was also widely reported that silly, flaky, bubbly-headed Sarah got her facts wrong again and tried to bluff her way out. I even mentioned it in my post yesterday in a sort of negative way, although in my defense I did mention a source that showed a more accurate view of history, and that she was somewhat right – maybe luckily so.

On further review I think she was right…and that while she may have sounded Sarah-flippant in the video clip, and maybe like she was tap-dancing a bit, she was correct. Pretty much all the way through, in fact.

Believe it or not, all you have to check is that bastion of accuracy, Wikipedia. The entry for Paul Revere describes the event in some detail. Sarah said Revere warned the British, and most people think of the Longfellow poem, which talks about him warning the colonists. So obviously bubble-headed Sarah was wrong again, right?

Well, first of all, Longfellow wasn’t very accurate. In fact, he was pretty darn inaccurate. His poem was far less about the beginnings of the Revolution and far more about the beginnings of the Civil War, which was when he wrote it.He was, after all, a very strong abolitionist, and wrote a lot in support of that position.

It turns out that in real life Revere was captured by the British and didn’t complete the ride. He did warn the British – he told them that they were going to be walking into a buzz saw, in essence, of Colonial militia in Lexington. He and the other captives were escorted toward Lexington by the British until they heard the sound of muskets, which Revere told them was probably the militia arriving in Lexington. They also heard the town bell ringing. Revere’s captors took his horse and rode off to warn the British troops, and turned him loose.

What about the bit about the British wanting to take the Colonists’ weapons away? She was right about that, too. The same Wikipedia entry says:

“On April 14, 1775, General Gage received instructions from Secretary of State William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, to disarm the rebels, who were known to have hidden weapons in Concord, among other locations, and to imprison the rebellion’s leaders, especially Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Dartmouth gave Gage considerable discretion in his commands.”

This is what precipitated the “Midnight Ride.” The British troops were moving on Lexington and Concord to disarm the citizenry. That’s why Sarah Palin remembered it…it was one of the incidents that helped to precipitate the creation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution!

So, she was right. Her memory of the facts is different than the news media because they probably never studied…and frankly, her command of the facts is probably a lot better than most of us. I was certainly not aware of all of these details, either. Now I am…and I hope more people learned something about American history, and that we often don’t know the whole story of American history, through this whole incident.

I also hope they learned something else. The fact that Sarah Palin says something that sounds off-the-cuff doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

The media are once again “misunderestimating” her. They did the same thing with Ronald Reagan, and with George W. Bush. (Both were two-term Presidents, you remember.) They do that at their peril, of course.

Once  the Democrats and the media  underestimated a candidate they thought was too superficial and too unintelligent to be considered a serious Presidential contender.

That was in 1980. Heh.

And the Rush Limbaugh Thanksgiving story in a nutshell: The Mayflower compact was essentially a socialist document, with all fruits of the labors of the colonists becoming part of a common store. They found quickly that this was not very successful. Those who worked harder became frustrated with the shirkers, who thought they should receive the same whether they worked as hard or not. (The primary problem with socialism.)

The next year each family got their own plot of land and could keep everything they grew, and they could trade any surplus with others. And…they had a surplus because they were motivated to create it. They prospered, began to trade their surpluses with the Indians, and paid off their debts to the London merchants who supported their colonization effort.

 

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