The Freedom Trail was established in the 1950s as a way to attract tourists to some of Boston’s most cherished historical sites. However, in recent years there has been clamoring by some folk to clean it up — to make it more historically accurate. By that I mean to include the forgotten voices of the revolution — the cordwainers, longshoremen (remember them?) and other working-class people. Well, we witnessed it yesterday at Old South Church. In the back there was a marble bust of none other than George Twelve Hewes, a shoemaker who was at the Boston Massacre and also who participated in the Boston Tea Party. I don’t know about you, but I find history more compelling when it’s a story about “common” people — or the “middling sort,” as 18th people were wont to say.
I really enjoyed the presentations yesterday, especially the meeting in the church before all the “fun” began in the Boston harbor. Divided as we were between loyalists and patriots, it reconfirmed to me something I already knew: how intensely personal the revolution was. We like to think as the Civil War dividing families and communities, but, of course, this happened first during the revolutionary era. A wonderful film showing how the war shattered one family in a small Connecituct town is Mary Silliman’s War. I purchased a copy for the grant; let me know if you’d like to borrow it.