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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2005
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TOM WRIGHT

Listen my children and you shall hear

Here are some things about American history I didn't know until we went to Boston recently.

John Hancock was a bootlegger.

A rich bootlegger.

And, it is a bit much to blame the British Redcoats for the Boston Massacre because rowdy young men kept pelting the soldiers with deadly snowballs laced with oyster shells.

Also, Paul Revere didn't do all THAT much in getting the word out that the British were coming.

All this, you must understand, comes from a lesser-known man who gets credit for sparking the fire that ignited the Revolution.

Our guide was an actor dressed in Colonial attire who had taken on the airs of James Otis Jr., the man called "The Patriot," as he led a dozen tourists through a portion of Boston's three-mile Freedom Trail.

James Otis delivered a four-hour speech in Boston's Old State House against the British domination of the colonies. His oration was so brilliant that Samuel Adams reported on the event for a newspaper and proclaimed that "American independence was then and there born."

Mr. Otis went insane and died when a bolt of lightning struck him a few years after the war, while Paul Revere kept having children, 20 in all.

Mr. Otis, the actor, seemed to approve of John Hancock bootlegging Madera wine, and understood that the colonists brought the Massacre on themselves. But that epic poem that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about Paul Revere's ride really seemed to bug him.

It was wrong, he proclaimed vociferously, as if he was railing against the British in the Old State House.

Paul Revere had help, lots of it, once he crossed the Charles River. William Dawes was out there spreading the word, too, and Paul Revere was captured, he noted.

We tourists were left with the impression that Mr. Otis, the actor, too, had been required to memorize the poem. But, having lit the fire of revolution, he might have simply been jealous for the man he impersonated.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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