The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution by Alfred F. Young
Started: 2 February 2009
Finished: 2 March 2009
George Robert Twelves Hewes was a young man, a shoemaker, in Boston in the 1770s. He was of the mechanic class. He was poor, imprisoned for being unable to pay his debts. He was short, 5’1″, and thus too short to be accepted to work on the boats in Boston Harbor. He was present at many of the events of the Revolution in Boston, including the Boston Massacre, the tarring and feathering of John Malcolm (who almost killed Hewes by striking him on the head), and the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor. And he was unknown till the 1830s when he was ceremoniously returned to Boston as (erroneously) the last surviving participant of the Tea Action, when it was first called the Tea Party in print.
This book tells the story of Hewes’ life in the first half, and then goes on to evaluate how events in history are remembered and used in the future, namely the Tea Action on December 16, 1773, and why the name of it changed.
It is an interesting look at how public memory differs from private memory, and how those in control manipulate public memory. If the conservatives are talking, the “Tea Party” is spoken of in one way, while if the mechanics or working class is speaking, it is used in a whole other way. Looking at who is using history can tell you just as much about history as the actual historical events do. This book was an interesting look not only at the events in Boston in 1773 as they happened, but also at how those same events “happened” over the next 200 years.
The book is a good one, except Young should be taught how to edit a book. After writing almost the entire book, he writes in the next to last chapter about how he misunderstood how certain things happened and he as wrong how he wrote them before. Would it no be better to go back and rework how those chapters read rather than saying he was wrong before?