The American Revolution has been a major influence on the course of history that followed the period and much has been written about its significance in the world history. The experience of George Robert Twelves Hewes who participated in the Revolution, however, tells how the Revolution affected the lives of the people. Therefore, it is of paramount consideration that the American Revolution affected the life of the main character in the novel “The Shoemaker and the Tea Party” through the “history” as well as “memory” of Revolution.
The experiences of George Robert Twelves Hewes during and after the Revolution affected and made drastic changes in his life. Significantly, the Revolution altered the course of Hewes’s long life, especially in terms of public memory. Hewes’s participation in the American Revolution significantly changed his life and the shoemaker was affected by the history as well as the memory of the Revolution.
Eric Foner in his “The Story of American Freedom” provides the ‘history’ of this influence of the Revolution whereas Alfred F. Young’s “The Shoemaker and the Tea Party” offers its ‘memory.’ At a time when private as well as collective memory has become crucial areas of historical studies, Alfred Young suggests the development of such studies through his analysis of Hewes’s experience. In the same way, Eric Foner, through his seminal work, provides the ‘history’ of the Revolution which affected the course of Hewes’s life. That is to say, the broader context of its ideas and outcomes affected the ‘memory’ of the character.
Hewes, most famous of Boston shoemakers, participated in the American Revolution and he involved in the political protests in the Boston including the Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre. His life experience has been extensively narrated by writers to explicate the significance of individual memory which reveal the history of the Revolution. In many of these studies, especially those by Young, there is an attempt to liberate “an ordinary person from historical obscurity and a fascinating inquiry into the memory of the Revolution, as it affected both Hewes’s life and later historians’ accounts.” (Young).
In his “The Shoemaker and the Tea Party” Young makes a further step to interpret the memory of a person in the background of history. Thus, the readers are provided with an accurate narration of the Hewes’s appearance onto the historical stage through the history of American Revolution. The memory of the Revolution as presented by Young emphasizes the young shoemaker’s role in the historical events connected with Boston. The involvement of the shoemaker in the Boston Tea Party provides the exact framework for Yong to concentrate on the memory of the Revolution. The work by Young is an excellent means to suggest how history recreates a common shoemaker’s life and it explains the long-lasting contest about the real meaning of the American Revolution.
It is through the issues concerning memory that Young narrates the experience of the Shoemaker and through this narration the author has effectively framed the focus of common interest on the role of the common people of Boston in the making of the American Revolution. “The shoemaker was present at key events in the pre-Revolutionary movement: the Boston Massacre, the so-called Tea Party, the tarring and feathering of the royal customs officer John Malcolm.
Six decades later, an old man in his nineties, living in obscurity in Otsego County, New York, Hewes was rediscovered by a younger generation full of nostalgia for the Revolution as the last remaining veterans of that struggle were dying off.” (Young). The accounts of Hewes to the inquisitive writers proved to be significant as they had the power to recreate the ignored role of the common man in the history of the Revolution.
The memoirs of Hewes had immense influence on the people and through the memory of a single person have become the history of a large section. That is to say, the memory of Hewes recreated by Young proved to indicate the historical role of the common people of Boston in the American Revolution. Indicating this fact, Young suggests, “His memory itself became my subject.” (Young, p. Xii). Thus, “The Shoemaker and the Tea Party” most significantly helps the reader in the discovery and recovery of Hewes as well as the Boston Tea Party.
The history of the American Revolution as suggested by Eric Foner in his “The Story of American Freedom” gives the exact explanation of the role of common people of Boston in the attainment of freedom through the Revolution. Foner makes it clear that “American freedom was born in revolution… The Revolution bequeathed to future generations an enduring yet contradictory legacy. Its vision of the new nation as an asylum for freedom in a world overrun by oppression resonates in the political culture to this day.” (Foner, p. 3).
The memory of the common people about the Revolution provides ample explanation to their role in the attainment of freedom. When history began to overlook the significance of common men such as those of the Boston including Hewes, their memory makes the history give regard to their struggles and contributions. The discovery and recovery of Hewes as well as the Boston Tea Party enabled by the memory of the Revolution was important in the rediscovery of the history also.
Thus, the recognition of the role of the common man of Boston paved the way for an improved admiration for Revolutionary War veterans, who were neglected by the public. Young makes it clear that the rediscovery of the veteran heroes of America is greatly connected with the political insurgency of the 1820s and 1830s. The American Revolution proved to be important in the process of a kindled interest in the discovery of history which, through the memory of individuals and community, gives homage to the common folk. Young narrates the events in the American Revolution which made the common people such as Hawes rise up for the common cause of freedom.
However, as the freedom was attained the role of these people in the history was forgotten. It is through the memory of the people that the great role they played in the attainment of freedom is rejuvenated. “This process of forgetting while commemorating Young brings to life by recounting the erection of official memorials to the Revolution, such as Charles Bulfinch’s stark doric column built on Beacon Hill in honor of the Revolution.
Distanced physically and symbolically from the Tea Party, the monument belonged to a new stratified urban landscape.” (Young). Thus, analyzing the memory and the history of American Revolution, one comes to appreciate the significance of common people in the achievement of freedom. The story of George Robert Twelves Hewes has been important in the rediscovery and recognition of the role of common men in American Revolution.
Young, Alfred F. Review of Books: The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution. William and Mary Quarterly. Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. 1999. Web.
Young, Alfred F. The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution. Boston: Beacon Press, 1999.
Foner, Eric. The Story of American Freedom (attached by the customer).