The Freedom Trail (or to Steal or Not to Steal from the Long Dead)

On our last day in Boston we did something I never did in all the time I spent there during college.  We paid to take a tour of Freedom Trail with the Freedom Trail Foundation. What’s cool about the tour is that each guide plays the role of an historical figure, which provides context and an entertaining story.

Our guide’s role was Elizabeth Murray Campbell Smith Inman, most well-known for having been the first woman to sign a prenuptial agreement before marrying her second husband.  She didn’t love the second husband as much as loved the first, but thanks to that prenup she became rich after the second one died.  And she used her recently acquired expertise in marriage contracts to impose one on her third husband, whom she liked least of all.  A woman before her time, indeed.

One can’t walk the Freedom Trail without visiting the Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place of such notable revolutionaries as Paul Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, and about 5,000 other poor souls.  And this is where the tour got interesting for Sophie.


During our excursion to Salem on Saturday, Sophie started to collect coins she found on the ground.  She continued her treasure hunt during our day in Boston and was enjoying considerable success, accumulating $0.16 in the span of about 30 minutes.  And wouldn’t you know that when we arrived in front of Paul Revere’s headstone, Sophie’s eyes grew wide.  That’s because the base was covered in coins that visitors left as an offering to the dead midnight rider.

It was as if Medusa had turned her to stone.  She couldn’t move.  She could barely breathe.  And she had to sit down right next to the grave – as close as possible to her jackpot. She looked every which way, scouting and calculating whether anyone would notice if she added to her collection. Frankly, I was pretty amazed that all those coins were still there.  Considering the countless immoral acts people commit on a regular basis, the fact that all those pennies (and some foreign monies, too) were lying there begging to be pilfered but were not, was almost enough to restore my faith in humankind.

And then there was my Sophie.  My poor tortured Sophie who, after the group had moved on to John Hancock’s grave, returned to her friend Paul Revere, knelt down as if in prayer and debated with her conscience some more.  Would she or wouldn’t she?

In the end, she wouldn’t.  But let’s be real. It’s not because her little conscience won the hard-fought battle.  Hell, she’s only seven and those coins were so very tempting.  It’s because it was time to leave the burying ground and I called out to her just in time to prevent the theft.

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