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The Legacy of Joseph Warren

When you think about the heroes in the early development of America, we mostly hear the same names.Paul Revere and his famous “Midnight Ride”, or John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and their contributions to the furthering the foundation of the United States.But what about the person who informed Paul Revere that the “British were coming”, or the best physician who treated the presidents and many other government officials, then turning to the battle field to fight for his country.

We tend to overlook those who are just as important but aren’t as famous.

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Joseph Warren, physician, soldier, and man behind the midnight ride, should definitely be recognized as a hero.

Joseph Warren began his career graduating from Harvard University in 1759 studying medicine. He soon earned the title of the best Physician in Massachusetts. By the age of 22, he was the youngest doctor in Boston, Massachusetts. His patients included Samuel Adams, John Hancock and two future presidents—John Adams and John Quincy Adams. His reputation as one of Boston’s finest physicians also gave him access to prominent Loyalists.

Through his links to powerful people, it opened doors up for him to become a powerful activist (Klein). His involvement during the fight for independence against Britain was very prominent regardless of his occupation. He consistently found himself in the position to help during the fight for independence. Some of his patients were very important leaders and even spies.

“There is compelling evidence that Warren spied on the British through his medical practice, and some have speculated that the widowed doctor may have carried on an extramarital affair with Margaret Gage and received from her advanced notice of planned British troop movements to Concord on April 18, 1775.” (Klein).

His life story shows how important of a role he played in history. Both the British and Colonist weren’t only in a fight with each other, but a lethal outbreak of smallpox murdered thousands. The American people suffered from an epidemic of small pox that spread throughout the whole country.

The deadly small pox epidemic hit North America during the revolutionary war from 1775-1782 and killed Thousands of people. Smallpox is a highly contagious disease that is caused by a virus that can be fatal to young children and young adults. There are two stages of the smallpox virus, the Variola Major and the Variola Minor.

The Variola major is a serious illness that can be life threatening in people who have not been vaccinated. The Variola minor is a milder infection that rarely causes death. The epidemic was not singled to one area in the country or to one side during the Civil War. “It is not known where the outbreak began, but the epidemic was not limited to the colonies on the Eastern seaboard, nor to the areas ravaged by hostilities (Alexander).

The outbreak spread throughout the North American continent. Warren took a step and lead a charge against the disease. He gathered all of the best physicians in the country and decided it was time to treat the problem. At this time, he made his initial relationship with President John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Joseph Warren did not discriminate against anyone who needed treatment. He treated everyone, from the most prestigious of men who ran the country, to the slaves.

Over the course of a dozen years, he cared for roughly 1,500 people. Of those included Future American presidents, governors, and senators, enemy leaders, and children, women and men from the highest station to the most of humble slaves. He was not one to discriminate patients based of skin color or any other type of bias.

He was a man of integrity that cared for all. Warren was also deeply involved with the group of Boston patriots, including John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who were chafing under British rule. In February 1770, when a young boy named Christopher Seider was killed by a British official during a protest against the British Customs House, Warren was the doctor who performed the autopsy, confirming that Seider’s death was the first in the American Revolution.

Outrage in the wake of that killing led to the Boston Massacre five days later. Warren then served on the Boston committee that reported on the Boston Massacre deaths. He subsequently rose to serve as president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress—a sort of shadow government operating while the British were still nominally in charge—and as de facto head of the Massachusetts militia at the outset of the revolution (Feldscher).

Joseph was known to be a very aggressive leader, and passionate activist. Because of his fiery spirit, he stood for nothing less than victory when fighting the British both on the battlefield and politically. Anyone who was present at the time could and even now could see that America was being bullied by Britain and was far from being independent.

Warren decided he would not be a victim of bullying anymore, he did not hesitate to stand up for his soon to be rights and was willing to fight for them every step of the way. Joseph Warren voiced his opinion in many ways bringing the American people together and ready to fight for their rights. He wrote “A True Patriot” in rebuttal against the new laws passed by Britain known as the Townsend Acts. The Townshend Acts were a group of laws put on the colonies in America.

They placed taxes on lead, paper, glass, paint, and tea. Because of this, there were people like Joseph Warren who stepped out and protested the acts. The acts saw rebellion and soon ended. He claimed that if Britain was to continue enforcing the new set of laws, an American militia would be forced to act and begin to rebel. In anger the British Governor sought to have Warren and the publishers arrested and prosecuted. The Grand Jury never pressed charges against him. Joseph Warren began to see his political role gain influence from the people.

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