Samuel Adams: Wikis


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Samuel Adams
A stern middle-aged man with gray hair is wearing a dark red suit. He is standing behind a table, holding a rolled up document in one hand, and pointing with the other hand to a large document on the table.
In this c. 1772 portrait by John Singleton Copley, Adams points at the Massachusetts Charter, which he viewed as a constitution that protected the peoples' rights.[1]

In office
October 8, 1793 – June 2, 1797
Lieutenant Moses Gill

In office
Governor John Hancock

In office

Delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress
In office

In office

Born September 27 [O.S. September 16] 1722
Boston, Massachusetts
Died October 2, 1803 (aged 81)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic-Republican (1790s)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Checkley,
Elizabeth Wells
Religion Congregationalist[2]
Signature Handwritten "Saml Adams", with the "l" a raised curlicue

Samuel Adams (September 27 [O.S. September 16] 1722 – October 2, 1803) was a statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States. He was a second cousin to John Adams.

Born in Boston, Adams was brought up in a religious and politically active family. A graduate of Harvard College, he was an unsuccessful businessman and tax collector before concentrating on politics. As an influential official of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Boston Town Meeting in the 1760s, Adams was a part of a movement opposed to the British Parliament's efforts to tax the British American colonies without their consent. His 1768 circular letter calling for colonial cooperation prompted the occupation of Boston by British soldiers, eventually resulting in the Boston Massacre of 1770. To help coordinate resistance to what he saw as the British government's attempts to violate the British Constitution at the expense of the colonies, in 1772 Adams and his colleagues devised a committee of correspondence system, which linked like-minded Patriots throughout the Thirteen Colonies. Continued resistance to British policy resulted in the 1773 Boston Tea Party and the coming of the American Revolution.

After Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774, Adams attended the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, which was convened to coordinate a colonial response. He helped guide Congress towards issuing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and helped draft the Articles of Confederation and the Massachusetts Constitution. Adams returned to Massachusetts after the American Revolution, where he served in the state senate and was eventually elected governor.

Samuel Adams is a controversial figure in American history. Accounts written in the 19th century praised him as someone who had been steering his fellow colonists towards independence long before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. This view gave way to negative assessments of Adams in the first half of the 20th century, in which he was portrayed as a master of propaganda who provoked mob violence to achieve his goals. Both of these interpretations have been challenged by some modern scholars, who argue that these traditional depictions of Adams are myths contradicted by the historical record.


Early life

Samuel Adams was born in Boston in the British colony of Massachusetts on September 16, 1722, an Old Style date that is sometimes converted to the New Style date of September 27.[3] Adams was one of twelve children born to Samuel Adams, Sr., and Mary (Fifield) Adams; in an age of high infant mortality, only three of these children would live past their third birthday.[4] Adams's parents were devout Puritans, and members of the Old South Congregation Church. The family lived on Purchase Street in Boston.[5] Adams was proud of his Puritan heritage, and emphasized Puritan values, especially virtue, in his political career.[6]

Samuel Adams, Sr. (1689–1748) was a prosperous merchant and church deacon.[7] Deacon Adams became a leading figure in Boston politics through an organization that became known as the Boston Caucus, which promoted candidates who supported popular causes.[8] The Boston Caucus helped shape the agenda of the Boston Town Meeting. A New England town meeting is a form of local government with elected officials, and not just a gathering of citizens; it was, according to historian William Fowler, "the most democratic institution in the British empire".[9] Deacon Adams rose through the political ranks, becoming a justice of the peace, a selectman, and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.[10] He worked closely with Elisha Cooke, Jr. (1678–1737), the leader of the "popular party", a faction that resisted any encroachment by royal officials on the colonial rights embodied in the Massachusetts Charter of 1691.[11] In the coming years, members of the "popular party" would become known as Whigs or Patriots.[12]

A four story brick building with many windows.
While at Harvard, Adams boarded at Massachusetts Hall.[13]

The younger Samuel Adams attended Boston Latin School and then entered Harvard College in 1736. His parents hoped that his schooling would prepare him for the ministry, but Adams gradually shifted his interest to politics.[14] After graduating in 1740, Adams continued his studies, earning a master's degree in 1743. His thesis, in which he argued that it was "lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved", indicated that his political views, like his father's, were oriented towards colonial rights.[15]

Adams's life was greatly affected by his father's involvement in a banking controversy. In 1739, with Massachusetts facing a serious currency shortage, Deacon Adams and the Boston Caucus created a "land bank", which issued paper money to borrowers who mortgaged their land as security.[16] The land bank was generally supported by the citizenry and the popular party, which dominated the House of Representatives, the lower branch of the General Court. Opposition to the land bank came from the more aristocratic "court party", who were supporters of the royal governor and controlled the Governor's Council, the upper chamber of the General Court.[17] The court party used its influence to have the British Parliament dissolve the land bank in 1741.[18] Directors of the land bank, including Deacon Adams, became personally liable for the currency still in circulation, payable in silver and gold. Lawsuits over the bank persisted for years, even after Deacon Adams's death, and the younger Samuel Adams would often have to defend the family estate from seizure by the government.[19] For Adams, these lawsuits "served as a constant personal reminder that Britain's power over the colonies could be exercised in arbitrary and destructive ways".[20]

Early career

After leaving Harvard in 1743, Adams was unsure about his future. He considered becoming a lawyer, but instead decided to go into business. He worked at Thomas Cushing's counting house, but the job only lasted a few months because Cushing felt that Adams was too preoccupied with politics to become a good merchant.[21] Adams's father then loaned him £1,000 to go into business for himself, a substantial amount for that time.[22] Adams's lack of business instincts were confirmed: he loaned half of this money to a friend, which was never repaid, and frittered away the other half. Adams would always remain, in the words of historian Pauline Maier, "a man utterly uninterested in either making or possessing money".[23]

On a city street, an old brick church with a tall steeple is surrounded by modern buildings.
The Old South Meeting House (1968 photo shown) was Adams's church. During the crisis with Great Britain, mass meetings that were too large for Faneuil Hall were held here.[24]

Having lost his money, Adams's father made him a partner in the family's malthouse, which was next to the family home on Purchase Street. Several generations of Adamses were maltsters, who produced the malt necessary for brewing beer.[25] Years later, a poet would poke fun at Adams by calling him "Sam the maltster".[26] Adams has often been described as a brewer, but the extant evidence suggests that Adams worked as a maltster and not a brewer.[27]

In January 1748, Adams and some friends, inflamed by British impressment, launched the Independent Advertiser, a weekly newspaper that printed many political essays written by Adams.[28] Drawing heavily upon English political theorist John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, Adams's essays emphasized many of the themes that would characterize his subsequent career.[29] He argued that the people must resist any encroachment on their constitutional rights.[30] He cited the decline of the Roman Empire as an example of what could happen to New England if it were to abandon its Puritan values.[31]

When Deacon Adams died in 1748, Adams was given the responsibility of managing the family's affairs.[32] In October 1749, he married Elizabeth Checkley, his pastor's daughter.[33] Elizabeth gave birth to six children over the next seven years, but only two—Samuel (born 1751) and Hannah (born 1756)—would live to adulthood.[34] In July 1757, Elizabeth died soon after giving birth to a stillborn son.[35] Adams would remarry in 1764, to Elizabeth Wells,[36] but would have no other children.[23]

Like his father, Adams embarked on a political career with the support of the Boston Caucus. He was elected to his first political office in 1747, serving as one of the clerks of the Boston market. In 1756 the Boston Town Meeting elected him to the post of tax collector, which provided a small income.[37] Adams often failed to collect taxes from his fellow citizens, which increased his popularity among those who did not pay, but left him liable for the shortage.[38] By 1765, Adams's account was more than £8,000 in arrears. Because the town meeting was on the verge of bankruptcy, Adams was compelled to file suit against delinquent taxpayers, but many taxes went uncollected.[39] In 1768, Adams's political opponents would use the situation to their advantage, obtaining a court judgment of £1,463 against him. Adams's friends paid off some of the deficit, and the town meeting wrote off the remainder. By then, Adams had emerged as a leader of the popular party, and the embarrassing situation did not lessen his influence.[40]

Struggle with Great Britain

Samuel Adams emerged as an important public figure in Boston soon after the British Empire's victory in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). Finding itself deep in debt and looking for new sources of revenue, the British Parliament sought, for the first time, to directly tax the colonies of British America.[41] This tax dispute was part of a larger divergence between British and American interpretations of the British Constitution and the extent of Parliament's authority in the colonies.[42]

Sugar Act

The first step in the new program was the Sugar Act of 1764. Adams saw the act as an infringement of longstanding colonial rights. Because colonists were not represented in Parliament, he argued, they could not be taxed by that body; only the colonial assemblies, where the colonists were represented, could levy taxes upon the colonies.[43] Adams expressed these views in May 1764, when the Boston Town Meeting elected its representatives to the Massachusetts House. As was customary, the town meeting provided the representatives with a set of written instructions, which Adams was selected to write. Adams highlighted what he perceived to be the dangers of taxation without representation:

For if our Trade may be taxed, why not our Lands? Why not the Produce of our Lands & everything we possess or make use of? This we apprehend annihilates our Charter Right to govern & tax ourselves. It strikes at our British privileges, which as we have never forfeited them, we hold in common with our Fellow Subjects who are Natives of Britain. If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves?[44]

"When the Boston Town Meeting approved the Adams instructions on May 24, 1764," wrote historian John K. Alexander, "it became the first political body in America to go on record stating Parliament could not constitutionally tax the colonists. The directives also contained the first official recommendation that the colonies present a unified defense of their rights."[45] Adams's instructions were published in newspapers and pamphlets. Adams soon became closely associated with James Otis, Jr., a member of the Massachusetts House famous for his defense of colonial rights.[45] Although Otis boldly challenged the constitutionality of certain acts of Parliament, he would not go as far as Adams, who was moving towards the conclusion that Parliament did not have sovereignty over the colonies.[46]

Stamp Act

In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which required colonists to pay a new tax on most printed materials.[47] News of the passage of the Stamp Act produced an uproar in the colonies.[48] The colonial response echoed Adams's 1764 instructions. In June 1765, Otis called for a Stamp Act Congress to coordinate colonial resistance.[49] The Virginia House of Burgesses passed a widely reprinted set of resolves against the Stamp Act that resembled Adams's arguments against the Sugar Act.[50] Not only did Adams argue that the Stamp Act was unconstitutional; he also believed that it would hurt the economy of the British Empire. He supported calls for a boycott of British goods to put pressure on Parliament to repeal the tax.[51]

In Boston, a group called the Loyal Nine, a precursor to the Sons of Liberty, organized protests of the Stamp Act. Adams was friendly with the Loyal Nine, but was not a member.[52] On August 14, stamp distributor Andrew Oliver was hanged in effigy from Boston's Liberty Tree; that night, his home was ransacked and his office demolished. On August 26, lieutenant governor Thomas Hutchinson's home was destroyed by an angry crowd.

A statue on a pedestal of a man standing with his arms crossed. An inscription on the pedestal reads, "Samuel Adams, 1722–1803. A Patriot. He organized the Revolution and signed the Declaration of Independence." Behind the statue is a three story brick building with many windows.
Statue of Samuel Adams in front of Faneuil Hall, which was the home of the Boston Town Meeting[53]

Officials such as Governor Francis Bernard, believing that common people acted only under the direction of agitators, blamed the violence on Adams.[54] This interpretation was revived by scholars in the early 20th century, who viewed Adams as a master of propaganda who manipulated mobs into doing his bidding.[55] For example, in what became the standard biography of Adams,[56] historian John C. Miller wrote in 1936 that Adams "controlled" Boston with his "trained mob".[57] Some modern scholars have argued that this interpretation is a myth, and that there's no evidence that Adams had anything to do with the Stamp Act riots.[58] After the fact, Adams did approve of the August 14 action because he saw no other legal options to resist what he viewed as an unconstitutional act by Parliament, but he condemned attacks on officials' homes as "mobbish".[59] According to the modern scholarly interpretation of Adams, he supported legal methods of resisting parliamentary taxation—petitions, boycotts, and nonviolent demonstrations—but he opposed mob violence, which he saw as illegal, dangerous, and counterproductive.[60]

In September 1765, Adams was once again appointed by the Boston Town Meeting to write the instructions for Boston's delegation to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. As it turned out, he wrote his own instructions: on September 27, the town meeting selected him to replace the recently deceased Oxenbridge Thacher as one of Boston's four representatives in the assembly.[61] With James Otis attending the Stamp Act Congress in New York City, Adams was the primary author of a series of House resolutions against the Stamp Act, which were more radical than those passed by the Stamp Act Congress.[62] Adams was one of the first colonial leaders to argue that mankind possessed certain natural rights that governments could not violate.[63]

Although the Stamp Act was scheduled to go into effect on November 1, 1765, it was not enforced because protestors throughout the colonies had compelled stamp distributors to resign.[63] Eventually, British merchants were able to convince Parliament to repeal the tax.[64] By May 16, 1766, news of the repeal had reached Boston. There was celebration throughout the city, and Adams made a public statement of thanks to British merchants for helping their cause.[65]

The Massachusetts popular party gained ground in the May 1766 elections. Adams was reelected to the House and selected as its clerk. In the coming years, Adams would use his position as clerk, in which he was responsible for official House papers, to promote his political message with great effect.[66] Joining Adams in the House was John Hancock, a new representative from Boston. Hancock was a wealthy merchant—perhaps the richest man in Massachusetts—but a relative newcomer to politics. Initially a protégé of Adams, Hancock used his wealth to promote the Whig cause.[67]

Townshend Acts

After the repeal of the Stamp Act, Parliament took a different approach to raising revenue, passing the Townshend Acts in 1767, which established new taxes on various goods imported into the colonies. These duties were relatively low, because the British ministry wanted to establish the precedent that Parliament had the right to tax the colonies before imposing higher taxes.[68] Revenues from these taxes were to be used to pay for governors and judges who would be independent of colonial control. To enforce compliance with the new laws, the Townshend Acts created a customs agency known as the American Board of Custom Commissioners, which was headquartered in Boston.[69]

Resistance to the Townshend Acts grew slowly. When news of the acts reached Boston in October 1767, the General Court was not in session. Adams therefore used the Boston Town Meeting to organize an economic boycott, and called for other towns to do the same.[68] By February 1768, towns in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut had joined the boycott.[68] Opposition to the Townshend Acts was also encouraged by Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, a series of popular essays by John Dickinson, which started appearing in December 1767. Dickinson's argument that the new taxes were unconstitutional had been made before by Adams, but never to such a wide audience.[70]

In January 1768, the Massachusetts House sent a petition to King George asking for his help.[71] Adams and Otis requested that the House send the petition to the other colonies, along with what became known as the Massachusetts Circular Letter, which became "a significant milestone on the road to revolution".[72] The letter, written by Adams, called on the colonies to join with Massachusetts in resisting the Townshend Acts.[73] The House initially voted against sending the letter and petition to the other colonies, but after some politicking by Adams and Otis, it was approved on February 11.[74]

Hoping to prevent a repeat of the Stamp Act Congress, Lord Hillsborough, the British colonial secretary, instructed the colonial governors in America to dissolve the assemblies if they responded to the Massachusetts Circular Letter. He also directed Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard to have the Massachusetts House rescind the letter.[75] On June 30, the House refused to rescind the letter by a vote of 92 to 17, with Adams citing their right to petition as justification.[76] Far from complying with the governor's order, Adams instead presented a new petition to the king asking that Governor Bernard be removed from office. Bernard responded by dissolving the legislature.[77]

When the commissioners of the Customs Board found that they were unable to enforce trade regulations in Boston, they requested military assistance.[78] Help came in the form of the HMS Romney, a fifty-gun warship, which arrived in Boston Harbor in May 1768.[79] Tensions escalated after the captain of the Romney began to impress local sailors. The situation exploded on June 10, when customs officials seized the Liberty, a sloop owned by John Hancock—a leading critic of the Customs Board—for alleged customs violations. When sailors and marines from the Romney came ashore to tow away the Liberty, a riot broke out. Things calmed down in the following days, but fearful customs officials packed up their families and fled to the Romney and eventually to Castle William, an island fort in the harbor, for protection.[80]

In response to the Liberty incident and the struggle over the Circular Letter, Governor Bernard wrote to London, informing his superiors that troops were needed in Boston to restore order.[81] Lord Hillsborough ordered four regiments of the British Army to Boston.

Boston under occupation

A wide view of a port town with several wharves. In the foreground there are eight large sailing ships and an assortment of smaller vessels. Soldiers are disembarking from small boats onto a long wharf. The skyline of the town, with nine tall spires and many smaller buildings, is in the distance. A key at the bottom of the drawing indicates some prominent landmarks and the names of the warships.
Paul Revere's 1768 engraving of British troops arriving in Boston was reprinted throughout the colonies.

Learning that British troops were on the way, the Boston Town Meeting met on September 12, 1768, and requested that Governor Bernard convene the General Court.[82] Bernard refused, and so the town meeting called on the other Massachusetts towns to send representatives to meet at Faneuil Hall beginning on September 22.[83] About 100 towns sent delegates to the convention, which was effectively an unofficial session of the Massachusetts House. Using language more moderate than what Adams desired, the convention issued a letter that insisted that Boston was not a lawless town, and that the impending military occupation violated Bostonians' natural, constitutional, and charter rights.[84] By the time the convention adjourned, British troop transports had arrived in Boston Harbor.[85] Two regiments disembarked in October 1768, followed by two more in November.[86]

According to some accounts, the occupation of Boston was a turning point for Adams, after which he gave up hope of reconciliation and secretly began to work towards American independence.[87] However, in 1928 historian Carl Becker wrote that "there is no clear evidence in his contemporary writings that such was the case."[88] Nevertheless, the notion that Adams desired independence before most of his contemporaries, and steadily worked towards this goal for years, became part of the standard view of Adams.[89] Historian Pauline Maier challenged that idea in 1980, arguing instead that Adams, like most of his peers, did not embrace independence until after the American Revolutionary War had begun in 1775.[90] According to Maier, Adams was at this time a reformer rather than a revolutionary; he sought to have the British ministry change its policies, and warned Britain that independence would be the inevitable result of a failure to do so.[91]

Adams wrote numerous letters and essays in opposition to the occupation, which he considered a violation of the 1689 Bill of Rights.[92] The occupation was publicized throughout the colonies in the Journal of Occurrences, an unsigned series of newspaper articles that may have been written by Adams in collaboration with others.[93] In an innovative approach for an era without professional newspaper reporters, the Journal presented what it claimed to be a factual daily account of events in Boston during the military occupation. Drawing upon the traditional Anglo-American distrust of standing armies garrisoned among civilians, the Journal depicted a Boston besieged by unruly British soldiers, who assaulted men and raped women with regularity and impunity.[94] The Journal ceased publication on August 1, 1769, which was a day of celebration in Boston: Governor Bernard had left Massachusetts, never to return.[95]

Adams continued to work on getting the troops withdrawn, and keeping the boycott going until the Townshend duties were repealed. Two regiments were removed from Boston in 1769, but the other two remained.[96] Tensions between soldiers and civilians eventually resulted in the killing of five civilians in the so-called Boston Massacre of March 1770. According to the "propagandist interpretation"[97] of Adams popularized by historian John Miller, Adams deliberately provoked the incident to promote his secret agenda of American independence.[98] According to Pauline Maier, however, "There is no evidence that he prompted the Boston Massacre riot".[99]

After the Boston Massacre, Adams and other town leaders met with Bernard's successor, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, and Colonel William Dalrymple, the army commander, to demand the withdrawal of the troops.[100] The situation remained explosive, and so Dalrymple agreed to remove both regiments to Castle William.[101] Adams wanted the soldiers to have a fair trial, because this would show that Boston was not controlled by a lawless mob, but was instead the victim of an unjust occupation.[102] He convinced his cousins John Adams and Josiah Quincy to defend the soldiers, knowing that those Whigs would not slander Boston to gain an acquittal.[103] However, Adams wrote essays condemning the outcome of the trials; he thought the soldiers should have been convicted of murder.[104]

"Quiet period"

After the Boston Massacre, politics in Massachusetts entered what is sometimes known as the "quiet period".[105] In April 1770, Parliament repealed the Townshend duties, except for the tax on tea. Adams urged colonists to keep up the boycott of British goods, arguing that paying even one small tax allowed Parliament to establish the precedent of taxing the colonies, but the boycott faltered.[106] As economic conditions improved, support for Adams's causes waned. Tensions between businesses and patriotism were growing and in order to keep the tea boycott going, Adams and the Sons of Liberty sent out mobs of people to harrass any businesses who were selling tea or making profits. These merchants suffered broken windows, defaced signs, and other actions of popular resentment. One merchant, Ebenezer Richardson, along with his family, was violently attacked by rocks, bricks, and eggs by an angry mob in front of his home. Out of the violence a young boy, Christopher Seider, who participated with the mob was shot and killed by Richards with a musket. [107] [108] John Adams withdrew from politics, while John Hancock and James Otis appeared to become more moderate.[109] Adams was reelected to the Massachusetts House in April 1772, but he received far fewer votes than ever before.[110]

An older man, seated, with a hint of a smile. He has white hair and is wearing a dark suit. He is pointing to a document on a table.
Adams as he looked in 1795, when he was Governor of Massachusetts. The original portrait was destroyed by fire; this is a mezzotint copy.[111]

A struggle over the power of the purse brought Adams back into the political limelight. Traditionally, the Massachusetts House of Representatives paid the salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, and superior court judges. From the Whig perspective, this arrangement, by keeping royally appointed officials accountable to democratically elected representatives, was an important check on executive power.[112] In 1772, Massachusetts learned that the those officials would henceforth be paid by the British government rather than by the province.[113] To protest this development, in November 1772 Adams and his colleagues devised a system of committees of correspondence; the towns of Massachusetts would consult with each other concerning political matters via messages sent through a network of committees that recorded British activities and protested imperial policies.[114] Committees of correspondence soon formed in other colonies as well.

Governor Hutchinson, concerned that the committees of correspondence were growing into an independence movement, convened the General Court in January 1773.[115] Addressing the legislature, Hutchinson argued that to deny the supremacy of Parliament, which some committees had done, came dangerously close to rebellion. "I know of no line that can be drawn," he said, "between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total independence of the colonies."[116] Adams and the House responded that the Massachusetts Charter did not establish Parliament's supremacy over the province, and so Parliament could not claim that authority now.[117] Hutchinson soon realized that he had made a major blunder by initiating a public debate about independence and the extent of Parliament's authority in the colonies.[118] The Boston Committee of Correspondence published its statement of colonial rights, along with Hutchinson's exchange with the Massachusetts House, in the widely distributed "Boston Pamphlet".[119]

The quiet period in Massachusetts was over. Adams was easily reelected to the Massachusetts House in May 1773, and was also elected as moderator of the Boston Town Meeting.[120] In June 1773, Adams introduced in the Massachusetts House a set of private letters written by Hutchinson several years earlier. In one letter, Hutchinson appeared to recommend to London that there should be "an abridgement of what are called English liberties" in Massachusetts. Although Hutchinson denied that this is what he meant, his career in Massachusetts was effectively over. The House sent a petition to the king asking for his recall.[121]

Tea Party

Adams took a leading role in the events that led up to the famous Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, although the precise nature of his involvement has been disputed.

In May 1773, the British Parliament passed the Tea Act, a tax law to help the struggling East India Company, one of Great Britain's most important commercial institutions. Because of the heavy taxes imposed on tea imported into Great Britain, Britons could buy smuggled Dutch tea more cheaply than the East India Company's tea, and so the company amassed a huge surplus of tea that it could not sell.[122] The British government's solution to the problem was to sell the surplus in the colonies. The Tea Act permitted the East India Company, for the first time, to export tea directly to the colonies, bypassing most of the merchants who had previously acted as middlemen.[123] The act also reduced the taxes on tea paid by the company in Britain, but kept the controversial Townshend duty on tea imported in the colonies. A few merchants in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charlestown were selected to receive the company's tea for resale.[124] In late 1773, seven ships carrying East India Company tea were sent to the colonies, including four bound for Boston.[125]

News of the Tea Act set off a firestorm of protest in the colonies.[126] This was not a dispute about high taxes: the price of legally imported tea was actually reduced by the Tea Act. Protesters were instead concerned with a variety of other issues. The familiar "no taxation without representation" argument, along with the question of the extent of Parliament's authority in the colonies, remained prominent.[127] Some colonists worried that by buying the cheaper tea, they would be conceding that Parliament had the right to tax them.[128] The "power of the purse" conflict was still at issue: The tea tax revenues were to be used to pay the salaries of certain royal officials, making them independent of the people.[129] Colonial smugglers played a significant role in the protests, since the Tea Act made legally imported tea cheaper, which threatened to put smugglers of Dutch tea out of business.[130] Legitimate tea importers who had not been named as consignees by the East India Company were also threatened with financial ruin by the Tea Act,[131] and other merchants worried about the precedent of a government-created monopoly.[132]

Two ships in a harbor, one in the distance. Onboard, men stripped to the waist and wearing feathers in their hair are throwing crates into the water. A large crowd, mostly men, is standing on the dock, waving hats and cheering. A few people wave their hats from windows in a nearby building.
This iconic 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier was entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"; the phrase "Boston Tea Party" had not yet become standard.[133]

Adams and the correspondence committees promoted opposition to the Tea Act.[134] In every colony except Massachusetts, protestors were able to force the tea consignees to resign or to return the tea to England.[135] In Boston, however, Governor Hutchinson was determined to hold his ground. He convinced the tea consignees, two of whom were his sons, not to back down.[136] The Boston Caucus and then the Town Meeting attempted to compel the consignees to resign, but they refused.[137] With the tea ships about to arrive, Adams and the Boston Committee of Correspondence contacted nearby committees to rally support.[138]

When the tea ship Dartmouth arrived in the Boston Harbor in late November, Adams wrote a circular letter calling for a mass meeting to be held at Faneuil Hall on November 29. Thousands of people arrived, so many that the meeting was moved to the larger Old South Meeting House.[139] British law required the Dartmouth to unload and pay the duties within twenty days or customs officials could confiscate the cargo.[140] The mass meeting passed a resolution, introduced by Adams, urging the captain of the Dartmouth to send the ship back without paying the import duty.[141] Meanwhile, the meeting assigned twenty-five men to watch the ship and prevent the tea from being unloaded.[142]

Governor Hutchinson refused to grant permission for the Dartmouth to leave without paying the duty. Two more tea ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor. On December 16—the last day of the Dartmouth's deadline—about 7,000 people had gathered around the Old South Meeting House.[143] After receiving a report that Governor Hutchinson had again refused to let the ships leave, Adams announced that "This meeting can do nothing further to save the country."[144] According to a popular story, Adams's statement was a prearranged signal for the "tea party" to begin. However, this claim did not appear in print until nearly a century after the event, in a biography of Adams written by his great-grandson, who apparently misinterpreted the evidence.[145] According to eyewitness accounts, people did not leave the meeting until ten or fifteen minutes after Adams's alleged "signal", and Adams in fact tried to stop people from leaving because the meeting was not yet over.[146]

While Adams tried to reassert control of the meeting, people poured out of the Old South Meeting House and headed to Boston Harbor. That evening, a group of 30 to 130 men, some of them thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded the three vessels and, over the course of three hours, dumped all 342 chests of tea into the water.[147] Adams never revealed if he went to the wharf to witness the destruction of the tea.[148] Whether or not he helped plan the event is unknown, but Adams immediately worked to publicize and defend it.[149] He argued that the Tea Party was not the act of a lawless mob, but was instead a principled protest and the only remaining option the people had to defend their constitutional rights.[150]


Great Britain responded to the Boston Tea Party in 1774 with the Coercive Acts. The first of these acts, the Boston Port Act, closed Boston's commerce until the East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea. The Massachusetts Government Act rewrote the Massachusetts Charter, making many officials royally appointed rather than elected, and severely restricting the activities of town meetings. The Administration of Justice Act allowed colonists charged with crimes to be transported to another colony or to Great Britain for trial. A new royal governor was appointed to enforce the acts: General Thomas Gage, who was also commander of British military forces in North America.[151]

Adams worked to coordinate resistance to the Coercive Acts. In May 1774, with Adams serving as moderator, the Boston Town Meeting organized an economic boycott of British goods.[152] In June, Adams headed a committee in the Massachusetts House which proposed that an intercolonial congress meet in Philadelphia in September. With the doors locked to prevent Gage from dissolving the legislature, Adams was one of five delegates chosen to attend the First Continental Congress.[153] Because Adams was never fashionably dressed and had little money, friends bought him new clothes and paid his expenses for the journey to Philadelphia, his first trip outside of Massachusetts.[154]

First Continental Congress

In Philadelphia, Adams promoted colonial unity while using his political skills to lobby other delegates.[155] On September 16, messenger Paul Revere brought Congress the Suffolk Resolves, one of many resolutions passed in Massachusetts that promised strident resistance to the Coercive Acts.[156] Congress endorsed the Suffolk Resolves, issued a Declaration of Rights that denied Parliament's right to legislate for the colonies, and organized a colonial boycott known as the Continental Association.[157]

Adams returned to Massachusetts in November 1774, where he served in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, an extralegal legislative body independent of British control. The Provincial Congress created the first minutemen companies, consisting of militiamen who were to be ready for action on a moment's notice.[158] Adams also served as moderator of the Boston Town Meeting, which convened despite the Massachusetts Government Act, and was appointed to the Committee of Inspection to enforce the Continental Association.[159] He was also selected to attend the Second Continental Congress, scheduled to meet in Philadelphia in May 1775.

Before his journey to the second Congress, Adams and John Hancock, who had been added to the delegation, attended the Provincial Congress in Concord, Massachusetts. Deciding that it was not safe to return to Boston before leaving for Philadelphia, the two men stayed at Hancock's childhood home in Lexington.[160] On April 14, 1775, General Gage received a letter from Lord Dartmouth advising him "to arrest the principal actors and abettors in the Provincial Congress whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion".[161] On the night of April 18, Gage sent out a detachment of soldiers on the fateful mission that would spark the American Revolutionary War. The purpose of the British expedition was to seize and destroy military supplies that the colonists had stored in Concord. According to many historical accounts, Gage also instructed his men to arrest Hancock and Adams, but the written orders issued by Gage made no mention of arresting the Patriot leaders.[162]

Although Gage had evidently decided against seizing Adams and Hancock, Patriots initially believed otherwise. From Boston, Joseph Warren dispatched Paul Revere to warn the two that British troops were on the move and might attempt to arrest them.[163] As Hancock and Adams made their escape, the first shots of the war began at Lexington and Concord. Soon after the battle, Gage issued a proclamation granting a general pardon to all who would "lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects"—with the exceptions of Hancock and Samuel Adams.[164] Singling out Hancock and Adams in this manner only added to their renown among Patriots, and, according to Patriot historian Mercy Otis Warren, perhaps exaggerated the importance of the two men.[165]

Second Continental Congress

Because the Continental Congress worked under a secrecy rule, Adams's precise role in congressional deliberations is not fully documented. He appears to have had a major influence, working behind the scenes as a sort of "parliamentary whip".[166] He served on numerous committees, often dealing with military matters.[167]

About 50 men, most of them seated, are in a large meeting room. Most are focused on the five men standing in the center of the room. The tallest of the five is laying a document on a table.
In John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence, Adams is seated to the viewer's right of Richard Henry Lee, whose legs are crossed in the front row.[168]

Adams was a cautious advocate for a declaration of independence, urging eager correspondents back in Massachusetts to wait for more moderate colonists to come around to supporting separation from Great Britain.[169] He was pleased when, in 1775, the colonies began to replace their old governments with independent republican governments.[170] In early 1776, writing as "Candidus", he praised Thomas Paine's popular pamphlet Common Sense and supported the call for American independence.[171] On June 7, Adams's political ally Richard Henry Lee introduced a three-part resolution calling for Congress to declare independence, create a colonial confederation, and seek foreign aid. After a delay to rally support, Congress approved the language of the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which Adams signed.

After the Declaration of Independence, Congress continued to manage the war effort. Adams served on military committees, including an appointment to the Board of War in 1777.[172] He advocated paying bonuses to Continental Army soldiers to encourage them to reenlist for the duration of the war.[173] He called for harsh state legislation to punish Loyalists—Americans who continued to support the British crown—who Adams believed were as dangerous to American liberty as British soldiers. In Massachusetts, more than 300 Loyalists were banished and their property confiscated.[174] After the war, Adams opposed allowing Loyalists to return to Massachusetts, fearing that they would work to undermine republican government.[175]

Adams was the Massachusetts delegate appointed to the committee to draft the Articles of Confederation, the plan for the colonial confederation. With its emphasis on state sovereignty, the Articles reflected Congress's wariness of a strong central government, a concern shared by Adams. Like others at the time, Adams considered himself a citizen of the United States while continuing to refer to Massachusetts as his "country".[176] After much debate, the Articles were sent to the states for ratification in November 1777. From Philadelphia, Adams urged Massachusetts to ratify, which it did. Adams signed the Articles of Confederation with the other Massachusetts delegates in 1778, but they were not ratified by all the states until 1781.

Adams returned to Boston in 1779 to attend a state constitutional convention. The Massachusetts General Court had proposed a new constitution the previous year, but voters rejected it, and so a convention was held to try again. Adams was appointed to a three-man drafting committee with his cousin John Adams and James Bowdoin.[177] They drafted the Massachusetts Constitution, which was amended by the convention and approved by voters in 1780. The new constitution established a republican form of government, with annual elections and a separation of powers. It reflected Adams's belief that "a state is never free except when each citizen is bound by no law whatever that he has not approved of, either directly, or through his representatives".[178] By modern standards, the new constitution was not "democratic"; Adams, like most of his peers, believed that only free males who owned property should be allowed to vote, and that the senate and the governor served to balance any excesses that might result from majority rule.[179]

In 1781, Adams retired from the Continental Congress. His health was one reason: he was approaching his sixtieth birthday, and suffered from tremors that made writing difficult.[180] But he also wanted to return to Massachusetts to influence politics in the Commonwealth.[181] He returned to Boston in 1781, and was never to leave Massachusetts again.[182]

Return to Massachusetts

Adams remained active in politics upon his return to Massachusetts. He frequently served as moderator of the Boston Town Meeting, and was elected to the state senate, where he often served as that body's president.[183]

Adams focused his political agenda on promoting virtue, which he considered essential in a republican government. If republican leaders lacked virtue, he believed, liberty was endangered. His major opponent in this campaign was his former protégé, John Hancock. The two men had had a falling out in the Continental Congress. Adams disapproved of what he viewed as Hancock's vanity and extravagance, which Adams believed were inappropriate in a republican leader. When Hancock left Congress in 1777, Adams and the other Massachusetts delegates voted against thanking Hancock for his service as president of Congress.[184] The struggle continued in Massachusetts. Adams thought that Hancock, by acting like an aristocrat and courting popularity, was not acting the part of a virtuous republican leader.[185] Adams favored James Bowdoin for governor, and was distressed when Hancock won annual landslide victories.[186]

Adams's promotion of public virtue took several forms. He played a major role in getting Boston to provide a free public education for children, even for girls, which was controversial.[187] After the Revolutionary War, Adams joined others, including Thomas Jefferson, in denouncing the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former army officers. Adams worried that the Society was "a stride towards an hereditary military nobility", and thus a threat to republicanism.[188] Adams also believed that public theaters undermined civic virtue, and he joined an ultimately unsuccessful effort to keep theaters banned in Boston.[189] Decades after Adams's death, orator Edward Everett would call him "the last of the Puritans".[190]

I firmly believe that the benevolent Creator designed the republican Form of Government for Man.

Samuel Adams, April 14, 1785[191]

Postwar economic troubles in western Massachusetts led to an uprising known as Shays's Rebellion, which began in 1786. Small farmers, angered by high taxes and debts, armed themselves and shut down debtor courts in two counties. Governor James Bowdoin sent four thousand militiamen to put down the uprising, an action supported by Adams.[192] Although his old political ally James Warren thought that Adams had forsaken his principles, Adams saw no contradiction. He approved of rebellion against an unrepresentative government, as had happened during the American Revolution, but he opposed taking up arms against a republican government, where problems should be remedied through elections. He thought the leaders of Shays's Rebellion should be hanged, reportedly saying that "the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death".[193]

Shays's Rebellion contributed to the belief that the Articles of Confederation needed to be revised. In 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention, instead of revising the Articles, created a new United States Constitution with a much stronger national government. When the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, Adams expressed his displeasure. "I confess," he wrote to Richard Henry Lee in 1787, "as I enter the Building I stumble at the Threshold. I meet with a National Government, instead of a Federal Union of States."[194] Adams was one of those derisively labeled "Anti-Federalists" by proponents of the new Constitution, who called themselves "Federalists".[195] Adams was elected to the Massachusetts ratifying convention, which met in January 1788. Despite his reservations, Adams rarely spoke at the convention, and listened carefully to the arguments rather than raising objections.[196] Adams and John Hancock, who had reconciled, finally agreed to give their support for the Constitution, with the proviso that some amendments be added later.[197] Even with the support of Hancock and Adams, the Massachusetts convention narrowly ratified the Constitution by a vote of 187 to 168.[198]

While Adams was attending the ratifying convention, his only son, Samuel Adams, Jr., died at just thirty-seven years of age. The younger Adams had served as surgeon in the Revolutionary War, but had fallen ill and never fully recovered. The death was a stunning blow to the elder Adams.[199] The younger Adams left his father the certificates he had earned as a soldier, giving Adams and his wife unexpected financial security in their final years. Investments in land would make them relatively wealthy by the mid-1790s, but this did not alter their frugal lifestyle.[200]

Concerned about the new Constitution, Adams made an attempt to reenter national politics. He allowed his name to be put forth as a candidate for the United States House of Representatives in the December 1788 election, but lost to Fisher Ames, apparently because Ames was a stronger supporter of the Constitution, a more popular position.[201] Despite his defeat, Adams continued to work for amendments to the Constitution, a movement that ultimately resulted in the addition of a Bill of Rights in 1791.[202] With these amendments, and the possibility of more, Adams subsequently became a firm supporter of the Constitution.[203]

In 1789, Adams was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, and served in that office until Governor Hancock's death in 1793, when he became acting governor. The next year Adams was elected as governor in his own right, the first of four annual terms. He was generally regarded as the leader of his state's Jeffersonian Republicans, who were opposed to the Federalist Party.[204] Unlike some other Republicans, Adams supported the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 for the same reasons that he had opposed Shays's Rebellion.[205] Like his fellow Republicans, he spoke out against the Jay Treaty in 1796, a position that drew criticism in a state that was increasingly Federalist.[206] In that year's U. S. presidential election, Republicans in Virginia cast 15 electoral votes for Adams in an effort to make him Jefferson's vice-president,[207] but Federalist John Adams won the election, with Jefferson becoming vice-president. The Adams cousins remained friends, but Samuel was pleased when Jefferson defeated John Adams in the 1800 presidential election.[208]

Taking a cue from President Washington, who declined to run for reelection in 1796, Adams retired from politics at the end of his term as governor in 1797.[209] Adams suffered from what is now believed to have been essential tremor, a movement disorder that, in the final decade of his life, rendered him unable to write.[210] He died at the age of 81 on October 2, 1803, and was interred at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.[211] Boston's Republican newspaper, the Independent Chronicle, eulogized him as the "Father of the American Revolution".[212]


A rectangular, rough-hewn block of stone on the ground. There is a walkway in the foreground, grass and trees in the background. A weathered plaque on the stone reads: "Samuel Adams, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Governor of this Commonwealth, A Leader of Men and an ardent Patriot."
Samuel Adams grave marker in the Granary Burying Ground.

Samuel Adams is a controversial figure in American history. Disagreement about his significance and reputation began before his death and continues to the present.[213]

Adams's contemporaries, both friends and foes, regarded him as one of the foremost leaders of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson, for example, characterized Adams as "truly the Man of the Revolution."[214] Leaders in other colonies were compared to him: Cornelius Harnett was called the "Samuel Adams of North Carolina", Charles Thomson the "Samuel Adams of Philadelphia",[215] and Christopher Gadsden the "Sam Adams of the South".[216] When John Adams traveled to France during the Revolution, he had to explain that he was not Samuel, "the famous Adams".[215]

Although supporters of the Revolution praised Adams, Loyalists viewed him as a sinister figure. Peter Oliver, the exiled chief justice of Massachusetts, characterized Adams as devious Machiavellian with a "cloven Foot".[217] Thomas Hutchinson, Adams's political foe, took his revenge in his History of Massachusetts Bay, in which he denounced Adams as a dishonest character assassin, emphasizing Adams's failures as a businessman and tax collector. This hostile "Tory interpretation" of Adams was revived in the 20th century by historian Clifford K. Shipton in the Sibley's Harvard Graduates reference series.[218] Shipton wrote positive portraits of Hutchinson and Oliver and scathing sketches of Adams and Hancock; his entry on Adams was characterized by historian Pauline Maier as "forty-five pages of contempt".[219]

Whig historians challenged the "Tory interpretation" of Adams. William Gordon and Mercy Otis Warren, two historians who knew Adams, wrote of him as man selflessly dedicated to the American Revolution.[220] But in the early 19th century, Adams was often viewed as an old-fashioned Puritan, and was consequently neglected by historians.[221] Interest in Adams was revived in the mid-19th century. Historian George Bancroft portrayed Adams favorably in his monumental History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent (1852). The first full biography of Adams appeared in 1865, a three-volume work written by William Wells, Adams's great-grandson.[222] Although the Wells biography is still valuable for its wealth of information,[23] Whig portrayals of Adams were uncritically pro-American and had elements of hagiography, a view that influenced some later biographies written for general audiences.[223]

In the late 19th century, many American historians, uncomfortable with contemporary revolutions, found it problematic to write approvingly about Adams. Relations between the United States and Great Britain had improved, and Adams's role in dividing Americans from Britons was increasingly viewed with regret.[224] In 1885, James Hosmer wrote a biography that praised Adams, but also found some of his actions, such as the 1773 publication of Hutchinson's private letters, to be troubling.[225] Subsequent biographers became increasingly hostile towards Adams and the common people he represented. In 1923, Ralph V. Harlow used a "Freudian" approach to characterize Adams as a "neurotic crank" driven by an "inferiority complex".[226] Harlow argued that because the masses were easily misled, Adams "manufactured public opinion" to produce the Revolution, a view that became the thesis of John C. Miller's 1936 biography, Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda.[227] Consistently calling his subject "Sam", despite the fact that Adams was almost always known as "Samuel" in his lifetime,[23] Miller portrayed Adams more as an incendiary revolutionary than an adroit political operative, attributing all acts of Boston's "body of the people" to this one man.[228]

Miller's influential book became, in the words of historian Charles Akers, the "scholarly enshrinement" of "the myth of Sam Adams as the Boston dictator who almost singlehandedly led his colony into rebellion".[229] According to Akers, Miller and others historians used "Sam did it" to explain crowd actions and other developments without citing any evidence that Adams directed those events.[230] In 1974, Akers called on historians to critically reexamine the sources rather than simply repeating the myth.[231] By then, scholars were increasingly rejecting the notion that Adams and others used "propaganda" to incite "ignorant mobs", and were instead portraying a revolutionary Massachusetts too complex to have been controlled by one man.[232] Historian Pauline Maier argued that Adams, far from being a radical mob leader, took a moderate position based on the English revolutionary tradition that imposed strict constraints on resistance to authority. That belief justified force only against threats to the constitutional rights so grave that the "body of the people" recognized the danger, and only after all peaceful means of redress had failed. Within that revolutionary tradition, resistance was essentially conservative. In 2004, Ray Raphael's Founding Myths continued Maier's line by deconstructing several of the "Sam" Adams myths that are still repeated in many textbooks and popular histories.[233]

Samuel Adams's name has been appropriated by commercial and non-profit ventures since his death. Drawing upon the tradition that Adams had been a brewer, the Boston Beer Company created Samuel Adams Boston Lager in 1985, which has become a popular, award-winning brand.[234] Adams's name is also used by a pair of non-profit organizations, the Sam Adams Alliance and the Sam Adams Foundation. These groups take their names from Adams in homage of his ability to organize citizens at the local level in order to achieve a national goal.[235]


  1. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 103, 136; Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 41–42.
  2. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 2:221.
  3. ^ Hosmer, Samuel Adams, 14.
  4. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 1; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 4; Puls, Father of Revolution, 22.
  5. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 1; Puls, Father of Revolution, 21.
  6. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 41–42.
  7. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 3–4; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 1.
  8. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 2; Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 19.
  9. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 8; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 2.
  10. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 7–8; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 11; Puls, Father of Revolution, 23.
  11. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 9; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 10–11; Puls, Father of Revolution, 23.
  12. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 23, 74.
  13. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 16.
  14. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 1; Puls, Father of Revolution, 25.
  15. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 15–16; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 7; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 25.
  16. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 4–5; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 21.
  17. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 5.
  18. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 6; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 23.
  19. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 6–12.
  20. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 12.
  21. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 17; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 3.
  22. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 3–4.
  23. ^ a b c d Maier, American National Biography.
  24. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 58.
  25. ^ Baron, Brewed in America, 74.
  26. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 1:24.
  27. ^ Baron, Brewed in America, 74–75; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 231. However, Stoll (Samuel Adams, 275n16) notes that James Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company, reports having seen a receipt for hops signed by Adams, which indicates that Adams may have done some brewing.
  28. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 17–18; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 7.
  29. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 21; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 8.
  30. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 8.
  31. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 19.
  32. ^ Puls, Father of Revolution, 30–31.
  33. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 9; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 34.
  34. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 9.
  35. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 9; Puls, Father of Revolution, 31–32.
  36. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 55.
  37. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 7–9, 14.
  38. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 14. The failure to collect all taxes was a Boston tradition; Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 19.
  39. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 27.
  40. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 53–54.
  41. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 50; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 17.
  42. ^ Bailyn, Ideological Origins, 162.
  43. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 51.
  44. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 51–52. Fowler has modernized the punctuation for readability. The complete text is in Cushing, Writings, 1:1–7.
  45. ^ a b Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 21.
  46. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 22–23; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 52–53.
  47. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 17–18.
  48. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 50–51.
  49. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 61; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 24.
  50. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 24.
  51. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 24–25.
  52. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 25; Miller, Pioneer, 53.
  53. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 48.
  54. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 26.
  55. ^ O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 90–91; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 27.
  56. ^ O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 91.
  57. ^ Miller, Pioneer, 53.
  58. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 26–27; Raphael, Founding Myths, 51–52. Fowler (Radical Puritan, 66) believes that Adams must have known about the attack on Hutchinson's home in advance, though he concedes that there are no records that link him to the incident.
  59. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 27; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 28–29.
  60. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 29; Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 26–28.
  61. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 30.
  62. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 32–33.
  63. ^ a b Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 33.
  64. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 37; Puls, Father of Revolution, 62.
  65. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 1:112.
  66. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 40–41, 44–45.
  67. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 73; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 39; Nobles, "Old Republicans", 269.
  68. ^ a b c Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 50.
  69. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 49–50.
  70. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 51.
  71. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 51. In London, the petition to the king was published, along with other documents, by Thomas Hollis under the title "The True Sentiments of America"; Hosmer, Samuel Adams, 109.
  72. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 51.
  73. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 52; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 78.
  74. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 52; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 78–80.
  75. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 54; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 82.
  76. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 55; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 82.
  77. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 55.
  78. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 57; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 80.
  79. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 57.
  80. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 57–60; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 81.
  81. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 59–60.
  82. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 61–62.
  83. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 62–63.
  84. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 63; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 88.
  85. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 63; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 88.
  86. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 65.
  87. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 1:207; Hosmer, Samuel Adams, 119–20; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 64–65.
  88. ^ Becker, "Samuel Adams". Dictionary of American Biography.
  89. ^ Raphael, Founding Myths, 47, 55.
  90. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 25. Maier (Old Revolutionaries, 15) notes that Stewart Beach's Samuel Adams, the Fateful Years (1965) also questioned whether Adams sought independence before the mid-1770s.
  91. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 21–25.
  92. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 67.
  93. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 90–92.
  94. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 68–69.
  95. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 74.
  96. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 74.
  97. ^ O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 90–95.
  98. ^ Miller, Pioneer in Propaganda, 276.
  99. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 27.
  100. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 82; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 105.
  101. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 82–84.
  102. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 107.
  103. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 84–85; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 109–10.
  104. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 94–95.
  105. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 93.
  106. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 91; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 111.
  107. ^ Zobel, Hillar B. (1970). The Boston Massacre. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 170–175. 
  108. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 105.
  109. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 97–99.
  110. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 104.
  111. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 3:334.
  112. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 117; Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 22.
  113. ^ Adams and others had previously suspected that Hutchinson's salary was being paid by the Crown, but this was unconfirmed until now; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 106.
  114. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 2:84.
  115. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 111–12.
  116. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 120; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 112.
  117. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 112–13.
  118. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 114.
  119. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 120.
  120. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 116.
  121. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 118–19; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 121. Hutchinson maintained that he was predicting, rather an recommending, a curtailment of liberty; for the modern scholarly analysis of the letters affair, see Bernard Bailyn, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (Cambridge, 1974).
  122. ^ Thomas, Townshend Duties, 248–49; Labaree, Tea Party, 334.
  123. ^ Labaree, Tea Party, 67, 70.
  124. ^ Labaree, Tea Party, 75–76.
  125. ^ Labaree, Tea Party, 78–79.
  126. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 120; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 122.
  127. ^ Thomas, Townshend Duties, 246.
  128. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 120.
  129. ^ Labaree, Tea Party, 78, 106.
  130. ^ Labaree, Tea Party, 102; see also John W. Tyler, Smugglers & Patriots: Boston Merchants and the Advent of the American Revolution (Boston, 1986).
  131. ^ Thomas, Townshend Duties, 256.
  132. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 120.
  133. ^ Alfred F. Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999; ISBN 0807054054; ISBN 978-0807054055), 183–85.
  134. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 120–21; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 122.
  135. ^ Labaree, Tea Party, 96–100.
  136. ^ Labaree, Tea Party, 104–05.
  137. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 121–22; Labaree, Tea Party, 109–112.
  138. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 122–23.
  139. ^ This was not an official town meeting, but a gathering of "the body of the people" of greater Boston; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 123.
  140. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 124.
  141. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 123; Puls, Father of Revolution, 143.
  142. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 123.
  143. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 125.
  144. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 2:122–23; Miller, Pioneer, 294.
  145. ^ Raphael, Founding Myths, 53.
  146. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 27–28n32; Raphael, Founding Myths, 53. For firsthand accounts that contradict the story that Adams gave the signal for the tea party, see L. F. S. Upton, ed., "Proceeding of Ye Body Respecting the Tea," William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 22 (1965), 297–98; Francis S. Drake, Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents, (Boston, 1884), LXX; Boston Evening Post, December 20, 1773; Boston Gazette, December 20, 1773; Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, December 23, 1773.
  147. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 125–26; Labaree, Tea Party, 141–44.
  148. ^ Fowler, Radical Puritan, 124.
  149. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 126; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 124.
  150. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 129.
  151. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 130–33.
  152. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 131–32.
  153. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 135–36; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 130.
  154. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 137; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 130–31; Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 33–34.
  155. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 139.
  156. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician 139–40; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 130–33. For resistance to the Coercive Acts in Massachusetts, see Ray Raphael, The First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord (New York: The New Press, 2002).
  157. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 140.
  158. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 143; Fowler, Radical Puritan, 134.
  159. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 143.
  160. ^ Fischer, Paul Revere's Ride, 94, 108.
  161. ^ Fischer, Paul Revere's Ride, 76; Alden, "March to Concord", 451.
  162. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 146; Alden, "March to Concord", 453.
  163. ^ Fischer, Paul Revere's Ride, 110.
  164. ^ The text of Gage's proclamation is available online from the Library of Congress.
  165. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 17; Raphael, Founding Myths, 62–63.
  166. ^ Nobles, "Old Republicans", 264, citing Jack N. Rakove, The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress (New York 1979), 103.
  167. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 150.
  168. ^ "Key to Declaration of Independence". Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  169. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 26; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 151.
  170. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 152–53.
  171. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 153.
  172. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 157; Wells, Life and Public Services, 2:468.
  173. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 158–59.
  174. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 161–62.
  175. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 193–94.
  176. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 162–63, 197.
  177. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 181.
  178. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 184.
  179. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 183–85.
  180. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 167.
  181. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 188.
  182. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 170–71.
  183. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 189.
  184. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 178.
  185. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 178.
  186. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 186-89.
  187. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 192–94.
  188. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 196.
  189. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 193; Hosmer, Samuel Adams, 404.
  190. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 47, quoting Everett's 1835 "Battle of Lexington" oration.
  191. ^ Cushing, Writings, 4:314; Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 44.
  192. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 202.
  193. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 30–31; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 202–03.
  194. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 203.
  195. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 203–04.
  196. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 205-06.
  197. ^ Wells, Life and Public Services, 3:260–61.
  198. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 207.
  199. ^ Wells, Life and Public Service, 3:255.
  200. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 209, 219.
  201. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 210.
  202. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 211.
  203. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 214-15.
  204. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 213.
  205. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 214.
  206. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 217; Puls, Father of Revolution, 227.
  207. ^ Hosmer, Samuel Adams, 409.
  208. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 219.
  209. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 218.
  210. ^ Elan D. Louis. "Samuel Adams’ tremor". Neurology (2001) 56:1201–05 (online abstract). Retrieved February 19, 2009. 
  211. ^ Hosmer, Samuel Adams, 416–17.
  212. ^ Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 221.
  213. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 7–8; O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 82.
  214. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 5.
  215. ^ a b Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 3.
  216. ^ E. Stanly Godbold, "Gadsden, Christopher"; American National Biography Online, February 2000.
  217. ^ O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 82–82.
  218. ^ O'Toole, Historical Interpretations", 83–84.
  219. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 11.
  220. ^ O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 84–85.
  221. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 6–7.
  222. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 6–7; O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 85–86.
  223. ^ O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 85, 92n32; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 229–30.
  224. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 14; O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 86.
  225. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries", 9.
  226. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 10–11; O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 91. See Ralph V. Harlow, Samuel Adams, Promoter of the American Revolution: A Study in Psychology and Politics (Holt, 1923).
  227. ^ Maier, Old Revolutionaries, 11; O'Toole, "Historical Interpretations", 91.
  228. ^ Raphael, Founding Myths, 58–59.
  229. ^ Akers, "Sam Adams—And Much More", 120–21.
  230. ^ Akers, "Sam Adams—And Much More", 121–22.
  231. ^ Akers, "Sam Adams—And Much More", 130.
  232. ^ O'Toole, Historical Interpretations, 93–95.
  233. ^ Raphael, Founding Myths, 45–63.
  234. ^ "The Boston Beer Company – About Us". Boston Beer Company. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  235. ^"The Sam Adams Alliance – Why Sam Adams?". The Sam Adams Alliance. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 


  • Akers, Charles W. "Sam Adams—And Much More". New England Quarterly 47, no. 1 (March 1974): 120–31.
  • Alden, John R. "Why the March to Concord?" The American Historical Review 49 (1944), 446–54.
  • Alexander, John K. Samuel Adams: America's Revolutionary Politician. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. ISBN 0-7425-2115-X.
  • Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Enlarged edition. Originally published 1967. Harvard University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-674-44302-0.
  • Baron, Stanley. Brewed in America: The History of Beer and Ale in the United States. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962.
  • Becker, Carl L. "Samuel Adams". Dictionary of American Biography 1: 95–101. New York: Scribner's, 1928.
  • Cushing, Harry A., ed. The Writings of Samuel Adams. 4 volumes. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904–08.
  • Fischer, David H. Paul Revere's Ride. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-19-508847-6.
  • Fowler, William M., Jr. Samuel Adams: Radical Puritan. New York: Longman, 1997. ISBN 0-673-99293-4.
  • Hosmer, James K. Samuel Adams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885. Accessed via Google Book Search.
  • Labaree, Benjamin Woods. The Boston Tea Party. Originally published 1964. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-930350-05-7.
  • Maier, Pauline. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765–1776. New York: Knopf, 1972. ISBN 0394461908; ISBN 0-393-30825-1.
  • ———. The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams. New York: Knopf, 1980. ISBN 0-394-51096-8.
  • ———. "Samuel Adams". American National Biography. Ed. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Miller, John C. Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda. Boston: Little, Brown, 1936.
  • Nobles, Gregory. "Yet the Old Republicans Still Persevere: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and the Crisis of Popular Leadership in Revolutionary Massachusetts, 1775–90". In Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert, eds., The Transforming Hand of Revolution: Reconsidering the American Revolution as a Social Movement, 258–85. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995. ISBN 0-8139-1561-9.
  • O'Toole, James M. "The Historical Interpretations of Samuel Adams." New England Quarterly 49 (March 1976): 82–96.
  • Puls, Mark. Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. ISBN 1-4039-7582-5.
  • Raphael, Ray. Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past. New York: The New Press, 2004. ISBN 1-56584-921-3.
  • Stoll, Ira. Samuel Adams: A Life. New York: Free Press, 2008. ISBN 9780743299114; ISBN 0743299116.
  • Thomas, Peter D. G. The Townshend Duties Crisis: The Second Phase of the American Revolution, 1767–1773. Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-19-822967-4.
  • Wells, William V. The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams: Being a Narrative of His Acts and Opinions, and of His Agency in Producing and Forwarding the American Revolution, with Extracts From His Correspondence, State Papers, and Political Essays. 3 volumes. Boston: Little, Brown, 1865.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Jeremiah Powell
Samuel Phillips, Jr.
President of the Massachusetts Senate
Succeeded by
Samuel Phillips, Jr.
Preceded by
Benjamin Lincoln
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Moses Gill
Preceded by
John Hancock
Governor of Massachusetts
October 8, 1793 – June 2, 1797
(acting, 1793–1794)
Succeeded by
Increase Sumner


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.

Samuel Adams (27 September 17222 October 1803) was an American revolutionary and organizer of the Boston Tea Party. He was governor of Massachusetts from 1793 to 1797.



It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves.
The truth is, all might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they ought.
The liberties of our Country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attack.
Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance.
It requires time to bring honest Men to think & determine alike even in important Matters. Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.
If Virtue & Knowledge are diffus'd among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security.
  • It is a very great mistake to imagine that the object of loyalty is the authority and interest of one individual man, however dignified by the applause or enriched by the success of popular actions.
  • He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man's haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves. It is not, I say, unfrequent to see such instances, though at the same time I esteem it a justice due to my country to say that it is not without shining examples of the contrary kind; — examples of men of a distinguished attachment to this same liberty I have been describing; whom no hopes could draw, no terrors could drive, from steadily pursuing, in their sphere, the true interests of their country; whose fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.
    The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.
  • If you, or Colonel Dalrymple under you, have the power to remove one regiment you have the power to remove both. It is at your peril if you refuse. The meeting is composed of three thousand people. They have become impatient. A thousand men are already arrived from the neighborhood, and the whole country is in motion. Night is approaching. An immediate answer is expected. Both regiments or none!
    • Address to acting governor Thomas Hutchinson, 6 March 1770, the day following the Boston Massacre. Hutchinson had offered to remove one of the two British regiments stationed in Boston. [1]
  • The liberties of our Country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have receiv'd them as a fair Inheritance from our worthy Ancestors: They purchas'd them for us with toil and danger and expence of treasure and blood; and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle; or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men. Of the latter we are in most danger at present: Let us therefore be aware of it. Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity; and resolve to maintain the rights bequeath'd to us from the former, for the sake of the latter. — Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that "if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom." It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.
    • Essay, written under the pseudonym "Candidus," in The Boston Gazette (14 October 1771)
  • Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.
  • All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please; and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another.
    • The Rights of the Colonists (1772)
  • In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practised, and, both by precept and example, inculcated on mankind.
    • The Rights of the Colonists (1772)
  • The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.
    • The Rights of the Colonists (1772)
  • It is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.
    • The Rights of the Colonists (1772)
  • He who is void of virtuous Attachments in private Life, is, or very soon will be void of all Regard for his Country. There is seldom an Instance of a Man guilty of betraying his Country, who had not before lost the Feeling of moral Obligations in his private Connections.
  • We cannot make Events. Our Business is wisely to improve them. There has been much to do to confirm doubting Friends & fortify the Timid. It requires time to bring honest Men to think & determine alike even in important Matters. Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.
  • A general Dissolution of Principles & Manners will more surely overthrow the Liberties of America than the whole Force of the Common Enemy. While the People are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their Virtue they will be ready to surrender their Liberties to the first external or internal Invader. How necessary then is it for those who are determin'd to transmit the Blessings of Liberty as a fair Inheritance to Posterity, to associate on publick Principles in Support of publick Virtue.
  • If Virtue & Knowledge are diffus'd among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security.
    • Letter to James Warren (12 February 1779)
  • If ever the Time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experienced Patriots to prevent its Ruin.
  • I firmly believe that the benevolent Creator designed the republican Form of Government for Man.
    • Statement of (14 April 1785), quoted in The Writings of Samuel Adams (1904) edited by Harry A. Cushing
  • Let Divines, and Philosophers, Statesmen and Patriots unite their endeavours to renovate the Age, by impressing the Minds of Men with the importance of educating their little boys, and girls — of inculcating in the Minds of youth the fear, and Love of the Deity, and universal Phylanthropy; and in subordination to these great principles, the Love of their Country — of instructing them in the Art of self government, without which they never can act a wise part in the Government of Societys great, or small — in short of leading them in the Study, and Practice of the exalted Virtues of the Christian system.
  • And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them; or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possessions.
    • Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788
    • Variant: The said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of The United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms...
      • As quoted in Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1850) edited by Peirce & Hale

Speech in Philadelphia (1776)

Speech, State House of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1 August 1776)
Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!
  • He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all.
    Our forefathers threw off the yoke of Popery in religion; for you is reserved the honor of leveling the popery of politics. They opened the Bible to all, and maintained the capacity of every man to judge for himself in religion.
  • Were the talents and virtues which heaven has bestowed on men given merely to make them more obedient drudges, to be sacrificed to the follies and ambition of a few? Or, were not the noble gifts so equally dispensed with a divine purpose and law, that they should as nearly as possible be equally exerted, and the blessings of Providence be equally enjoyed by all?
  • Men who content themselves with the semblance of truth, and a display of words, talk much of our obligations to Great Britain for protection. Had she a single eye to our advantage? A nation of shopkeepers are very seldom so disinterested.
  • Did the protection we received annul our rights as men, and lay us under an obligation of being miserable? Who among you, my countrymen, that is a father, would claim authority to make your child a slave because you had nourished him in infancy?
    ’Tis a strange species of generosity which requires a return infinitely more valuable than anything it could have bestowed; that demands as a reward for a defense of our property a surrender of those inestimable privileges, to the arbitrary will of vindictive tyrants, which alone give value to that very property.
  • Courage, then, my countrymen, our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.
  • Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say "what should be the reward of such sacrifices?" Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!
    • Variant: If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.
  • Freedom of thought and the right of private judgment, in matters of conscience, driven from every other corner of the earth, direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum.
    • Variant: Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience, direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum.
  • We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds his subjects assuming that freedom of thought, and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.


It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds...
  • In monarchy the crime of treason may admit of being pardoned or lightly punished, but the man who dares rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.
  • What a glorious morning for America!
    • Upon hearing the gunfire at Lexington (19 April 1775)

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SAMUEL ADAMS (1722-1803), American statesman, was born at Boston, Massachusetts, on the 27th of September 1722. He was a second cousin to the elder John Adams. His father, whose Christian name was also Samuel, was a wealthy and prominent citizen of Boston, who took an active part in the politics of the town, and was a member of the Caucus (or Caulker's) Club, with which the political term "caucus" is said to have originated; his mother was Mary Fifield. Young Adams graduated from Harvard College in 1740, and three years later, on attaining the degree of A.M., chose for his thesis, "Whether it be Lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved." Which side he took, and how the argument proceeded, is not known, but the subject was one which well forecasted his career. He began the study of law in response to his father's advice; he discontinued it in response to his mother's disapproval. He repeatedly failed in business, notably as manager of a malt-house, largely because of his incessant attention to politics; but in the Boston townmeeting he became a conspicuous example of the efficiency of that institution for training in statecraft. He has, indeed, been called the "Man of the Town Meeting." About 1748 he began to take an important part in the affairs of the town, and became a leader in the debates of a political club which he was largely instrumental in organizing, and to whose weekly publication, the Public Advertiser, he contributed numerous articles. From 1756 to 1764 he was one of the town's tax-collectors, but in this office he was unsuccessful, his easy business methods resulting in heavy arrears.

Samuel Adams first came into wider prominence at the beginning of the Stamp Act episode, in 1764, when as author of Boston's instructions to its representatives in the general court of Massachusetts he urged strenuous opposition to taxation by act of parliament. The next year he was for the first time elected to the lower house of the general court, in which he served until 1 774, after 1766 as clerk. As James Otis's vigour and influence declined, Adams took a more and more prominent place in the revolutionary councils; and, contrary to the opinion of Otis and Benjamin Franklin, he declared that colonial representation in parliament was out of the question and advised against any form of compromise. Many of the Massachusetts revolutionary documents, including the famous "Massachusetts Resolves" and the circular letter to the legislatures of the other colonies, are from his pen; but owing to the fact that he usually acted as clerk to the House of Representatives and to the several committees of which he was a member, documents were written by him which expressed the ideas of the committee as a whole. There can be no question, however, that Samuel Adams was one of the first, if not the first, of American political leaders to deny the legislative power of parliament and to desire and advocate separation from the mother country.

To promote the ends he had in view he suggested non-importation, instituted the Boston committees of correspondence, urged that a Continental Congress be called, sought out and introduced into public service such allies as John Hancock, Joseph Warren and Josiah Quincy, and wrote a vast number of articles for the newspapers, especially the Boston Gazette, over a multitude of signatures. He was, in fact, one of the most voluminous and influential political writers of his time. His style is clear, vigorous and epigrammatic; his arguments are characterized by strength of logic, and, like those of other patriots, are, as the dispute advances, based less on precedent and documentary authorities and more on "natural right." Although he lacked oratorical fluency, his short speeches, like his writings, were forceful; his plain dress and unassuming ways helped to make him extremely popular with the common people, in whom he had much greater faith than his cousin John had; and, above all, he was an eminently successful manager of men. Shrewd, wily, adroit, unfailingly tactful, an adept in all the arts of the politician, he is considered to have done more than any other one man, in the years immediately preceding the War of Independence, to mould and direct public opinion in his community.

The intense excitement which followed the "Boston Massacre" Adams skilfully used to secure the removal of the soldiers from the town to a fort in the harbour. He it was, also, who managed the proceedings of the "Boston Tea Party," and later he was moderator of the convention of Massachusetts towns called to protest against the Boston Port Bill. One of the objects of the expedition sent by Governor Thomas Gage to Lexington and Concord on April 18-19, 1775, was the capture of Adams and John Hancock, temporarily staying in Lexington, and when Gage issued his proclamation of pardon on June 12 he excepted these two, whose offences, he said, were "of too flagitious a Nature to admit of any other Consideration than that of condign Punishment." As a delegate to the Continental Congress, from 1774 to 1781, Samuel Adams continued vigorously to oppose any concession to the British government; strove for harmony among the several colonies in the common cause; served on numerous committees, among them that to prepare a plan of confederation; and signed the Declaration of Independence. But he was rather a destructive than a constructive statesman, and his most important service was in organizing the forces of revolution before 1775. In 1779 he was a member of the convention which framed the constitution of Massachusetts that was adopted in 1780, and is still, with some amendments, the organic law of the commonwealth and one of the oldest fundamental laws in existence. He was one of the three members of the sub-committee which actually drafted that instrument; and although John Adams is generally credited with having performed the principal part of that task, Samuel Adams was probably the author of most of the bill of rights. In 1788, Samuel Adams was a member of the Massachusetts convention to ratify the Constitution of the United States. When he first read that instrument he was very much opposed to the consolidated government which it provided, but was induced to befriend it by resolutions which were passed at a mass meeting of Boston mechanics or "tradesmen" - his own firmest supporters - and by the suggestion that its ratification should be accompanied by a recommendation of amendments designed chiefly to supply the omission of a bill of rights. Without his aid it is probable that the constitution would not have been ratified by Massachusetts. From 1789 to 1794 Adams was lieutenant-governor of his state, and from 1794 to 1797 was governor. After the formation of parties he became allied with the Democratic-Republicans rather than with the Federalists. He died on the 2nd of October 1803, at Boston.

Authorities. - Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (3 vols., Boston, 1865), by W. V. Wells, Adams's great-grandson - a valuable biography, containing a mass of information, but noticeably biassed; J. K. Hosmer's Samuel Adams (Boston, 1885), an excellent short biography in the "American Statesmen Series"; M. C. Tyler's Literary History of the American Revolution (2 vols.,New York, 1897); and H. A. Cushing (ed.), The Writings of Samuel Adams (4 vols., New York, 1904-1908). (E. CH.)

<< John Quincy Adams

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Simple English

Samuel Adams

4th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
October 8, 1793 – June 2, 1797
Lieutenant Moses Gill
Preceded by John Hancock
Succeeded by Increase Sumner

Born September 16, 1722
Boston, Massachusetts
Died October 2, 1803
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party None
Spouse Elizabeth Checkley, Elizabeth Wells
Religion Congregationalist

Samuel Adams (September27 (OS), 1722October 2, 1803) was an American leader, politician, writer, and political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Adams helped gather support in the American colonies to rebel against Great Britain. This led to the American Revolution. Adams was one of the key makers of the principles of American politics.

Adams, born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, was brought up in a religious family. He was educated at Boston Latin School and Harvard College. He started his life as a businessman, but did not like his occupation. He then turned his interest to politics, and became an influential political writer. Adams urged the colonists to withdraw from Great Britain and form a new government. He told the colonies to defend their rights and liberties at town meetings in Boston. He wrote protests against Parliament's taxes against the colonies, such as the Stamp Act of 1765. Adams also organized the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and he was a member of the Continental Congress. He also fought for the Declaration of Independence at the Second Continental Congress in 1776.

Adams helped write the Massachusetts Constitution with James Bowdoin and his cousin John Adams. Later, Adams helped draft the Articles of Confederation. After the Revolutionary War ended, he ran for the House of Representatives in the 1st United States Congressional election. He lost the election to Fisher Ames. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1789. After John Hancock's death in 1793, Adams served as the acting governor. He was then elected governor in January of 1794. He served in that position until June 1797. He then retired from politics and settled in his home in Boston. He died six years later on October 2, 1803.

Further reading

Many of the foremost works on Adams' life are from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of the information in more recent biographies is attributed to these earlier works.

  • Alexander, John K. Samuel Adams: America's Revolutionary Politician. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. ISBN 0-7425-2115-X.
  • Beach, Stewart. Samuel Adams, the Fateful Years, 1764–1776. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1965.
  • Cushing, Harry A., ed. The Writings of Samuel Adams. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1908. No ISBN available.
  • Fischer, David H. Paul Revere's Ride. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-19-508847-6.
  • Fradin, Dennis B. Samuel Adams: the Father of American Independence. New York: Clarion Books, 1998. ISBN 0-395-82510-5.
  • Hosmer, James K. Samuel Adams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885. No ISBN available.
  • Irvin, Benjamin H. Sam Adams: Son of Liberty, Father of Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-513225-4.
  • Maier, Pauline. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765–1776. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992. ISBN 0-393-30825-1.
  • Maier, Pauline. The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980. ISBN 0-394-51096-8.
  • Miller, John C. Sam Adams, Pioneer in Propaganda. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1936. No ISBN available.
  • Puls, Mark. Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. ISBN 1-4039-7582-5.
  • Wells, William V. The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams: Being a Narrative of His Acts and Opinions, and of His Agency in Producing and Forwarding the American Revolution, with Extracts From His Correspondence, State Papers, and Political Essays. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1865. No ISBN available.


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Political offices
Preceded by
Benjamin Lincoln
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
1789 — 1794
Succeeded by
Moses Gill
Preceded by
John Hancock
Governor of Massachusetts
October 8, 1793June 2, 1797
(acting, 1793–1794)
Succeeded by
Increase Sumner

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