‘Dangerous’ Sam Adams Put A Revolutionary Vision Into Action

When it came to American independence, Samuel Adams was not only uncompromising, he was a visionary.

Adams wasn’t advocating war initially if independence could be achieved by other means, but his relentless writings and public protests sparked fireworks. Adams (1722-1803) saw no coexisting with the British and felt that his fellow colonists faced only two choices, “submission or independence,” wrote Mark Puls in “Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution.”

Of the major Founding Fathers, Adams is credited with being first in advocating independence before the American Revolution. He’d already spent a good decade prior to it working to convince colonists across America that independence could only be secured by breaking from Great Britain.

“For true patriots to be silent is dangerous,” Adams said in 1766, as quoted by Ira Stoll in “Samuel Adams: A Life.” And to be heard took courage. Stoll wrote that, had the revolution failed, Adams would likely have been executed.

It was a David vs. Goliath scenario at first, with Adams, a financially strapped Colonial politician and lone voice, going up against Britain — which, as Puls wrote, was the most powerful empire in Europe since ancient Rome.

Through his writings, Adams railed against Britain’s taxation of the colonists, which was notoriously imposed on them without their being allowed representation in Parliament. He then acted by helping organize protests such as the Boston Tea Party. Adams was also front and center in signing the Declaration of Independence. He’s been called the “Father of American Independence” and the “Father of the Revolution.” He’s immortalized in statue form in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston.

“If not for him, America would have been more like Canada and stayed part of the British Empire,” Stoll told IBD. “For a long time, we might still have pictures of the Queen of England on our coins and stamps. At a time when other people gave up, or wavered, or took a break, Samuel Adams just kept going and kept his eye on the ultimate goal.”

His second cousin and fellow Founding Father, John Adams, put it this way: “Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written. For 50 years, his pen, his tongue, his activity were constantly exerted for his country without fee or reward.”

Finding His Voice

Samuel Adams was born in Boston, one of only three of his 12 siblings to live to adulthood. His father was a prosperous merchant, maltster and local politician. As a young man, he attended college at Harvard, where he was introduced to John Locke’s writings claiming that freedom was God-given and no government or ruler could usurp that. Adams earned a master’s degree in 1743.

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Adams tried his hand as a brewer in the family business and as a newspaper publisher, without success. In 1746, he was first elected to public office, serving as clerk of the Boston market. In 1748, he started writing about Colonial issues that concerned him, which further led him in the direction of making a career out of his lifelong interest in politics. He became even more active in local Boston affairs.

Adams married Elizabeth Checkley in 1749. Their union produced six children, but tragically four died as infants. Elizabeth died shortly after the last birth in 1757, leaving him shattered. He remarried in 1764.

Adams’ political voice was heard in the 1760s and 1770s through hundreds of opinion articles for Boston newspapers. He also recruited those who would become key figures in the colonists’ growing cause, including his cousin John, a future U.S. president, and Dr. Joseph Warren, who became a leader of Boston’s rebels and a martyred hero of the revolution at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

In 1764, Sam Adams protested the Sugar Act, which placed duties on items such as sweeteners, coffee and wine. He made a public call for a Colonial congress and dared to raise the question of the British government’s authority in the Colonies.

He was elected a Massachusetts legislator in 1765, serving until 1774. He was soon elected clerk of that statehouse, where he led opposition to Britain’s 1765 Stamp Act, which had placed a tax on numerous printed items in the Colonies. Adams had led a movement to get local businesses to boycott British goods, and through such pressure, Britain repealed the act in 1766.

Rousing Support

The Stamp Act’s opposition gave birth to the Sons of Liberty, a secret organization to protect the rights of the Colonies and its citizens, of which Adams was a member.

In 1768, Adams wrote a statement on colonists’ rights which was published in England. He continued to voice opposition against British taxation, including the Townshend Acts, and through his writing he built Colonial support for that position. The colonists’ most important right, Adams asserted in a letter to Britain’s King George III, was that they only be subjected to taxation by “representatives of their own free election.”

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The year 1771 saw Adams write a series of newspaper articles that laid out the case and roused support for American freedom from Britain. He then founded Boston’s Committee of Correspondence, which would become a vital communication and coordination entity during the Revolutionary War, playing a lead role in directing it. From there he helped plan and stage the Boston Tea Party in protest to Britain’s’ Tea Act tax.

Finally, in 1773, Adams became the first American public figure to call for a Continental Congress and independence from Britain.

Stoll lauds Adams’ communication skills through his relentless letters and his staging of public events to build support for his positions.

“We shall be respected in England exactly in proportion to the firmness and strength of our opposition,” Adams said in 1774.

When British regulars marched on the Boston countryside on the evening of April 19, 1775, they were heading to Concord where they believed rebel weapons and supplies were stored. Paul Revere and two other riders set out on their midnight rides to warn the militia of that, and to warn Adams and John Hancock that they could be arrested.

The British so hated and feared Adams that they dubbed him “the most dangerous man in Massachusetts,” wrote Dennis Fradin in “Samuel Adams.”

When the Redcoats then clashed with Colonial militia — the minutemen — at Lexington Green on the morning of the 19th, the Revolutionary War had begun.

Massachusetts Gov. Thomas Hutchinson in June 1775 offered pardons to all American rebels, except Adams and John Hancock — whose offenses, he wrote, were too serious and traitorous to warrant anything less than a severe sentence such as hanging.

Adams went on to serve as a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress, which he helped create and where took a lead in helping make George Washington commander in chief of the American army.

A Death Warrant

As some in the Congress pondered whether reconciliation with Britain was still possible, Adams argued in 1776: “Is not America already independent? Why then not declare it?” On July 4th of that year, Adams and the Congress did just that.

For those who signed it, the document was also essentially their death warrant and they recognized it. “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor,” its last sentence reads.

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Until the war ended in 1783, Adams was a leading figure who worked tirelessly in the Continental Congress in support of that effort. “For depth of purpose, zeal and sagacity, no man in Congress exceeded, if any equaled, Sam Adams,” Thomas Jefferson said.

After signing the Articles of Confederation in 1781, Adams was elected in 1788 to the Massachusetts convention on the ratification of the Constitution for the new nation. He was then elected John Hancock’s lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and served from 1789 to 1793, succeeding him on the governor’s death. He was re-elected in 1794 before retiring in 1797 because of an incapacitating illness.

The old revolutionary’s influence continued to be felt. Then-President Jefferson said in 1801: “I often asked myself, is this exactly in the spirit of the patriarch of liberty, Samuel Adams? Is it as he would express it? Will he approve of it?”

Adams’ Keys

Considered the first Founding Father to call for America’s independence from Britain.

Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Called the “Father of American Independence,” and “Father of the Revolution.” Governor of Massachusetts.

Overcame: The daunting task of creating support for independence from Britain.

Lesson: One man with a dream can make a difference.

“Let us awaken then, and evince a different spirit — a spirit that shall inspire the people with confidence in themselves and in us — a spirit that will encourage them to persevere in this glorious struggle, until their rights and liberties shall be established on a rock.”

So Said Adams

“Government is instituted for the common good, not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.”

“It is essential that the people should be united in the Federal government, to withstand the common enemy, and to preserve their valuable rights and liberties.”

“Where there is a spark of patriotic fire, we will enkindle it.!”

“I am in fashion and out of fashion, as the whim goes. I will stand alone!”

Related:

John Adams Put Life And Career On Line For America

Paul Revere Rode Principles Of Liberty For America

Joseph Warren Died A Hero At Battle of Bunker Hill

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