In Massachusetts, Samuel Adams was born at Quincy, September 22, 1722, in the same town as John Hancock. His family emigrated to America with the first settlers.
He attended Harvard University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1743. To please his father, he studied law. However, he soon realized that law was not for him. After working as a clerk, he started his own business. Unfortunately, his business failed, along with his inheritance from his father.
Samuel Adams: Patriot
Firstly, Adams was a patriot. His genius was politics. As a youth, politics occupied his thoughts.
In 1763 Britain announced they would tax the colonies to raise revenue. This news infuriated the colonists. The people of Boston appointed a committee to express their sentiment about taxation without representation.
Adams quickly became a popular spokesperson for freedom. He published several essays opposing British colonial rule. He was the first to call a congress, which prepared the way for a Continental Congress.
Members of the colonial government suggested bribing Adams to stop inciting a revolt. Governor Hutchinson said that Adams was faithful to the cause of freedom that he could not be bribed. Still, they tried to bribe Adams.
Although he was poor, Adams refused.
The morning after the Boston massacre, citizens of Boston gathered. Samuel Adams addressed the crowd. His angry words expressed everyone’s anger. The group appointed Adams to demand that Governor Hutchinson withdraw his troops from Boston at once. When the governor refused, Adams told the governor that he would be accountable for the consequences. The governor reluctantly withdrew his troops from Boston.
In 1773, Governor Gage tried to appeal to Adams’ sense of self-preservation. Because of his revolutionary activities, the governor could arrest Adams for treason. If Adams stopped opposing the royal government, however, he could have any colonial office he desired. Adams responded:
“My peace has long since been made with the King of kings, and that it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him, no longer to insult the feelings of an already exasperated people.”
Enraged, Governor Gage issued the following proclamation:
“I do hereby in his majesty’s name, offer and promise his most gracious pardon to all persons, who shall forthwith lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects: excepting only from the benefits of such pardon, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, whose offenses are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration but that of condign punishment.”
Thus, both John Hancock and Samuel Adams were branded traitors to the English Crown.
The First Continental Congress
Secondly, Samuel Adams was a member of the First Continental Congress. He was an early advocate of American independence. He expressed his sentiments to a friend in April 1776:
“I am perfectly satisfied of the necessity of a public and explicit declaration of independence. I cannot conceive what good reason can be assigned against it. Will it widen the breach? This would be a strange question after we raised armies and fought battles with the British troops; set up an American navy; permitted these colonies’ inhabitants to fit out armed vessels, capture the ships, &c. Belonging to any of the inhabitants of Great Britain; declaring them the enemies of the United Colonies; and torn into shivers their acts of trade, by allowing commerce, subject to regulations to be made by ourselves, with the people of all countries, except such as are subject to the British king. It cannot surely, after all this, be imagined that we consider ourselves, or mean to be considered by others, in any other state, than that of independence.”
The colonies declared their independence on July 4, 1776. The following year, however, was very grim. The Continental Army was ill-equipped to face the British troops head-on. They had to rely on guerrilla tactics.
Samuel Adams met privately with members of Congress to discuss the country’s prospects. Several members shared their doubts about success. Adams listened quietly. Finally, he spoke.
“If we wear long faces, others will do so too; if we despair, let us not expect that others will hope; or that they will persevere in a contest, from which their leaders shrink. But let not such feelings, let not such language, be ours.”
Adams’ unshakable courage inspired them. They believed they could succeed.
In 1781, Adams retired from Congress. His retirement, however, was short. Massachusetts asked Adams to help draft their state constitution. He then served as a state senator. In 1789, he served as lieutenant governor and held that office till 1794. When John Hancock died, Adams served as governor until 1797. Samuel Adams died in 1803 at the age of 82.
Samuel Adams The Man
Adams was an average-sized man. He was a cultured man and wrote frequently. Unfortunately, his most of his writings no longer exist, since they were about contemporary politics.
As an orator, Samuel Adams was the right man for the stormy times. His elocution was concise and impressive. His choice of words favored reason over emotion. Yet, Adams was able to arouse his countrymen’s passion for liberty better than others. When others despaired, he was full of hope; when others hesitated, he was resolute. He was eager for action.
Adams was a Christian. On the Lord’s Day, he attended church. His morning and evening devotions with his family proved the sincerity of his faith.
Finally, Samuel Adams opposed British tyranny as a matter of conscience. He detested royalty and their ostentation.
He possessed a zeal and energy for his country. He persuaded and petitioned whenever these would accomplish his object. However, when these failed, he was ready to resist and would sacrifice his life than yield with dishonor. There was nothing of the spirit of gloom or arrogance about him. He combined mildness with firmness.