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Samuel Adams

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Rights Of Colonists


By Samuel Adams
U. S. Legal / Historical Documents

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The Rights Of The Colonists


By Samuel Adams
American Revolution

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Samuel Adams

 


4th Governor of Massachusetts
Term of office:
June 2, 1784 – October 8, 1791
Lieutenant Governor: Moses Gill
Predecessor: John Hancock
Successor: Increase Sumner
Born: September 27, 1722
Boston, Massachusetts
Died: October 2, 1803
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party: None
Spouse: Elizabeth Checkley, Elizabeth Wells
Religion: Congregational

Samuel Adams (September 27, 1722 – October 2, 1803) was the chief Massachusetts leader of the Patriot cause leading to the American Revolution. Organizer of protests including the Boston Tea Party, he was most influential as a writer and theorist who articulated the principles of republicanism that shaped the American political culture.

Contents

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Biography

Early life

Born to Boston parents, Mary Fifield and Samuel Adams, on September 27, 1722 and died 1803, he was their tenth child. President John Adams was his cousin. Adams was a baptized member of Old South Church in Boston, and from the tower of the congregation's Meeting House made the loud war whoops signaling the beginning of the Boston Tea Party.

Adams attended school at Boston Latin School. At Harvard College he received a bachelor's degree in 1740 and a master's degree in 1743. Prophetically, the subject of his master's thesis was "Whether it be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate if the commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved."

This statue of Samuel Adams in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts commemorates his early life there.
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This statue of Samuel Adams in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts commemorates his early life there.

After he completed his college education, Adams and his father, Old Samuel Adams began a partnership in a brewery. He lost most of his inheritance by poor business management.

Turning his attention to politics Adams wrote political essays to the Independent Advertiser newspaper and joined a political club, the "Whipping Post Club," as well as Boston's South End Caucus, which was a powerful force in the selection of candidates for elective office. He served as tax collector of Boston 1756 through 1764, and used non-collection of taxes as a political bargaining chip. By 1764-65 he was a leader in Boston's town meetings, drafting protests against the Stamp Act that protested British efforts to tax the colonists and called for a spirited defense of Americans' "invaluable Rights & Liberties." Over the next decade he became an increasingly dominant leader of the town meeting. He repeatedly insisted on the "inherent and unalienable rights" of the people (Writings, vol. 1, pp. 25-26), a theme that became a core element of republicanism.

While a member of the legislature, Adams served as clerk of the house, in which capacity he was responsible for drafting written protests of various British governmental acts during his tenure, which continued to 1774. Notable among these was a circular letter he drafted as a response to the 1767 Townshend Acts, distributed among the other twelve colonies in a bid to achieve a united front of resistance to these acts. The failure of the legislature to rescind the contents of this letter at the express demand of King George III was one of the main factors resulting in the stationing of troops in Boston beginning in 1768.

This British troop presence in Boston, aggravated by protest activities such as Adams' formation of the Non-Importation Association, led to the Boston Massacre (a term coined by Adams) two years later. After the incident Adams chaired a town meeting which formed a petition, presented to acting governor Thomas Hutchinson, demanding the removal of two British regiments from Boston proper. Hutchinson at first claimed no responsibility for the matter, owing to his temporary status as governor, but stated he would be willing to move one regiment; the meeting was re-convened and Adams successfully urged the crowd of over 5,000 present to stand firm on the terms: "Both regiments or none!" Fearing open warfare, Hutchinson had both regiments removed to Castle William, an old fort on an island in Boston Harbor. These regiments would thereafter be known in the British Parliament as "The Sam Adams Regiments."

In 1772, after a British declaration that judges should be paid by the Crown rather than by the colonial legislatures, a demand from the people of Boston for a special session of the legislature to reconsider this matter was refused by Hutchinson. It was at this point Adams devised a system of Committees of Correspondence, whereby the towns of Massachusetts would consult with each other concerning political matters via messages. Such a scheme was still technically legal under British law, but led to a de facto colonial legislative body. This system was adopted by each of the Thirteen Colonies, creating the Continental Congress.

An illustration of Adams from an 1899 history book.

Tea Party 1773

Samuel Adams is best remembered for helping organize the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, in response to the Tea Act - a tax law passed in London that was simply an increase in the taxes on tea paid by American colonists. As British tea-ships sat in Boston Harbor waiting for payment of the import tax, Samuel Adams energized a large crowd that was gathered at the port and sent several men to dump all of the tea from the three ships into the Boston Harbor to the delight of the assembled spectators on shore. In response to this escapade, Parliament passed the "Intolerable Acts," which called for the revocation of the colonial charter of Massachusetts and the closing of the ports of Boston. The angry reaction from all the colonies was to expedite the opening of a Continental Congress, and when the Massachusetts legislature met in Salem on June 17, 1774, Adams locked the doors and made a motion for the formation of a colonial delegation to attend the Congress. A loyalist member, faking illness, was excused from the assembly and immediately went to the governor, who issued a writ for the legislature's dissolution; however, when the legislator returned to find a locked door, he could do nothing.

Adams was one of the major proponents of the Suffolk Resolves, drafted in response to the Intolerable Acts, and adopted in September 1774. Whose "spirited" resolves called for disobedience to the Coercive Acts, endorsed military preparations for defense, and called for the meeting of an extralegal provincial congress. Adams opposed a compromise offered by Joseph Galloway and advocated boycotts of British imports through the continental associations.

Continental Congress

Adams is depicted in John Trumbull's iconic work, seated on the left side, next to Richard Henry Lee, whose legs are crossed in the front row (Adams is just to the [viewer's] right of Lee).
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Adams is depicted in John Trumbull's iconic work, seated on the left side, next to Richard Henry Lee, whose legs are crossed in the front row (Adams is just to the [viewer's] right of Lee).[1]

In September 1774 Adams retired from the legislature and was a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He was one of the first and loudest voices for independence. (Notably, only he and John Hancock were exempted from the general amnesty offered by Thomas Gage to Massachusetts rebels in 1775.) He was a workhorse member of the Second Continental Congress, serving on numerous committees, notably the Board of War, from May 1775 until 1781.

The climax of his career came when he signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. After that Adams, wary of a strong central government, was instrumental in the development and adoption of the loose government embodied in the Articles of Confederation, to which he was also a signatory in 1777. He continued serving in the Congress until 1781, when he was elected to the state senate of Massachusetts. He served in that body until 1788, becoming its president.

State politics

At the time of the drafting of the United States Constitution, Adams was considered an anti-federalist, but more moderate than others of that political stripe. His contemporaries nicknamed him "the last Puritan" for his views; in 1788 he would write in his diary regarding the federalist and anti-federalist factions, "Neither Interest, I fear, display that Sobriety of Manners, Temperance, or Frugality—among other manly Virtues—which once were the Glory and Strength of our Christian Sparta on the Bay...". He finally came in on the side of ratification, with the stipulation that a bill of rights be added. Additionally, Adams was a member of the conventions that drafted the first Massachusetts state constitution in 1779, and the second one in 1788.

Samuel Adams grave marker in the Granary Burying Ground
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Samuel Adams grave marker in the Granary Burying Ground

He stood unsuccessfully for election to the House of Representatives for the first Congress, but was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, serving from 1789–94. He was elected as governor in 1793 to succeed John Hancock, and served to 1797, afterwards retiring to his home in Boston.

Later Life

In old age, Samuel suffered from symptoms akin to those of Cerebral palsy or Parkinson's disease, so Samuel's daughter Hannah had to sign his name for him.

In addition to his daughter Hannah, Adams had a son named Samuel Adams, Jr., by his first wife, Elizabeth Checkley (1725-1757), whom he married in 1749. She died three days after the birth of their last stillborn child

He and his second wife, Elizabeth Wells, whom he married in 1764, did not have any children.

His son, Samuel Adams, Jr., studied medicine under Doctor Joseph Warren, fellow patriot and friend to both Adams and his second cousin John Adams. Samuel Adams, Jr. held an appointment as surgeon in Washington's army. He died in 1788. His government claims provided enough for Adams and his wife to live on in their old age.

Well before his death, he freed his wife's slave, Surry; however, she chose to remain in her service. It was rumored that they were involved in a love affair, which Adams insisted was not true. Yet some of his letters were burned by Surry and Surry liked to recount tales of her master's friendly laugh and wholesome heart. She also spread rumors of rages, which may be founded on fact.

Adams died at the age of 81 and was interred at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston. Owing to his occupation as a brewer, today a popular brand of Boston beer bears his name: Samuel Adams.

Place in History

Historian Pauline Maier (1980) argues that Adams was not the "grand incendiary" or firebrand of Revolution and was not a mob leader. Rather he took a moderate position based firmly on the English revolutionary tradition that imposed strict constraints on resistance to authority. It justified force only against threats to the constitutional rights so grave that the "body of the people" recognized the danger and after all the peaceful means of redress had failed. Within that revolutionary tradition, resistance was essentially conservative, intended to preserve what in 1748 Adams described as "the true object" of patriotic loyalty, "a good legal constitution, which . . . condemns every instance of oppression and lawless power." It had nothing in common with sedition or rebellion, which Adams, like earlier English writers, charged to officials who sought "illegal power" (Wells, vol. 1, pp. 16-17).

Famous Quotes

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." --Speech delivered at the State House in Philadelphia, “to a very numerous audience,” on August 1, 1776. [1]


"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." --Commenting on Shays Rebellion [2]


"If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin." Samuel Adams, attributed [3]


“We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.” -- Samuel Adams, attributed, upon signing the Declaration of Independence[citation needed]


"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." --Samuel Adams, Speech, 1 August 1776[citation needed]


"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" --Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788[citation needed]


there were many people who worked in a factory during this time.

Primary sources

  • The Writings of Samuel Adams ed. by Harry Alonzo Cushing; 1904-8, 4 vol.
  • William V. Wells, 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 Vol 1865

Bibliography

  • John K. Alexander. Samuel Adams: America's Revolutionary Politician (2002)
  • Steward Beach, Samuel Adams, The Fateful Years, 1764-1776 (1965),
  • David Hackett Fischer. Paul Revere's Ride (1994)
  • Dennis Brindell Fradin. Samuel Adams: The Father of American Independence (1998) for middle school audience
  • James Kendall Hosmer. Samuel Adams 1885 online edition
  • Benjamin H. Irvin. Sam Adams: Son of Liberty, Father of Revolution Oxford University Press, 2002. Pp. 176.
  • Pauline Maier. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 (1992)
  • Pauline Maier, The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams (1980) chap. 1: "A New Englander as Revolutionary: Samuel Adams,” pp 3-50
  • John C. Miller, Sam Adams, Pioneer in Propaganda (1936)

See also

  • Republicanism
  • American Revolution

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Samuel Adams
  • Samuel Adams quotes at Liberty-Tree.ca
  • Works by Samuel Adams at Project Gutenberg
  • Adams' biography at U.S. Congress website
  • Adams Genealogy
  • Biography by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, 1856
Preceded by:
John Hancock
Governor of Massachusetts
October 8, 1793 – June 2, 1797
Succeeded by:
Increase Sumner
Flag of the Governor of Massachusetts Governors of Massachusetts
 Colony 

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 Commonwealth 

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