With Independence Day right around the corner, I think it’s important that we celebrate the men that ensured our independence from King George. Everyone knows who John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are, but revolution was a team effort, and much like how the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t have won the 2015 NBA Title without Andre Iguodala, America wouldn’t be possible without Samuel Adams.
The Boston native was a vital part of the independence movement who took part in some of the key moments in American history.
Born into a wealthy family in September of 1722 to Samuel and Mary Adams, his father was a deacon in the church who used his influence in the religious community to earn himself a spot on the “Boston Caucus.”
The term “caucus” is a distinctly American term, first appearing as “corca” in the “Boston Gazette,” which proclaimed;
“certain Persons, of the modern Air and Complexion, to the Number of Twelve at least, have divers Times of late been known to combine together, and are called by the Name of the New and Grand Corcas, tho’ of declared Principles directly opposite to all that have been heretofore known…”
The Gazette was speaking of the “Boston Caucus,” which helped shape the agenda for the “Boston Town Meeting.” Who historians have called the “most democratic institution in the British empire.”
Being a member of the Boston Caucus would eventually cost the Adams family dearly.They faced financial ruin 1741 when the British Empire held Samuel Adams Sr, and other Boston Caucus members personally liable for certificates they issued after they had created a “land bank.”
These banks would issue out currency to people willing to use their land as collateral. The bank was popular, but the British saw it as undermining their power and dissolved the bank. They promised that all notes would be honored, and held the caucus liable.
The issues with the crown had a profound effect on Samuel Adams, who in his thesis argued that it was;
“lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved”
Later in his life Adams would further state that the lawsuits that he faced during that period
“served as a constant personal reminder that Britain’s power over the colonies could be exercised in arbitrary and destructive ways”.
Action Against the British
Like Hancock, Adams made a name for himself after the “Sugar Act” was passed by Parliament in 1764. Adams argued that the British could not tax colonists if they were not represented in congress. He made his views known at a Boston Town Meeting in 1764 saying;
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?
That bold proclamation became the first on record statement by a political body saying that Parliament could not legally tax colonists.
As Adams continued to make a name for himself as an outspoken Patriot, he became a scapegoat for tension within Boston. When protests got violent in 1765, Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard blamed the violence on Adams. Bernard felt as though Adams was a master agitator, providing the protesters with propaganda.
Bernard wasn’t wrong when he called Adams an “agitator,” it was a term used to describe Adams’ involvement during the Boston Massacre in 1770, and again during the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
But perhaps the clearest indication that Adams played the role of provocateur were his actions during the British occupation of Boston. As tensions continued to rise throughout Boston, the city found itself under occupation in 1768. During that time, Adams is believed to have wrote a series of unsigned essays on the subject, claiming it was a violation of the 1689 Bill of Rights. These essays were published in the “New York Journal” titled “The Journal of Occurrences” they outlined what life was like during the occupation. The essays were reprinted in newspapers all over the colonies, creating more distrust between the colonists and the British.
Adams will also go down in history as one of the two people Paul Revere was trying to specifically warn during his famous ride.
At the onset of the Revolutionary war, Samuel Adams was resting in Lexington, at the home of John Hancock when they received a message from Paul Revere that British troops were approaching Lexington. At that time, Adams and Hancock escaped, deciding that they would be of better use if they were not on the battlefield. The battles at “Lexington and Concord” would later be known as the first battles of the war that pushed Congress to declare Independence from Britain on July 4th 1776.
After gaining independence, Adams would go on to serve 4 terms as Governor of Massachusetts before dying in 1802. Samuel Adams was more than just a signatory of the Declaration of Independence; he, like Thomas Paine, utilized the power of the press to spark a revolution.