Samuel Adams is a notable figure in the history of American Political Culture. Being the second cousin of Former American President John Adams, Samuel was a natural statesman making a great impact in the birth of modern day United States. Samuel was a key figure who started out the revolutionary movement which later went on to become the American Revolution. Samuel Adams was the prominent figure who had first voiced his dissent and opposition (by being a part of a significant political movement) against the British Parliament's efforts to tax the British American colonies without their consent. Samuel had inspired his fellow colonists to strive for independence much before the American Revolution had started out. Samuel became a controversial political figure (according to some historians who rejected his political approach) because of his propaganda style of opposition and his popular initiation of mob violence to achieve his goals. However Adams’ approaches had been accepted and appreciated greatly by many modern historians and scholars.
Samuel Adams Childhood
Samuel Adams was born on 27 September 1722 in Boston which was a part of the British colony of Massachusetts to parents, Samuel Adams, Sr., and Mary (Fifield) Adams. Samuel was born in a family of 12 children to parents who were strict Puritans and went to the Old South Congregational Church as members of the Church. Samuel’s family lived in a house on Purchase Street in Boston. Samuel being brought up in Puritan values he was proud of them and even implied them in his political career. Samuel Adams went to Boston Latin School. He got enrolled to Harvard College in 1736. Adams’ parents wanted him to become a minister. But with time Adams grew more inclined to take up politics as his career interest. Adams graduated in 1740. He completed his Master’s Degree in 1743. Young Adams faced his father’s death at a tender age which led him to manage his family’s estates. While doing this Samuel realised how vulnerable their position was in defending their family property from the clutches of government seizure. Adams’ family faced constant fear of Government’s ill motives which formed the base for Adam’s realization that British rule exercised their power on the American colonies in arbitrary and destructive ways.
Career and Early Life
Adams was indecisive about his career after his completion of studies from Harvard in 1743. Initially he decided to turn a lawyer which he later rejected and started with business. Adams took up a job at Thomas Cushing's counting house but his over involvement in politics left him preoccupied with it all the time leading Cushing to request Adams to leave the job. Adams took a £1,000 loan from his father to start his own business. Adams could not become a business man and spent all the money by lending to his friend and blowing away the remaining. After losing his entire father’s money Adams was asked by his father to join their family malt house on Purchase Street. Admas worked as malt maker.
In January 1748 Adams along with his friends brought out the ‘Independent Advertiser’, a weekly newspaper that printed many of his political essays. This newspaper was a voice against the growing “British Impressment” which was an act of compelling men to join the British navy without their consent being asked. Adams was greatly influenced by English political theorist John Locke's Second Treatise of Government which often found their place in Adams’ essays. Adams urged his countrymen to rise against the British oppression and resist Britain’s encroachment of American constitutional rights. In his political essays Adams drew the example of the Roman empire and showed how it declined and also explained that New England in United States could have the same fate if Puritan values were cast away.
Adams started his political career with a support of the Boston Caucus. He was appointed as a clerk in the Boston market which was his first entry into a political office in 1747. Adams’ father died in 1748 leading Adams to take the entire responsibility of his family. In October 1749 Adams married his pastor’s daughter, Elizabeth Checkley with whom he had six children over a period of seven years. Adams was elected as the tax collector at the Boston Town Meeting in 1756. Elizabeth died in July 1757 leading Adams to get married again to Elizabeth Wells in 1764 with whom he had no children. Adams had a small income as a tax collector but he became popular with many tax payers, from whom Adams did not collect taxes. This led to crisis in funds. By 1765 Adams faced the challenge of accumulated arrears of £8,000 in his account. The town meeting went into bankruptcy which made Adams put tax paying charges and filed legal suits on failing taxpayers but even this could not collect the unpaid collection of taxes. Adams’ inabilities were put to advantage by Adams's political opponents who filed a court judgment of £1,463 against him in 1768. Adams’ friends helped him in paying off some amounts of deficit and the remaining amount was cleared off by the town meeting. Soon Adams rose as a significant leader of the popular party and the opposing trends against him could not hamper his political influences.
Political Role Against Great Britain
Samuel Adams had become an important political figure in Boston. After the British became victorious in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) Adams’ political significance grew. Britain found itself troubled with debts and was constantly in the lookout for new revenue sources and this is when British Empire decided to levy taxes on its colonies in British America. Disputes over tax brought severe bitterness between Britain and America and there were massive disputes on the interpretations of the British Constitution British Parliament's authoritarian politics in the colonies. With the infringing (colonial rights were deeply disturbed) Sugar Act of 1764 Adams rose against British Rule stating that the colonies were not under British Parliament so they were not liable to fall under British taxation. Adams further explained that tax could legally be levied by the colonial assemblies with represented colonists on the colonies. Boston Town Meeting was held for the election of its Massachusetts House representatives where Adams let out his taxation views in May 1764. Adams also wrote a set of written instructions (Town Meeting handed out each colony representative with the written instructions) that bore his thoughts on the dangers of taxation without representation. With Boston Town Meeting approving Adams instructions on 24 May 1764, the instructions went on to become the first political body in America that went on record to state that Parliament could not constitutionally tax the colonists. The directives in the instruction also contained the first official recommendation that the colonies present a unified defence of their rights. Adams’ instruction were printed in newspapers and pamphlets with which Adams found himself in the right place to quickly associate with James Otis, Jr., a member of the Massachusetts House famous for his defence of colonial rights.
Stamp Act was passed by the Parliament in 1765. The Act meant new tax payment by colonists. Stamp Act brought about great tumult within the colonies. Adams’ 1764 written instructions were now echoed in the colonies. In was in June 1765 that Otis found it to be the right time to call for colonial resistance and for this Otis called for the formation of a Stamp Act Congress. Adams opposed with his argument that the Act was against British constitution and also was greatly negative for British Economy. Adams propagated and arranged for boycott of British goods to pressurize British Parliament to annul the tax.
Scattered protests took place against the Stamp Act which included organized protests led by a group called the Loyal Nine, based in Boston, of which Adams was friendly with but not a member. On 14 August 1765 stamp distributor Andrew Oliver effigy was hanged in Boston and his home and office were destroyed. On 26 August 1765 lieutenant governor Thomas Hutchinson's home was demolished by an angry crowd in a similar manner. Adams was greatly blamed for the series of violent events and agitations. This record was set right by historians in the 20th century as it was found to be not true.
In September 1765 Adams was again elected as a member of the Boston Town Meeting and made to write instructions for Boston's delegation to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. On 27 September 1765 Adams was asked to replace Oxenbridge Thacher who had recently died to become one of Boston's four representatives in the assembly. Adams travelled along with James Otis to address the Stamp Act Congress in New York City where Adams wrote a several House resolutions against the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was stopped from coming into effect due to protests in the colonies. The Act had been annulled and the news spread to Boston by 16 May 1766. Following the Massachusetts popular party gaining hold in the May 1766 elections Adams saw himself being elected to the House serving as a clerk.
In 1767 Townshend Acts was passed which levied taxes on goods getting imported to the colonies. The British government played their game slowly by levying low tax rates thus resistance to Townshend Acts was slow. The news of the acts reached Boston in October 1767 when the General Court was out of session. Adams rose to this occasion and organized a boycott. He urged other towns to follow him. By February 1768 several towns in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut had taken part in the boycott. Adams along with Otis petitioned the King for removing Governor Bernard from his office. The British Customs Board commissioners could not bring Boston under their clutches which resulted in military assistance. Troops were called to bring Boston in order. Lord Hillsborough ordered for the stationing of four British Army regiments in Boston.
British Troops in Boston
The news of British troops coming to Boston soon arrived leading to the Boston Town Meeting organizing their meet on 12 September 1768. Governor Bernard was requested to convene the General Court to which he refused. Town Meeting called the representatives of other Massachusetts towns for a meeting at Faneuil Hall which started on 22 September 1768. This was the first effective yet unofficial session held by the Massachusetts House which was attended by delegates of more than 100 towns. British troops had already reached Boston harbour when the convention ended. In October 1768 two British regiments were brought down and other two were brought out in November 1768. Military occupation of Boston made Adams leave his reconciliation thoughts and acts. He started to take up works for the development of the American Independence. In 1775 Adams did not join the ongoing American Revolutionary War like many of his peers. According to historians Adams played the role of a reformer at this time rather than a revolutionary. Adams kept relying on changes in the British ministry and policies and warned the British rule that American independence would soon follow the failure of the proposed British ministry changes.
Adams kept on writing several letters and essays (that accounted daily events in Boston during Britain’s military rule) that came out as published newspaper articles, against British policies. Adams strived hard to make the British withdraw the troops. On 1 August 1769 Boston celebrated Governor Bernard’s leaving of Massachusetts. In 1769 two British regiments were removed from Boston. In March 1770 the infamous Boston Massacre took place where 5 civilians were killed when a clash between soldiers and civilians took place. After the Boston Massacre, Adams along with other town leaders met Governor Bernard's successor, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, and Colonel William Dalrymple, the army commander, to demand the withdrawal of the troops. Although tension existed, Dalrymple willingly agreed to remove both the regiments to Castle William. Adams supported trial to prove the fact that Boston was on fire due to unjust treatment and not due to unruly mobs making a mess.
British Tea Act
British Government imposed another Tax, the Tea Act in May 1773 to recover from its losses that were faced and also to help the struggling British East India Company. Heavy taxes were imposed on tea imported into Great Britain where Britons could get cheap smuggled Dutch tea lesser in price that East India Company's tea which resulted in huge surplus tea owned by the company that it was unable to sell. This was stopped as the British plan was to sell the surplus in the colonies. The Tea Act was forcible selling of tea to the colonies. This act greatly snubbed the local American tea sellers and threatened the colonial economy. The act started off great protests in the colonies. Adams rose to this occasion and joined hands with his associates and committees to oppose the Tea Act. Protestors in all the colonies, except Massachusetts drove away the tea consignees to England or made them resign. Great Britain did not take this lightly and soon bombarded Boston with several Coercive Acts - the Boston Port Act which closed down Boston's commerce till the East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea, The Massachusetts Government Act rewrote the Massachusetts Charter which made many officials get royally appointed rather than elected which resulted in severe restriction of town meetings’ activities, The Administration of Justice Act allowed colonists charged with crimes to be transported to another colony or to Great Britain for trial and a new royal governor was appointed to enforce all these acts who was General Thomas Gage, also made the commander of British military forces in North America.
Adams formed groups to resist the Coercive Acts. In May 1774 during Adam’s role as the moderator the Boston Town Meeting opted for an organized economic boycott of British goods.
Adams promoted unity of colonies in Philadelphia by sticking to his political skills and lobbying with other fellow delegates. In November 1774 Adams returned to Massachusetts to serve his term in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Before attending the second Congress, Adams and John Hancock went to attend the Provincial Congress in Concord, Massachusetts where it was decided that it was unsafe to return to Boston. So Adams stayed at Hancock's childhood home in Lexington, Massachusetts.
The Continental Congress was kept under wraps so Adam’s role has not been recorded. Adams advocated a cautious independence approach urging correspondents back in Massachusetts to wait for more moderate colonists to come in support of the separation from Great Britain. In 1775 Adams was satisfied with the colonies replacing their old governments with independent republican governments. On 7 June 1776 Adams's political ally Richard Henry Lee presented 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 United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which Adams signed. Congress continued managing the war effort even after the Declaration of Independence. Adams returned to Boston in 1779 for being present in a state constitutional convention. Adams along with his cousin John Adams and James Bowdoin were appointed as a three-man drafting committee. They came out with the draft of the Massachusetts Constitution which was soon amended by the convention and approved by voters in 1780. The brand new constitution started off a republican government set up.
Adams retired from the Continental Congress in 1781. He faced health difficulties which resulted in troubled writing. He returned to Boston in 1781 and never left Massachusetts for his remaining years. Adams’ return to Massachusetts made him become active in politics. He remained as the moderator of the Boston Town Meeting where he was elected to the state senate serving as that body's president. Adams thought of joining national politics yet again and so he put forward his name as a candidate for the United States House of Representatives in the December 1788 election where he lost to Fisher Ames as Ames was more popular and a stronger supporter of the Constitution. In 1789 Adams got elected as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. Adams kept continuing his strife for amendments in the constitution which resulted in the passing of the Bill of Rights in 1791. With the addition of the amendments Adams started supporting the Constitution. Adams ended his political career by retiring as governor in 1797.
Adams was known to have suffered greatly from an illness known as essential tremor which brought movement disorder. He was unable to write in his later years. On 2 October 1803 Adams died at the age of 81.