Bullet-Point Bio: Samuel Adams

– Was known as “the Father of American Independence” and “the Father of the Revolution”.
– He was one of the delegates from the state of Massachusetts and signed the Declaration of Independence at age 53.
– Adams stated that he didn’t work for personal glory, but so “millions unborn” could enjoy independence.
– He lived from September 27, 1722 – October 2nd, 1803.
– He was a second cousin to John Adams.
– Born in Quincy (formerly Braintree), Massachusetts.
– “He was of pilgrim ancestry, and had been taught the principles of freedom from his infancy.”  (B.J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Lives of the Signers)
– His father was wealthy and a member of the Massachusetts Assembly under the Colonial government.
– Samuel’s father sought to give him a good education by teaching him at home and enrolling him in the Boston Latin school.  Samuel entered Harvard at the age of 14.
– Samuel desired to become a minister.  However, his father wanted him to be a lawyer and his mother desired him to be a merchant.
– At his mother’s request, he apprenticed as a clerk to a prominent businessman, Thomas Cushing.
– Samuel formed a group of young men who wrote political essays for the Boston Independent Advertiser.
– His father furnished him with the necessary funds to start a business as a merchant. However, Samuel almost went bankrupt due to his dislike of the profession and the “diversion of his mind” by politics.  (B.J. Lossing)
– The cares of the family and estate were left to Samuel when he was 25 after the death of his father.  Samuel used up his inheritance within a few years.
– Samuel married Elizabeth Checkley, his pastor’s daughter, in 1749 and they had six children.  Elizabeth died in 1757 after giving birth to a stillborn son.  Samuel married Elizabeth Wells in 1764.
– In 1756, he was elected as a tax collector in Boston.
– In 1765, he was elected to be a representative to the general court of Massachusetts (the name of the Massachusetts legislature).
– Samuel’s family was so poor that they would have been in a desperate situation had not John Hancock (who was a rich merchant) helped to support them.
– Samuel began the Massachusetts Circular which was a publication that proposed a Continental Congress be held in New York in 1766.
– Knowing he was poor, the British attempted to bribe Adams more than once into defecting to them.  However, Samuel maintained his utmost commitment to the American cause.
– He was a strong Calvinist and it was said of him by John Sanderson in Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, that, “…probably no individual of his day had so much of the feelings of the ancient puritans, as he possessed.”
– He had a great ability to mold opinion and inspire others.  It was said of him, again by John Sanderson, that he was mild, dignified, gentlemanly, always supporting the strongest measures, never wavering or losing hope in the darkest hour, engaging in the cause of liberty with zeal, and was a confident enthusiast.  That “…it was not by brilliancy of talents or profoundness of learning, that he rendered such essential service to the cause of the revolution; but by his resolute decision, his unceasing watchfulness, and his heroic perseverance.”
– Samuel was responsible for managing the mail which moved between Philadelphia and Boston.
– He was part of the moving force behind the Boston Massacre in 1770.
– The Boston town meeting established a “Committee of Correspondence” on his motion in 1772.
– He helped bring about the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
– Was a member of the Continental Congress from 1774-1781.
– He helped write the Massachusetts state constitution in 1779.
– Was president of the Massachusetts senate from 1781-1788.
– Was Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts from 1789-1793.
– Was Governor of Massachusetts from 1794-1797.

– When some felt discouraged during a low time in the American War for Independence, Samuel Adams is quoted as saying:

“If this be our language, it is so, indeed.  If we wear long faces, they will become fashionable. The people take their tone from ours, and if we despair, can it be expected that they will continue their efforts in what we conceive to be a hopeless cause?  Let us banish such feelings, and show a spirit that will keep alive the confidence of the people, rather than damp their courage.  Better tidings will soon arrive.  Our cause is just and righteous, and we shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we show ourselves worthy of its aid and protection.”

– Samuel also stated in a letter to John Adams:

“Let ministers and philosophers, statesmen, and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls – of inculcating in the minds of youth – the love of country; of instructing them in the art of self-government…and in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.”

People said of him:

“For his country he laboured both by night and by day, with a zeal which was scarcely interrupted, and with an energy that knew no fatigue.”  (Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence)

“Most of his adult life was devoted to serving the cause of freedom, for which he received little financial reward.  In fact, when he was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, his friends had to furnish him with money to buy him suitable clothing and a horse.”  (George E. Ross, Know Your Declaration)

“Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written.  For fifty years his pen, his tongue, his activity, were constantly exerted for his country without fee or reward.”  (John Adams, quoted in Founders of Freedom in America, by David C. Whitney)

– Finally, Samuel Adams issued a warning to future generations:

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”




-Photo credit: Wikipedia public domain
– Wikipedia.org
For You They Signed, 2009, Marilyn Boyer

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