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Biography of Samuel Adams

Biography of Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, was a statesman and politician, and one of the most influential philosophers of the American Revolution. Read on to know more about his life...
Historyplex Staff
Samuel Adams was born on 27th September, 1722. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, which was a British colony at the time of his birth. The family was proud of their Puritan faith, and attended the Old South Congregation Church. The Puritan influence is easily noticeable on his career. Samuel Adams, Sr., father of Samuel Adams and also commonly known as Deacon Adams, was a prominent member and leader of the political organization named Boston Caucus.

Early Life and Education

Adams attended the Boston Latin School. His parents always wanted him to join the ministry after completing his education. In 1740, after finishing his schooling, he joined Harvard College. During his college years, Adams developed a liking towards politics. In his postgraduate thesis, he commented,

"[Should it be] lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved?"

In 1714, Samuel Adams, Sr., was caught, involving a banking controversy. It is said that this event deeply affected the younger Adams.

He completed his post graduation and, at first, thought of making a career as a lawyer. However, later he decided to start his own business enterprise, and tried to become a merchant. Adams took up a job at Thomas Cushing's counting house. He did not last long at the job, and was discharged of his duties in just a few months. Cushing later said that Adams could never become a good merchant, due to his preoccupation with politics. For the purpose of starting a business, Adams borrowed about a thousand pounds from his father. Half of the amount, he lent to a friend who never returned it, and the other half, he spent. After he became insolvent, his father made him a partner in the family business of the production of malt, where he learned the science of brewing and producing malt.

Historians, writers, and poets have made fun of Adams' inability to handle large sums of money. A poet once named him "Sam the Maltster". Famed historian Pauline Maier once said that Adams was a man utterly uninterested in making or possessing money.

Career as a Politician

Adams' career in politics started in 1748, when a group of young men, enraged by the impositions of the British, launched a weekly newspaper by the name 'Independent Advertiser'. The newspaper contained several significant political writings by Adams. In all his writings, he encouraged the people of the colonies of New England to make use of their constitutional rights, and not tolerate any kind of suppression upon the usage of these rights.

In the same year, he lost his father, which had a profound effect on his life, and especially on his ideology and constitution.

The American Revolution

The British started taxing the American colonies to recover the immense losses from the Seven Years War. The policy of heavy taxation was not at all welcomed by the citizens of the colonies, because there were no members representing the Colonies in the British Parliament. The taxation law and policy imposed by the Britishers in the colonies began with the Sugar Act of 1764. The Sugar Act was followed by the Stamp Act in 1765, which taxed the activity of printing of any kind.

The citizens of the colonies responded violently to the unjust taxation. Though Adams had no active role in the riots that resulted due to the Stamp Act, he strongly approved the notion that the citizens should rebel against unconstitutional and unjust acts of the British Parliament. However, he did not approve of the mob behavior that was displayed as a reaction. In May, Adams claimed that the Parliament could not tax the Colonies, as they were not represented by in the Parliament. Furthermore, he also said that the local governing bodies were the only ones who could rightfully collect taxes.

These views were publicly discussed when the Boston Town Meeting selected its representatives, who were to represent Boston at the Massachusetts house. These views eventually gave rise to the famous notion,

No taxation without representation.

In 1767, as a reaction to the passing of the Townshend act, Adams organized a boycott movement, and called for the help of other towns to do the same. The situation went out of hand when the Parliament tried to dissolve the assemblies of the American colonies. Adams responded by writing a petition to the king, saying that the Governor of the colonies should be removed from his office. Four regiments of the British army were posted in Boston.

One of the biggest events in the foreword to the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party, in which Adams played a key role. Adams uttered the statement that started the legendary the tea party, "This meeting can do nothing further to save the country". It was never revealed whether Adams actually participated in the event or not, but he publicized, justified, and defended it. In May 1774, Adams and four others were chosen to attend the 1st Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

He also participated in the second Congress, and was one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

His role as a politician, however, did not end there. He served as a member on many military committees. He was also elected as a member of the Board of War. He also served as the moderator in Boston Town Meetings. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts till 1793 and the Governor till 1797, after which he retired.

Samuel Adams died at the age of 81 on October 2, 1803. Though his views are a topic of controversy among modern scholars, he is one of the greatest figures in the history of the United States of America.

The epitaph of his grave says:

Signer of Declaration of Independence,
a leader of Men and an Ardent Patriot