On September 27, 1722, Samuel Adams was born to Samuel Adams, Sr. and Mary (Fifield) Adams. Samuel was one of twelve children only three of whom survived past their 3rd birthday. Adams went on to attend Harvard College where he graduated in 1740 and after several failed attempts to make a career as a lawyer, he became a partner with his father in the family malt making business but Adams was never really pleased with the beer making trade so he became increasingly involved in the politics of Boston. He was elected clerk of the Boston Market in 1747 and in 1756, he was elected to the post of tax collector.
Ever a champion of the working classes, Adams frequently failed to collect taxes which left his accounts in arrears. In 1756, the Crown held the tax collector personally liable for unpaid taxes and Adam depended upon his friends and an appeal at the Town Meeting to pay off the debt.
Best known for his opposition to the Sugar Act of 1764, which levied taxes on colonial sugar in an attempt to pay off British debts from the French and Indian War. Samuel Adams’ outspoken opposition to the rule of the British monarchy over the colonies would be instrumental in the overturn of the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townsend Acts of 1767. Adams wrote the so-called “Massachusetts Circular Letter” urging the colonies to boycott British goods in opposition to the Townsend Acts which inflamed Parliament and may have contributed to the subsequently dissolution colonial legislatures in Massachusetts and several other colonies.
“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?”Samuel Adams
Eventually, these political conflicts and economic battles resulted Governor Thomas Hutchinson demanding that the Crown send British Regular soldiers to Massachusetts to restore “order”. Two regiments-(4,000 troops), were sent to Boston. Adams seized upon the idea that British troops were coming, not to defend the colonists in times of war, but the pacify them and continued to speak out against the overreach of Parliament into the day-to-day governance of the Colony of Massachusetts,
In the end of September 1768 troop ships, accompanied by British men of war, arrived in Boston Harbor. The troops disembarked and initially encamped on the Boston Commons, as well as, in the Court House, and in Faneuil Hall. Friction immediately broke out when the Governor offered the troops Manufactory House as a barracks. The inhabitants of the Manufactory House refused to be evicted and the troops were forced to find other locations. Tensions reached a boiling point with the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770 where British soldiers shot and killed five colonists. Samuel Adams and other colonial representatives met with Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson (Hutchinson was appointed by King George III) to argue for the removal of British troops from Boston. The British commander agreed and all troops were removed to Castle William in Boston’s harbor.
Samuel Adam’s would go on to play an important part in the opposition to the Tea Act of 1773 as well, which culminated in the infamous Boston Tea Party. While Adams strongly defended the actions of the colonists that boarded the British ships in Boston harbor and dumped their cargo of tea overboard, it is not known if Adams actually participated directly.
In late 1774, Samuel Adams was selected to represent Massachusetts in the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards, Adams along with John Hancock were asked to serve in the Second Continental Congress to be held in May 1775. Adams and Hancock attended a Provincial Congress in Concord, Massachusetts before traveling to Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress but decided it was unsafe for them to return to Boston; instead, they stayed at Hancock’s childhood home in Lexington.
On April 14, 1775, while Adams and Hancock were in Lexington, General Gage, now appointed both Governor of Massachusetts and commanding officer of all British forces in Boston, received a letter from Lord Dartmouth advising him to: “…arrest the principal actors and abettors in the Provincial Congress whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion.” On the night of April 18, 1775, Both Adams and Hancock narrowly avoid arrest due to the efforts of William Dawes (not Paul Revere) to warn them that the army was coming to Lexington. The subsequent battles at Lexington and Concord would result in over 300 British casualties (73 killed, 174 wounded, and 53 missing) and is generally considered the first real battle of the American Revolution.
While serving in the Continental Congress, Samuel Adams would nominate George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, sign the Declaration of Independence, and be help draft the Articles of Confederation. Upon retiring from the Continental Congress in 1781, Samuel returned to Boston where he advocated for the free public education for all children, including girls. In 1789, Adams would be elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and would serve in that capacity until Governor John Hancock’s death in 1793, when he became acting governor. Samuel Adams would be re-elected to four additional annual terms as governor until his retirement in 1797. Samuel Adams died at the age of 81 on October 2, 1803 and is buried at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.
Unfortunately, despite the great marketing campaigns of the Boston Brewing Company, Samuel Adams was NEVER A BREWER!
Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.Samuel Adams
We have proclaimed to the world our determination ‘to die freemen, rather than to live slaves.’ We have appealed to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and in Heaven we have placed our trust.Samuel Adams