Revolutionary Men

Samuel Adams, More Than a Beer

When I first began my series about the Revolutionary War, I knew the war would not be simply a backdrop for my stories, but rather an integral part of it. And, although the main characters are purely the product of my imagination, I wanted to use real people from the Revolution as part of the cast of characters. At the time I began my journey I knew that Samuel Adams was a firebrand, who helped stoke the flames of the Revolution, but I had no knowledge as to why this was so important to him. Why did this man have a driving need to free his homeland from England? The answer surprised me and brought clarity to a lot of stories about him. 

Samuel Adams was born in Boston in 1722, one of twelve children of Samuel Adams, Sr., and Mary Fifield, a religious and politically active family. He was a cousin to John Adams, who later became a president of the new country of the United States. The senior Adams was a prosperous man and church deacon in the Puritan faith. He became very active in local politics and was a leading figure in what became known as the Boston Caucus. He rose through the ranks to become a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. One of the duties of the House of Representatives was to carefully watch for any encroachment by England into the rights of the colonists that had been embodied in the Massachusetts Charter of 1691. 

In 1739, members of the House of Representatives reacted to a currency shortage by establishing a “land bank” which issued paper money to homeowners in exchange for holding a mortgage on their land as collateral. Opposition by loyalists to the crown forced the dissolution of the bank in 1741 and the directors of the bank, including Adams, Sr., were held personally liable for all the currency still in circulation, payable in gold and silver. The British seized much of Deacon Adams’ property and finances, gutting the family’s wealth and leading to numerous lawsuits against the family. Deacon Adams, and later, Samuel Adams, Jr., had to constantly battle against the British government to defend what was left of their family estate from the hands of the British. These lawsuits were a constant and very personal reminder to the younger Sam Adams about the power the British held over the colonies. 

Several failed attempts at business propositions later, the younger Samuel Adams joined his family’s malthouse. Several generations of the family had been in the malt business, an essential element of beer production. But Sam, Jr. was more interested in politics than in beer production. He began penning essays against the British rule in America as early as 1748, urging people to resist any encroachment on their constitutional rights. 

The Adams malt house in Boston

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Following the costly French and Indian War, the British parliament found itself deeply in debt and thought to recoup some of its losses by imposing a tax on the colonies of British America. The Sugar Act, The Stamp Act, and then the Townshend Acts attempted to raise revenue, but were all met with resistance. Unable to enforce these rulings, the governor petitioned the crown for military assistance. This was a turning point for Samuel Adams. Up until then, he was hoping for reform, but now realized the only path forward was complete and total independence from the mother country. In 1770, tensions spilled over, resulting in the now-infamous Boston Massacre. 

Samuel Adams bronze and granite statue, 1880, located in from of Faneuil Hall, which was the home of the Boston Town Meeting
Nathaniel Currier’s iconic 1846 lithograph entitled “The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor,” which later became known as the Boston Tea Party.

Adams kept dabbling in local politics and the colonies crept closer to total independence from Britain. Citing taxation without representation, struggles about power and taxes became a daily concern among Bostonians. Adams took a lead role in the famous Boston Tea Party and later became a major voice in both the First and Second Continental Congresses, which framed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. He was the founder of the Sons of Liberty, a formal underground group of citizens who were resistant to the crown and its taxes and laws. Some prominent members of this group were Benjamin Edes, publisher of the Boston Gazette, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Isaiah Thomas, Benjamin Kent and James Otis. This group was responsible for establishing a network for disseminating information among the colonies about the British troop movements, smuggling goods for use by the Continental Army, and for painting large Ts over the doorways of any Tory businesses in Boston proper. Samuel Adams is now considered one of America’s founding fathers for the role he played in crafting the ideals of liberty and uniting the colonies in their quest for freedom from tyranny. One of Adams’ famous quotes seems quite fitting for today’s political landscape.

“If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

Final Resting Place of Samuel Adams

In 1985, the Boston Beer Company appropriated the name Samuel Adams to use on what is now a best-selling brand of lager, citing Adams’ early involvement in the family malt business. Two non-profit organizations have also attached his name to their work, paying homage to his skills at organizing citizens at a local level in the quest for a national goal. 

Many books have been written about Samuel Adams and are available on Amazon, including a collection of his own essays.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Adams

https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/samuel-adams

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_Liberty

Becky Lower’s second book in her Revolutionary Women series will be released on October 8. Samuel Adams and his fellow Sons of Liberty are featured within its pages.