Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Causes of the American Revolution: Part 3 – Samuel Adams, 1722 – 1803

Of all the individuals who pushed the American colonies into revolution, no one was more successful than Samuel Adams.

He was a journalist with no ethics at all, a political commentator, and community organizer. He could wage a furious vendetta against an individual such as the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, foregoing any semblance of objectivity or even truth. How did he do all this? He was very good at the job he had selected.

Samuel Adams (his younger cousin was John Adams) was a rebel, revolutionary, radical, troublemaker, militant agitator; one of a kind. As you might read and learn more about him, you will probably be able to add your own assessment of his personality. It’s possible you might consider him quite out of his mind.

In the many incendiary years before 1776, for every group that either led the colonies closer to armed conflict or actually caused it, he was either the founder or leader. His convictions were without compromise; he was powerful and influential. Certainly, Great Britain had no worse enemy.

The formation of the American Revolution took decades. Adams did not reach 1776 as a young man. Rather, he matured during those many years when the American colonies were definitely changing in their attitudes toward Great Britain. The many tax acts before 1776 that increasingly infuriated the colonies also infuriated Adams. Certainly, there really was nothing in Samuel’s background that would have indicated the directions he would take. In fact, his family was sober, hard-working, and connected to a land bank, which seemed to be well-regarded in the community.

Adams didn’t know what he wanted to do. Nothing unusual about that. However, the failure of the land bank was the catalyst which started defining Samuel. The bank was closed by an Act of Parliament. Domestic competition seems to have been the problem. Even now with money short, Samuel was still able to go to Harvard, a suitable introduction to a good career. However, suggestions such as the ministry, law, business fell on deaf ears. What he wanted to study were the political issues of the day, and write his opinions about them, increasingly militant, anti-British.

He got lucky. So-called newspapers of the day operated outside of any code or journalistic ethics. Adams found the perfect match for his venom. The Boston Gazette, a more notorious newspaper at the time, essentially turned over its content to him.

Readership was good. Some of them even took his tirades literally, and at one point, wrecked the property of the Royal Governor Hutchinson. Even the Gazette was appalled.

Samuel now had a clear platform for his revolutionary views. His inflammatory words blamed British soldiers entirely for the "Boston Massacre". In 1773, it is believed that he plotted and executed the Boston Tea Party. By now, the British had a hefty price on his head. Fortunately, Paul Revere warned Adams and fellow-patriot John Hancock to evade capture.

The colonies were on the brink of war with Britain. Adams was the powder keg of the revolution. Would it have happened without him?

Yes, I think so, but not so soon.

In his later years, Samuel seems to have mellowed, with many interests.

Here are a couple of quotations which describe him. – Renata Breisacher Mulry

Speech to the Continental Congress, 1776 (as usual, railing against the British):
"Your adversaries are composed of wretches who laugh at the rights of humanity, who turn religion into derision, and would for higher wages direct their swords against their leaders or their country –"

Upon hearing the sound of gunfire at Lexington, Massachusetts, April 19, 1775:
"What a glorious morning for America"

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